A wise man knows when to keep his mouth shut. My friend “Simon” knows everything there is to know about hardware. If you want to know the offset of a certain hinge by any manufacturer, Simon knows. In fact Simon knows so much he can’t sell squat. Simon’s problem is that he has to tell everyone everything.
When a person has become an expert in his craft, it is understandable that he wants to share all the options and ideas possible with new customers. Sharing knowledge is a great way to convince people to work with you. The key is to avoid overwhelming them with too many decisions and options.
Simon can’t sell because he can’t stop talking about everything he knows. Prospects avoid him after the first hour-long phone call. Everyone who meets Simon knows he is smart, they just wish he would stop trying so hard to prove it.
How many times have you met a very intelligent person who completely lacks social skills? Our egghead Simon is pure intelligence, but drives customers away with his lack of emotional understanding.
We all have a tendency to show off our knowledge, but when it comes to selling: Keep It Simple Simon. The goal is to get the order first, then wow the customer with your ability, creativity and performance. The true test of your product knowledge is how well you listen to your customers’ needs, create the product they desire, and deliver on your own promises.
If Simon created your sales literature, pricing, or product options, they are most likely very detailed and very confusing.
The market has changed and your customers are more confused, pressured, overworked and out of time than ever before. They subscribe to the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it mentality.” The constant barrage of e-mails, phone calls and text messages force the busy decision makers to only take action on urgent issues. Even when it makes good sense to change, they avoid the potential risk of more work that new products can create.
Customers don’t have time to wade through Simon’s extensive literature and power point presentation, so they take the simplest, easiest-to-understand choice instead. Often, the customers will refuse to make any decision, living with the status quo instead of changing for the better.
Another timing concern is design time for custom drawings, hours in CAD, or even kitchen layouts. Several excellent computer programs have been created to help speed up this process, but the underlying problem is more a sales dilemma than a design issue.
Many of us are afraid to ask for the order, so instead we hide our fear by extending the design process in hopes that our unique creation will guarantee the job. But the opposite often happens. The prospect gets tired of waiting and takes your initial design to another shop that underbids you. Every hour you spend on designing without an order commitment helps the competition underbid you. They do not have the investment in the design and can easily quote against you.
If you feel this is happening to you, take a look at your own process. A good rule of thumb is “No More Than Three.” If the shop is investing in more than three revisions of any project, before an order, it will stand a good chance of being lost.
To reduce the amount of revisions, prepare the shop and the prospect early in the conversation. Have a cheat sheet of questions prepared that you share with the prospect.
Using this method weeds out the folks that can’t decide, have no money, or are just shopping your skills out to the lowest bidder. It also saves you hours of fruitless design.
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