Are your prospects ghosting you — failing to respond to emails and calls? Are your sales materials failing to generate your desired outcomes? If so, you may be falling victim to some of the biggest mistakes sellers make when contacting potential buyers. Read on to learn the four things buyers would change about sellers, as well as strategies to help you avoid committing these errors.
We all fall into habits with repetition. When it comes to selling, some of those habits may not contribute to success. If you’ve ever wondered, “What does that buyer want?” — keep reading.
Sellers Don’t Understand the Buyer’s Needs — and It Shows
In sales, trust is critical. Without it, buyers say they won’t feel comfortable signing on with a seller. It’s fair to say that when a deal falls through, a lack of trust likely played a role.
Step 1 in building trust: Diagnose the buyer’s problem
Building trust with buyers can be challenging and, honestly, it takes serious effort.
If you want to build trust with potential clients, be sure to dig deep into their company’s needs and be prepared to demonstrate your nuanced understanding of the challenges they face. A good seller will be able to demonstrate knowledge of how the buyer’s business works, the stakeholders involved, and the specific struggles facing the company.
Once you demonstrate a thorough and nuanced understanding of the challenges facing your buyer, you’ll have the credibility to talk persuasively about solutions.
Step 2 in building trust: Make sure buyers can tell you’ve put in the work to understand their needs
When we ask buyers to tell us about the biggest mistake sellers make, they say it’s that sellers sound like they really understand their needs. It’s not enough to do your research to understand your client’s situation. You need to show buyers that you understand their problems — and that you’re a reliable partner that will help them find a solution.
It’s All About the Seller — and That’s a Problem
Without a nuanced understanding of the buyer’s needs, sellers will fall back on talking about what they know — the thing they’re selling. This leads to sales conversations that focus on product features instead of the challenges facing the buyer. When sellers talk about themselves, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to excite the buyer with solutions to their problems, which means they probably won’t be able to close the deal.
Sellers need to be creative problem-solvers
When you work to identify the core problems facing a potential client, you’re not only in a position to build trust, you’ll possess a nuanced understanding of the issues that will enable you to come up with — and sell — a solution.
In essence, sellers are creative problem-solvers. As a seller, you can help potential clients reimagine and better understand their challenges. This can be a powerful service, in addition to helping you make the sale.
Sellers need to understand the root causes of the buyer’s problem
To be successful, sellers need to immerse themselves in the client’s world until they understand what’s going on, who’s involved, and what challenges they face. In doing so, sellers put themselves in a position to build that trust and excitement in the buyer. The thing is, clients often don’t fully understand the problems they face. As a result, they may not be able to identify the best solution without help. That’s where the seller comes in. By understanding the root cause of a buyer’s problem, sellers can make a more compelling argument that their solution is the answer.
Sellers Don’t Pivot to Meet the Buyer’s Needs
One of the things that can make selling hard is that, even within a given organization, there can be multiple stakeholders who all have different priorities, needs, and challenges. A good seller has to be able to present a coherent and persuasive argument that’s consistent and catered to the needs of various audiences — we call this being situationally fluent.
Situational fluency is a critical skill for sellers, especially when they’re making a sales presentation. When your audience is made up of multiple stakeholders, you must organize your presentation to meet the various care-abouts of those stakeholders. If you don’t, then you risk losing support from everyone in the group, and may ultimately fail to close the deal.
A storytelling framework guides you through the pivot
To effectively pivot during a presentation, savvy sellers use a business storytelling framework to organize their ideas and authentically understand the customer’s needs and concerns. Without such a framework, presenters risk going down a rabbit hole of too much information or losing the thread of their argument when they try to pivot to meet the needs of a particular stakeholder. When that happens, it’s hard to stay focused on the buyer’s needs. But with a storytelling framework, you’ll keep your presentation focused on a persuasive narrative, regardless of whether you need to pivot.
A business storytelling framework provides a road map for the facts and data that make up your argument. The major elements of the storytelling framework are:
- Setting establishes the context for your argument. The setting of your narrative is a specific time, place, or circumstance.
- Characters are those who are affected by the current situation — customers, employees, team members, etc. As a seller, you must establish who is affected by a problem that the buyer needs to have solved.
- Conflict is the problem that your buyer needs to have solved. Conflict also provides tension in the narrative and motivates audience members to care about the story — and feel motivated to resolve the conflict.
- Resolution is the solution to the buyer’s problem. This could be the seller’s recommendation for a course of action, product or service, or some other type of solution.
- The BIG Idea is the one thing you want audience members to remember at the end of your pitch. It’s also the common thread that runs through your entire text, whether it’s a presentation, email, or something else.
One of the things that makes a storytelling framework so powerful is that it equips you to pivot — to address the needs of a given stakeholder at a moment’s notice — without disrupting the flow of your argument. Not only that, a storytelling framework helps sellers identify the root cause of the prospect’s problems and articulate a solution. In doing so, sellers can feel confident that they understand the buyer’s mindset, and that the the story they’re telling resonates with them. When it’s done right, business storytelling effectively communicates the fact that you’ve identified and understand the prospect’s needs, and that you offer authentic and actionable solutions.
Sellers Offer More Information Instead of the Right Information
When sellers don’t put in the work to understand their buyer’s needs upfront, they often overcompensate with information. As a result, presentations tend to contain too much detail. In these situations, every possible data point, statistic, and fact is provided to address any questions that may come up for the buyer. This requires the seller to put in a lot of extra work, and it also gives buyers far more information than they need — much of which isn’t relevant.
Providing too much information is a common struggle for sellers, but it dilutes your most powerful and persuasive arguments, rendering your sales efforts less effective. This approach also hurts buyers. When sellers don’t prioritize information, buyers are left with too much information to decode and filter out. This creates more work for the buyer and renders the entire process less engaging and less helpful.
Storytelling helps you increase efficiency
As we’ve discussed, a storytelling framework helps you address the needs of everyone in the room (or virtual room), all without overwhelming your audience by giving them all the information available to you. Without a storytelling framework, sellers often fall into the trap of using presentation slides to anticipate every question the buyer could possibly ask. The result is an over-long, overwhelming presentation that fails to be persuasive.
Not only do these over-long sales presentations fail to help you close deals, but they waste time. In their attempts to address every possible question a buyer could ask with a slide or graph, sellers end up spending too much time on presentation materials. In the end, the payoff for all that work isn’t worth it because that deck is so long that it’s unusable and, in the end, can only be used once anyway. Talk about inefficient!
To be successful, sellers need to be flexible, responding to audience needs in the moment. For example, when their time with a customer is cut short. As we’ve discussed, a business storytelling framework helps you customize your communications based on your audience and enables you to be nimble based on audience needs. At the same time, story structure allows sellers to create materials that make a compelling argument — one that holds your audience’s attention, while also providing all the information necessary to persuade people that your solution is the one they need.
Communication Best Practices Can Unlock Your Sales Potential
It’s easy to fall into old habits in sales. But if you’re finding it hard to close deals, some of those strategies may need to be revised. Whether you’re struggling to build trust with potential clients or your pitches just aren’t as persuasive as they could be, identifying common mistakes can help you leverage communication best practices and make more sales.