By Michael Boyette, executive editor of Rapid Learning Institute and a thought leader for the .
It’s hard to win in sales when you’re working with only a fraction of the information you need. You’d think that buyers would want to share everything in order to get the best solution to their problem. But it doesn’t work out that way. Here are four reasons you might not be getting all of the information you need, and what you can do about it:
1. The buyer wants a level playing field. Buyers will give you what they think is enough information based largely on their assumptions about what you need to know. The problem is that when you and your competitors all have identical information to work with, all of your proposals will begin to look alike. At that point, price becomes the dominant criteria. You don’t have to play by these rules. Be prepared to ask questions that others won’t. For example, choose topics that shift the conversation into sensitive areas, such as current business priorities, issues with strategic objectives, key stakeholder preferences and how decisions will be made. In particular, find out if you’re competing against the status quo.
2. The buyer hasn’t thought deeply enough. There’s a good chance that you have more expertise on the issue than the buyers do. They don’t have time to think through all of the issues, and that’s why they’re talking to you. Here is a strategy that will get them to open up: Ask customer-centric questions that help them decide on the right path to take. Listen for incongruity between the problem and the solutions they’ve tried before. Offer your thoughts in the context of their business priorities.
3. The buyer doesn’t have all the information. If your contact seems reluctant to answer the “big picture” questions that will give you the context and perspective you need, he or she may not be “in the loop.” You need to bring more people into the conversation. One strategy is to get a clear picture of the cast of characters involved in making decisions. That’s become more complex in the past few years, with more organizations taking a team approach to implementing new initiatives. Find out who the real influencers are, and who has the most to gain.
4. The buyer doesn’t want to share. On occasion, prospects and customers hold back information deliberately. It’s important to find out why. Perhaps there are valid reasons, but sometimes there’s a hidden cause you can address. Maybe there’s a lack of trust or confidence. Or maybe they’re shopping, and you’re the third bid their process requires. Sometimes they only call to pick your brain for ideas. Ouch! Counter their obfuscation with tough questions, and don’t settle for polite answers: “Is this a real opportunity for us? Why are you considering a change at all? Why did you bring us in?” Instead, dig for the truth, even if it hurts. You need to know where you stand.
The key takeaway in all of this is that buyers don’t routinely provide all of the information you need to set you apart and win business. You have to work hard to get at what they’re not sharing.