If you’re a sales professional, or if you lead a sales team, you certainly know your strengths. You have techniques that work every time, and you slide comfortably into them whenever you’re in the middle of a sale.
But are you capturing every sale you could close? Are you leaving money on the table at the end of the work day?
What if you have blind spots that are keeping you from being as effective as you’d like to be? It’s not surprising if you do. In fact, most sales people have a few key blind spots — and those who lead sales teams often have even more. Let’s be honest: We don’t know what we don’t know.
When you discover and face your blind spots honestly, you’ll be amazed and gratified at how your sales turn around. Take a look at three of the most common blind spots among sales professionals — and then take our complimentary blind spots quiz to determine whether (and where) you have blind spots in your own organization.
Blind Spot #1: Are You Listening?
Do you have stories you love to recount in conversations with various people? If you’re in sales, you talk with new customers all the time, so having these stories in your back pocket can be a handy way to break the ice or keep a conversation flowing.
But how often have you talked past another person, rather than talking to them, because you were too busy reciting a monologue? If you’re like most executives, the answer could be as high as 85 percent of the time. That’s the number discovered in the well-known analysis of conversations at Union Carbide.
In that study, psychologist Judith Glaser discovered that 85 percent of executives spent their conversational time telling other people things rather than asking questions and listening to answers.
If you’re not listening, you’re not going to close deals because you aren’t going to know what your customer wants. You’re only going to know what you think they want.
To counteract this blind spot, freely cede some of the conversational space to let others tell their stories (especially your customers!), and ask open-ended questions that can inject new information into your sales process.
Blind Spot #2: Are You Selling to Everyone the Same Way?
Your sales force knows your organization’s products and services well. They can recite facts and figures like the professionals they are. But how well do they connect to your customers?
If you’re selling to every customer the same way, with the same sales approach and the same sales pitch, then you’ve stumbled into the next huge blind spot.
Different sales professionals have different personalities and different behavior approaches to sales — and not all of them speak to the same customer. In fact, if you approach a customer with a behavioral style that’s wrong for them, you run the risk of driving that customer away.
We like to think of the four basic behavioral styles as Competitors, Motivators, Peacemakers, and Analyzers — based on the work of psychologists David Merrill and Roger Reid. Many salespeople are natural Competitors, driven to push hard until they get results, while plenty of other sales professionals fall into the Motivator category, drawn to sales because they love the interpersonal connections they make.
You can probably see already the potential for clashes of behavioral styles between sales professionals and customers. Imagine a Competitor salesperson trying to sell to someone with the Peacemaker personality. The Competitor is likely to use all the techniques that would convince them to buy: lots of bullet points and very little in the way of chit-chat. With that approach, the Peacemaker customer will head for the door in great distress.
To get past this blind spot, your sales staff must become aware of their own social and behavioral styles and learn to match those of their customers. Once you’re able to adapt your sales approach to your customer’s social style, you can sidestep this blind spot (and stay a step ahead of your competition) by choosing the right sales approach for each customer.
Blind Spot #3: Do You Know Your Competition?
So you’ve taken the time to understand your customers as individuals. But remember, your competitors are doing the same thing. Which raises the question that’s at the center of the third key blind spot in sales: How well do you know your competitors?
Your customers have a lot of choices, and these days, they have easy access to an enormous amount of information before you even interact with them. That means your sales staff needs to know not only how your products and services can solve your customers’ problems but also how your products do that better than your competitors’ products.
That means you need to understand what your competitors offer that you don’t. If you blithely move forward with a sales prospect relying only on your mastery of your product and your knowledge of your customer, you could still be outsold by a competitor who’s taken the time to understand your products.
Take a look at the Disney theme parks. Disney certainly understands its own theme park offerings and its customers and speaks to them well. But one relatively small theme park has grown into a global empire because Disney understands its competition is not just other theme parks: It’s also hotels, restaurants and anything else that completes a tourism experience.
To counteract this blind spot, you need to do your homework. Research your competitors’ products, services and sales approach. Once you have that knowledge in hand, you can position your own offerings in a way that shows your customer why you’re the right choice.
Notice how overcoming this blind spot requires you to have conquered the first two blind spots as well. You won’t be able to position your own products and services correctly for each customer if you don’t already understand the customer. And you won’t understand your customer’s real needs without listening.
Are you ready to conquer your own blind spots? The first step comes in discovering them — and you might be surprised at what you learn. Take our complimentary blind spots quiz to see just where your strengths are and where you can stand to improve.
Kevin McCarthy is the bestselling author of BlindSpots – Why Good People Make Bad Choices. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association and immediate past President of the Oregon chapter, where he recently won Member of the Year. He is also the Marketing Chair for NSA’s National Chapter Leadership Committee. Kevin is a full time keynote speaker, bestselling author, consultant and coach helping high performing leaders make better choices . Global organizations hire Kevin for transformational leadership and ethics keynotes, seminars and strategic training programs.