Are You Talking to Me? The Secret to Successful Sales Speak
Keith Harmeyer

First, you had better just get over
the notion that effective salesmanship
is the ability to deliver a good pitch.

That's old-school thinking and a great way to experience the heartache of missed
targets and declining revenues.

Of course you must have something to meaningful to say. But to assume that a canned
sales spiel is going to work on every sales prospect is a severely misguided notion.

Consider this concept instead: effective selling is always a dialogue, a conversation. It
is an exchange of information. If you're not receiving twice as much information from
your prospect as you're delivering, you aren't even coming close to maximizing your
sales effectiveness.

It is your job to create and nurture a relationship with your prospect. And the more
meaningful that relationship, the greater the rewards for both of you.

Solution selling. Promoting benefits, not features. However you say it, the bottom line
is this: the needs and desires of your prospect dictate how you will sell, if you're
actually going to do any selling at all. And in order to craft the right message for THIS
client, you will have to get to know them pretty well, at least as it relates to the sale.

Why is this level of personal understanding so critical today? Why do you have to
really "know" someone in order to sell to them? Simply because the world and
everything in it is at our prospective customers' fingertips, 24/7. There is nothing your
customers don't have access to. Information about your company, your product or
service, about you and your background, who likes you and who doesn't. And most
important of all, everything about your competitor.

The wolf is waiting right outside the door, ready to pounce with a better offer. And
your customer knows it. Either you are going to connect with them, or your
competition will.

So just what do you need to learn about your prospects, and how do you use that
knowledge to make yourself more effective?

1. Find out who your prospects are and what matters to them.

The more you know about a sales prospect before you meet, the greater your odds of
success. It just stands to reason. People like doing business with people they are
familiar with and who understand them. But it goes far beyond a comfort level. By
discovering how your prospect thinks, what they like and don't like, what they are
trying to achieve and what they're afraid of, you can position your product or service
as the ideal solution for THEM.

For starters, you should at least know your prospect's age, professional background
and education level. But dig deeper. Where were they born? Where did they go to
school? Married, or single? Kids? How many? What are their hobbies? Golf or tennis?
What specifically are their work responsibilities? What are they trying to accomplish,
and what are the greatest challenges facing them in their jobs? How can you find all of
this out? ASK—ask them, their colleagues, their assistants. Ask your co-workers or
others you know in your industry? Ask Google! The internet can reveal amazing
information with just a few clicks. Remember, when it comes to sales success,
knowledge is power.

2. Learn their language.

If your sales prospect spoke only Japanese, and you could only barely manage
English, the conversation probably wouldn't get very far, no matter how strong your
pitch. But the "language barrier" doesn't have to be so extreme or obvious to be a deal
killer. I've seen sales people who showed up for a meeting in traditional business
attire instantly disregarded by ultra-casual customers, and vice-versa. Know the style
and attitude, the language, your prospects are comfortable with, and then adopt it to
the best of your ability. Are they formal or friendly? Will they be offended if you call
them by their first name, or completely put-off if you address them as Mr. or Ms.? Do
they enjoy a good joke, or are they all business? Are they young, either literally, or at
heart? Or are they seasoned pros who value maturity and experience? One of the best
sales pros I know always says that people need at least a dozen reasons to hire you
and only one to pass. Don't let "style mismatch" be that one.

3. Show them how you will make they're life better.

Once you know who your prospects are, what really matters to them and how to speak
their language, all that's left is connecting the dots. Search for ways to reconcile their
needs with what you have to offer, and present it in a way that is meaningful to them.
This is the essence of solution selling, and it is key to sales success in the current
business environment. Think of your sales negotiations a maze—you're at one end,
your prospect is at the other. Your job is to find the way through, uncover the
connection, and unite your desire to sell with their desire for a solution.

No more than 20% of selling is "telling." The rest is "gelling," forging strong, personal,
mutually-beneficial connections through excellent detective work. Ask questions,
watch for clues, use your gut and you'll be able to deliver precisely what your
prospects really need.

About the author: Keith Harmeyer is EVP of Marketing and Creative Services at C2
Creative in New York City. He is a marketing, communication and presentation skills
expert, author, speaker and creator of The SuperSkill (sm), a proven method for using
traditional marketing techniques to achieve personal and professional success. You
can email Keith at, or visit his website at The Super Skill .

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