Take the “But” Out of Selling

By Malcolm Fleschner

To operate at full potential on a sales call, salespeople know they have to be participating fully in the moment, actively listening to the customer, processing information and asking thoughtful follow-up questions that lead to greater mutual understanding and build relationships. But according to noted business coach and speaker Keith Rosen, too frequently salespeople drift out of the present and away from the immediacy of the sales call at hand.

If you’re not living in the present, then where are you? Rosen says that many salespeople let their minds wander to the end of the call as they begin thinking about the outcome and whether they will make a sale. If your mind is on the future, he notes, it can’t be focusing on what the customer is saying.

Rosen also recognizes that salespeople frequently allow customer objections to take them out of the moment and into the past. An objection may shift you into survival mode, he says, where you reflect on similar situations you’ve faced and where you act out the same counterproductive patterns that have failed you in the past.

To remain engaged and in the present, even in the face of a customer objection, Rosen suggests salespeople replace reactive behaviors – where you act without thinking – with responsive behaviors.

For example, when a customer utters those six deadly words, “I’ll have to think about it,” the reactive salesperson typically becomes flustered and responds with a “but” statement:

But our company’s service is:
But this is a great price
But we have the best products in the industry
But think about the value we offer

The responsive salesperson, on the other hand, comes back at the customer with an open-ended probing question that maintains the dialogue and keeps the information flowing:

Why do you feel that way?
What benefits do you see from this course of action?
What is missing from this solution to make you more comfortable?
What is a better approach to this dilemma?
I’m not sure I understand. Can you explain further?

With such follow-up questions, you remain focused on the moment at hand and return the issue to customers, who will either convince themselves to buy after all or will at least share with you the actual reasons why they aren’t buying from you today.

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