Partners in Performance Blog

Top Sales Errors: Why Pitching Product Doesn’t Work

Questions will help you persuade more powerfully than any other selling behaviour. Yet the number one error that I consistently see sales professionals make is not asking enough questions to clarify the needs of their clients.

In my sales training and coaching,  I’ve seen even seasoned sales professionals lead with their product, solution or ideas rather than leading with questions. Pitching product (showing up and “throwing up”) is hoping that if I talk about my product enough, something will stick. But it will annoy, overwhelm and cause your client to shrug and think “So what?” Whether you’re conducting sales meetings or delivering presentations, product pitching simply does not work. If you do not take the time to fully uncover the real needs of your client or audience, you are sabotaging your sales success.

Many sales people are under the misguided assumption that they do ask questions. But I have seen the most seasoned sales professionals fall short time and again. While they may start off asking a few questions, the minute they hear “a need,” they jump in with how their solutions will address the concern rather than asking more questions to get underneath the concern and to understand the impact of the problems.

Early in my sales career, I met with the VP of Sales for a company that sold textbooks and educational productions to schools, colleges and universities.  After creating rapport and setting the context for the meeting, I spent the first 30 minutes of our time together in questioning and note-taking mode. I asked a broad spectrum of questions to fully understand his challenges, what was working, and what was not.

When I asked him about his desired outcomes, he said “I want my sales people to do what you are doing with me. Ask questions to know their clients’ needs. They bring out their text books and materials far too early in the sales meeting.”

Neil Rackham of the Huthwaite organization and author of Spin Selling conducted extensive research on the selling behaviours of high performing sales people. What he found through his research was that high-performing sales people did three things very differently during meetings from those people who were not effective. High-performing sales people:

1)      Asked a lot more questions

2)      Allowed the client to do most of the talking

3)      Waited much longer before jumping in with a solution

Just like a good doctor does a thorough diagnosis before prescribing a remedy, sales people have to take the time to do a thorough ‘Discovery’ before recommending a solution. They have to ‘earn the right’ to talk about their products and solutions by asking questions first. This allows them to position their products and solutions in the context of their clients’ needs. Instead of feature dumping, they can use benefit statements, stories and examples that are relevant and targeted to needs. Instead of “So what?” their clients and audiences will say “Ah-hah!”

To follow up on my earlier story about the VP of sales, my relationship with this client thrives to this day. They continue to  embrace the concepts of Intentional Selling and ‘Discovery’ questions are used company wide in their sales process.

If you want to learn more about selling mistakes to avoid, click here to read “10 Tips That Work For Truly Persuasive Presentations.”

Love to hear from you. How have you used questions in your selling strategy? What might stop you from using more questions?

This entry was posted by TanjaParsley on December 21, 2011 in Intentional Selling™, Questioning Skills, Sales Skills. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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