Do you care what your customers are looking for in a professional salesperson?
Do you know what drives your customers crazy during meetings and presentations?
I’m very interested in what customers are looking for in establishing and growing a professional business relationship with me and others on our sales team. Even more, I want to know how I can best communicate with them in meetings and presentations…and have them focus on my message as opposed to distracting them. We’re going to look at four things that high-ranking customer ‘decision-makers’, who are responsible for spending millions of dollars, told me that salespeople should never do. Avoid these pitfalls and you’re well on your way to creating successful meetings and presentations.
The list of “don’t-do’s” can be divided into two areas:
- Don’t do in meetings
- Don’t do in presentations
“Don’t-do’s in meetings”
Failure to know your own products – All of the customers I spoke with said that, all too often, salespeople come into meetings not fully knowing or understanding their own company’s products. I’m aware that many companies have a wide variety of product offerings and it can be challenging to comprehend all of them fully. But if a salesperson truly hopes to be successful that salesperson should have a basic understanding of all of their company’s products. The salesperson is obligated to bring a product expert with them to the meeting if a product offering is so complex. Multiple customers have told me that they would welcome a salesperson acknowledging that a product was complicated as long as they provide an expert to explain the product in the meeting.
Not knowing your customer’s business – Every customer I spoke with told a story about a salesperson who demonstrated a lack of knowledge the products and even the industry of the customer. Sometimes it appeared that the salesperson thought he or she was dealing with a completely different brand. While there is absolutely no excuse for a salesperson who is unprepared for a customer meeting, this basic lack of knowledge is poisonous to a potential sale or future relationship. There are plenty of resources online that can help provide background or context before meeting with your customers. Use them. If you’re more concerned about selling your “product of the month” than understanding your customers’ goals and challenges, then you really don’t deserve to have a follow-up meeting with that customer.
“Don’t-do’s in presentations”
Not reading the room or audience – Many salespeople are so intent on telling their story that they pay no attention to how their story is being received. This has always been a “hot button” topic for me and I discovered that your customers also believe that this is important. Many stories I’ve heard about the deal-killing technique of salespeople basically just reading the slides up on the screen. Do they think their customers don’t know how to read? Equally bad is the salesperson who is so focused on getting through every single slide that he or she doesn’t even look up at the customers…who are most likely looking at their own phones or rolling their eyes during the presentation. In the first place, every salesperson should confirm with their customers, before beginning the presentation, what the “stop time” is for the meeting. By acknowledging the hard stop for the meeting, the salesperson and the customer can manage their questions and discussion relative to the allotted time for that meeting. There is nothing more uncomfortable for both salesperson and customer than the presenter racing through 20 slides in the last two minutes of a meeting.
Using buzzwords and jargon – Many salespeople use buzzwords to attempt to mask their lack of knowledge of a topic. This customer suggestion might well be filed in the “don’t BS” department. Most of the customers I spoke with told me that they can spot a salesperson who clearly doesn’t know what they are talking about by the number of buzzwords and jargon they use in the conversation. In the digital advertising world, for example, the word “algorithm” is thrown around in just about every sales meeting with a customer. My suspicion is that your customers often know more about a topic than you do and you make a big mistake by using terms you don’t fully understand. By doing this, you alert the customers’ “BS radar” and damage your own credibility.
These four “don’t-do’s” are the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot more things that your customers don’t want you to do and we’ll review these in the next few blog posts. While it may sound like all customers are hypercritical of their salespeople, I don’t believe that’s the case. I’m convinced that your customers want you to succeed and provide them valuable information at your meetings and presentations. These tips, direct from your customers, are designed to help you improve and be successful.