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It Isn’t What You Show; It’s What You Know

By Steve Schiffman

The following article was written by Steve Schiffman, President of DEI Management, one of the largest sales training companies actively working with our industry. DEI can be reached at 800-224-2140.

I meet many salespeople who are distracted by their own selling tools. They get so excited about the chance to show off their fancy proposal that they don’t ask themselves a basic question: What do I really know about this person and this organization I’m selling to?

The salespeople I’m talking about lose sight of the importance of being righted by the prospect, which is an essential step toward being right. As a result, they spend most of their time preparing long-winded, fancy-looking proposals, laminates, and PowerPoint® presentations that aren’t – and can’t be – right from the prospect’s point of view. Why not? Because the essential assumptions haven’t been verified yet! Too often salespeople think of their written materials as finalizing tools, when they should be using them as verifying tools. Consider these selling sequences:

Sequence #1: Your first meeting with a prospect leads to a full-blown presentation with all the bells and whistles at the second meeting. “Gee, let me think about it” is the response from the prospect.

Sequence #2Your first meeting leads to an abbreviated mini-proposal listing key assumptions at the second meeting. The prospect scribbles all over mini-proposal at second meeting which leads to a “This looks great!” response from the prospect at the third meeting.

Which would you prefer to see? I don’t know about you, but I’ll do just about anything to avoid closing the meeting with a “Gee, let me think about it” outcome. In Sequence #1, you’re letting the materials drive the sale. In Sequence #2, you’re using the materials to provoke a reaction from the prospect. You’re making noise! And when you do that, you can expect the prospect to make a little noise in return. “Hold on a minute – this isn’t what I had in mind.  We were thinking in terms of something totally different. You see, the thing is…”

One of our senior trainers, Steve Bookbinder, pointed out that the prospect words “the thing is” are music to a good salesperson’s ears. But, as a general rule, the only way you get to hear that music is by taking initiative, drawing some conclusions, and being willing to be corrected. You can’t get to “the thing is” if you’re afraid of being corrected! And that’s what selling tools should do for you: give the prospect the opportunity to correct you.

We have to walk in the door looking to be corrected.  We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that a beautiful color document, or a slick brochure, or a snazzy PowerPoint® presentation, will do the work for us. The only way we can expect to find out what makes this person different from the last 30 or 50 or 90 we spoke to is to use our materials as verifying tools, not closing tools.  If you don’t use written materials to help you make the noise that gets you “righted,” you’re wasting your time developing that multi-colored proposal and animated PowerPoint® show!

Recently, I went on a sales call with one of my own salespeople. Her materials looked fantastic –but they didn’t match what the prospect wanted to do! Obviously, she hadn’t verified her information. As a result, she lost the sale. After the meeting, I shared with her the concepts I’m sharing with you. Namely: it isn’t what you show – it’s what you know that counts.

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