I see sales people and business owners all the time who assume they know exactly what their prospects and clients want.  Sometimes they are right.  Sometimes not.

If you think that people aren’t biting on the bait you’re putting out because you’re not getting the words right, think again.  That may be the reason, but what if it’s not?  It always pays off to examine other possibilities.

Most people will tell you exactly what they need and are listening for if you listen carefully enough.  Sometimes I do role plays with my clients where I actually get them to sell to me and it’s really interesting watching them just make assumptions about what my needs might be rather than spending some time asking me questions.

If you believe that you listen to others, then ask yourself how often do you actually hear what’s being said in response? That is the truly important thing, because often we think we’re listening, but we actually have a conversation going on inside our head while the other person is talking, “Oh my God, he said that! I must have to bring the conversation around to this other thing,” and before I know it I’ve missed half of what he said.  

We make assumptions like this with our clients all the time – we assume what it is that they need, and what we think they want and what they should have and all that sort of thing.  And we ignore the reality that we aren’t the one that needs to get them to the point of decision – they need to get themselves there based on the things that you’re saying.

When you’re selling you’re influencing and it’s the art of influence, it’s not the art of beating others into submission.  So I use the metaphor that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, and the way people sometimes go about trying to sell to their clients, it’s like they’re dragging the horses and they’ve shoving their head in the water – drown or buy!  But a better way is to give your clients a thirst – feeding them salt so that by the time we’ve led them to the water they’re thirsty enough to drink.

If you were a Travel Agent in a situation where you’d looking to give people information about a holiday, you could make an assumption that they want to do some really great tours and that might not actually be what they’re looking for.  Some people love tours, but when I go travelling, the last thing I want to do is get on a bus with a whole bunch of people and be tied to the schedule when it’s time to go to the next place, because if I’ve seen that then I’m done and I want to move on. Or perhaps I want to stay here a little bit longer and have a look for a little bit longer, I don’t want to be on somebody else’s watch.

If you asked the right questions, you’d work this out and you might suggest some private tours which I’d probably be happy to pay more for because I would enjoy myself a lot more than if I was being dragged around.

So if you ask me. “How is it that you decided you were going to visit America this year?”

I might respond “Well, I always wanted to see the Grand Canyon, there’s something about it that just kind of draws me there.  I get caught up in the idea of going to this wondrous place and I imagine that the energy there is absolutely amazing and breath-taking and I just really want to be able to experience that.” 

That gives you the opportunity to ask more questions, “So what’s important to you about the experience, or what activities do you really want to take part in? and, Do you want to do the Grand Canyon by foot or do you want to do it by helicopter?  What sort of experience is important to you?  Have you given any thought to that?”

The chances are I’ll respond, “No, I’m really not sure, can you tell me what people do there?” Then I’m inviting you to actually give me some more information.

Now, most people would jump in there and start to do their sales pitch, but we haven’t stepped up the value, or gathered anywhere near enough information yet to be able to pitch to them, so don’t jump in too quickly.

Motivation questions are really important because I’m learning what’s really important to them about that project and getting insights that I can’t get any other way.  I can learn what information she already has, or what challenges she’s facing.

Once you’ve got information about what’s important to your client you need to demonstrate what you can do to meet those motivations.

If you ask somebody “What are the problems in your business at the moment?”  They’re usually not going to give you a direct answer.  They will probably be rather defensive, guarded and cynical about why you are asking that question.  Any answer that they do give you will probably only scrape the surface of the problem.  So if you want to uncover the problems they really want to solve you need to use indirect questions.

The answers to these questions help you to chunk down on the information because if the answer was, “I need some help.”  you need to understand how they define help.  As we discussed earlier, everyone’s language map is a little different, so this requires us to drill down and discover what the client means when he talks about ‘help’.  If I just jump in and offer what I would consider ‘help’ I might mean something completely different.

So you need to find that out from the client, because if you make an assumption about what that is then you might potentially lose out on, or you could upset the client because they might have expected ‘A’, and you’ve delivered solution ‘B’ thinking that was what they wanted. 

What this does is it helps you to identify the problems and that’s the key element of the questioning. When I have a meeting with someone, I like to take an interest in them, because I am interested in what’s important to them. If I go in and start pitching my product straight away in terms of what it could offer them, I then look like I’m trying to be interesting rather than being interested in how I can help them.

The more questions you ask before you start providing solutions, the more likely it is that your solutions will be welcomed enthusiastically.  Your client will know that you have listened to them, and will see that you understand their problem, so don’t be too quick to put them in a box and write the label – keep asking questions until you are certain that what you assumed is really true.

Meta Description:  Assumptions create misunderstanding.  Questions create clarity.  Don’t assume you know the answer, develop questions that help you find out what the answer really is.

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You probably know that not everyone shares your opinions about things, but have you ever thought just how often you make assumptions that lead to misunderstanding?

I’m convinced that most of our communication and relationship problems stem from the assumptions we carelessly make.  Once a friend from Portugal came to stay with me.  She was visiting Melbourne for a few days as part of her tour around Australia and she wanted to see the sights.  So I planned to take her along the Great Ocean Road, into the Dandenongs, and the Mornington Peninsula up to Arthur’s Seat and see all the wonderful beaches and views because those are all the things I love!

My thought was, “What can I show her that’s really beautiful and uniquely Melbourne?” and I assumed that she would want to see and do the things I would like, if I were in her position.  I was so busy making a program that fit my own assumptions about Melbourne that I completely missed the clues she gave me.  In conversations before her visit, she talked about the shows she saw when she was in London and how much she loved the theatre and the arts.  She even mentioned an Art exhibition that was going on at the National Gallery and all that sort of stuff but I missed it completely. So we started doing the things I had planned and she was miserable the whole time and I’m thinking, “How come she’s not enjoying herself?  This is awful.”

The next day she asked, “How do I get to the trains and the public transport?” 

I said,  “Where do you want to go? I’ll take you.” 

And she says, “I really want to go to National Art Gallery and see an exhibition that’s on there at the moment” and it occurred to me that I’d just totally missed all the cues of the things that she wanted to do, I was so excited about bringing her and showing her all these things that I thought were really cool that I forgot to find out what interested her.

I see sales people and business owners all the time who are so concerned that they won’t say the right thing, that they miss all the cues.

They assume that people aren’t biting on the bait they’re putting out there because they’re not getting the words right.  In a lot of cases they’re so caught up on what they’re going to say next or what they’re going to do next that they don’t actually hear the buying signs from the clients.

Most people actually tell you what they need if you’re listening carefully enough.  Sometimes I do role-plays with my clients where I actually get them to sell to me and it’s really interesting watching them just make assumptions about what my needs could be rather than actually spending some time asking some questions.

This comes back to the part of the sales process we are actually finding out information from the clients.  So the first thing that people who are not necessarily well versed in sales do is they go in and they’ve prepared all the things that they’re going to say to make sure that that client gets interested in what they want them to be interested in.  In actual fact the best thing you can do when you go into a sales meeting is to ask some questions and then shut up and listen.

Then you listen some more – and if you open your mouth at all, it’s to ask questions about the things they are saying.  If you do that, I can just about guarantee that you will learn what you need to know to close the sale.  You would really be astounded to learn how many sales are lost just because we make assumptions about what the other person is looking for.

One of the most powerful tools of NLP is learning to ask questions and read the other person – not to manipulate them, but to hear what their problems and concerns really are.  The techniques I learned have closed more sales, and resolved more communication issues than I can count.

Meta Description: How do assumptions kill sales and negotiations?  Let me count the ways. Assuming you know what the other person is going to say is a very dangerous habit, and will kill sales faster than just about any other thing you can do.

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By popular demand we have turned many of our multi-day workshops into multi-week online courses with a live day to kick them off. Learn more at https://businessgrowth.mykajabi.com/masteryoursales


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