My consulting practice includes working with company owners, sales managers, and sales people.
Among all, I have too-often observed a very self-defeating habit – making assumptions about how prospects will react at various stages of the sales process, and using these assumptions as an excuse for not taking productive actions.
In general, the result is lost opportunity.
The Wrong Path
What kind of assumptions are being made? Here is a small sample:
—“I don’t have the right product for this prospect.”
—“This prospect doesn’t want to hear from me.”
—“The timing is wrong.”
—“I’ll be a pest if I contact this prospect now.”
—“My prospect will get in touch if there is interest.”
Do any of these sound familiar? If so, they either show a misunderstanding about what selling really takes, or an unwillingness to engage in the hard work of doing the job correctly.
Either way, change is called for.
The good news is that selling is generally a learned skill and, when boiled down, it is easy to see how silly assumptions can be. Most often assumptions are just an excuse to avoid prospect engagement and possible rejection.
Effective salespeople maintain their optimism, energy, and problem-solving skills in the face of these fears, and avoid making assumptions at all costs.
Assumptions in Practice
I am currently helping a very smart and experienced client who recently started a new business. He is doing almost all of the selling, a role he has never led before. My client is frustrated because his revenue goals are not being met, despite the fact that his product provides an excellent solution to an important problem.
In working with this client, I witnessed his use of every assumption listed above, and concluded that they were the underlying cause of his vexation.
After breaking the assumption habit, my client has experienced significant interest from several prospects who he thought would not be interested in his product, including one prospect who he thought would not talk with him about it under any circumstance. When pushed to try anyway, my client was amazed to find that his assumptions were completely wrong!
My client also has learned that true prospects appreciate being kept up to date with new developments, and never view him as a pain for informing them about how well his product can serve them.
Finally, my client is finding that prospects seldom sell themselves and that they like being asked for their business.
In fact, some prospects will not buy without being explicitly asked for their business.
Overcoming the Assumption Habit
Assumptions in selling can and must be defeated by a simple but essential response.
Specifically, the salesperson must convince him/herself that prospects receive an important benefit when they learn about – and ultimately use – the product. If a salesperson does not believe this, he/she should find another product to sell where that idea can be embraced, or get out of sales.
To increase sales, assumptions must be cast aside, prospects probed for the reality of each situation, and solutions offered that solve prospects’ challenges.
To maximize success, salespeople must convince themselves that they are doing their prospects a favor by introducing the product, and then make it easy for prospects to buy.
In selling, assumptions are almost always wrong. Why bank on them when direct questions and answers yield so much helpful and accurate information that can lead to success?