Buyers are suspicious and guarded.
Sometimes, sellers give them a reason to be.
You may not realize that your behaviors are causing buyer reservations or mistrust. Outwardly, you believe, you are professional, cordial and saying all the right things.
Inwardly, though, you have an intention toward the buyer that you'd prefer to keep to yourself. Your intention might be something like this:
- To get a quick close because you really need it to make quota.
- To upsell the buyer because your sales manager suggested it.
- To keep the meeting as brief as possible so you can start your weekend.
- To gloss over the service fees and focus on the low introductory price.
- To get the name of the real decision maker and move on.
You're not fooling anyone.
Buyers are on high alert with every seller they encounter. If you have a hidden intention, your buyer will sense it. They won't always be accurate in identifying what it is, but they will assume the worst if something seems to be lurking under the surface.
Seller intent is revealed in many subtle ways
Your intent is being revealed by your word choice, your vocal tone and pitch, your pace, your body language and your general presence (whether in person or on the phone).
When you attempt to mask your true intent, your facial expressions and voice betray you. Most people can't quantify what they are seeing when they believe someone is holding back. However, most of us can accurately gauge this and rely on our gut instincts to read a situation.
These subtle signals can make a terrible first impression no matter how proper and polite you are. They can derail the perfectly delivered opening. Buyer resistance to sellers is often based in nothing more than a general sense of mistrust.
Sellers who develop a mindset and intent to truly understand buyer needs and then meet those needs have a higher rate of success in opening sales and advancing them to a close. When all other things are equal, this intent serves as a powerful boost for sales performance. Lisa Earle McLeod wrote about the differences your intent can make in Selling with Noble Purpose.
To make a stronger and more positive first impression, worry less about what you are going to say or do. Instead check your intent. Spend time eliminating distractions and focusing your attention on meeting the buyer's needs. Quiet the inner voice that reminds you how nervous you are about the conversation. Suppress the playback of your sales manager talking about getting to goal.
As with any conversation, making it human to human and focused on the other person's interest will make it more engaging.
Seller intent shows in the questions you ask your buyers
If you make it through the first impression, you need to remain true to your intent. Sellers often earn the first appointment by saying "I'd like to learn more about your needs to see if we can help."
If that's your expressed intent, be sure you deliver on it. Learning about the buyer's needs will cause you to ask certain kinds of questions. If your true intent is to rapidly identify an opening so you can pounce, your questions will reflect that, too.
That's why every question you ask should have a clear purpose. Without one, you run the risk of asking questions that sound like a fishing expedition or a disjointed series of survey questions. You also could derail the sale by asking too many questions that sound self-serving and sales related instead of living up to your promise to learn about the buyer's needs.
Seller intent makes a difference in whether or not you close the sale
In The Perfect Close, author James Muir elegantly lays out the research that correlates buyer-focused seller intent and closing rates. He lays out the evidence that proves that intent matters more than technique in advancing the sale. Muir's book is a must read for this reason (and many others!).
If you truly want to improve your sales performance by solving problems for your buyers, work on your intent. Time spent to mindfully focus on helping buyers will pay big dividends in the long run.
Next Steps to work on demonstrating your intent and to Join the Stop Selling & Start Leading® Movement:
- Participate in our seller-side research. Tell us your Personal Best story and be entered into a prize drawing. We might feature your story in future publications.
- Learn more about our research with buyers and the Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement.
- Read the book that shows you how to build trust and engage buyers so you can create this kind of experience. (Named one of "The 20 Most Highly-Reviewed Sales Books of All Time" by HubSpot!)
The award-winning CONNECT2Sell Blog is for professional sellers who believe, as we do, that Every Sale Starts with a Connection. Our 2017 emphasis will be on reporting buyer-side research and how sellers can connect with buyers and sell more effectively by adopting the behaviors of leaders. The Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement is all about the future state of sales and your success as a Sales Professional.
Deb Calvert is President of People First Productivity Solutions, a UC Berkeley instructor, and a former Sales/Training Director of a Fortune 500 media company. She speaks and writes about the Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement and offers sales training, coaching and consulting as well as leadership development programs. She is certified as an executive and sales coach by the ICF and is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®. Deb has worked in every sector and in 14 countries to build leadership capacity, team effectiveness and sales productivity with a “people first” approach. Her bestselling book “DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected” has been named by HubSpot as one of "The 20 Most Highly-Rated Sales Books of All Time."