Avoid Talking Yourself Out of a Sale

A sales plan, timing and knowing when to be silent are key to a successful sale.

You had a great conversation going. The customer appeared interested so you just kept talking about your company. You knew getting their business was critical, so wasn't telling them everything about the company and the product critical? Yet after all that talking you did, the customer politely said, "I'll have to think about it."

What was there to think about? You told them everything about the best contractor in the world! Five minutes later you're in your truck preparing to drive away wondering what just happened. Reviewing your notes you realize you don't have many notes. It finally hits you — you did all the talking. You talked yourself out of a sale.

Has this ever happened to you? If you are in sales long enough you will experience the "talked myself out of a sale" experience. What can you do to ensure you stay in control and maintain the poise needed to close the sale? While every selling situation is different and every sales professional's personality must be considered, here are a few tips you can employ to strengthen your selling effort.

  1. Have a Plan. Yes, selling is the final objective, but there are things you need to plan for that lead to closing the customer. Include in the plan a strategy for taking the customer from one point to the next point. Use a series of questions to do this. Record the questions you want to ask, in a particular order, which leads to a natural confirmation along the way. Have the questions written down and in your possession as you are conducting your meeting. Also, the questions should be based around the knowledge you have of the customer and the information you still need to acquire. If you don't plan your strategy you will tend to keep right on talking.
  2. Know Yourself. Do you enjoy relationship building and talking? Good - most good contractors do. However, the same contractors realize their strengths in these areas can be a detriment to closing more sales. If you are effective at breaking the ice with customers, great, but have a sales plan. If you are effective at digging out helpful information about customers, great, but have a plan that uses that information. If you are effective at persuading customers, great, just don't over-shoot your effort to close the sale. Know what you are also timid about. Interestingly, many sales people are afraid to ask for the order. If this is something you suffer from as a contractor then recognize it, develop your plan, write out the statement you will make at the right time to close the sale, then close!
  3. Timing Is Everything. Talking yourself out of a sale is sometimes related to having no sales timing. Timing for sales professionals represents the rhythm that is often experienced during a sales call. There is early discussion about your business, questions are asked, the customer admits to having some needs that you can address, and boom ? you confirm the sale. Timing is based on reading the customer and recognizing the buying signs. If you have a sales plan for each customer you will be more aware of where you are in the development, what information still needs to be gathered and when it is time to pull the sales trigger.
  4. Silence Is Golden. It is easy to forget to let the customer talk. Silence, after asking a question, allows the customer to recognize that they have a part in the sales relationship. Silence also means you don't hurry their responses by completing their statements or jumping on their questions too early. Silence sends a very clear non-verbal signal that you are confident, composed and not in a hurry. Your internal thoughts may be racing, but you must maintain confidence and control and listen.
  5. Be Flexible. Reading your customer, adjusting to their personality and needs, and changing the speed of the sales process are all ways you can be flexible. Yet, you still must work from your sales plan. In football it is common for the quarterback to "audible," that is, change the play that was called to a new play because of the opposing defense. The quarterback's job is to take a play that looks like failure and change it to a play that will be successful. You are the "QB" for your company. You must know as much about your product, processes, production and customer in order to call the right play. At times, what you had in your sales plan will not be effective so you "audible" to another strategy, question or response.

Look, we all make mistakes. When you have experienced talking yourself out of a sale, "get back on that horse" and sell again. And don't think you will never get another shot at the customer you blew it with. In fact, I would suggest you contact them again to see when you might be able to revisit their needs and expectations. If necessary, ask the customer to forgive you about "getting pretty darn excited about your firm's strengths." Many customers will appreciate your honesty and welcome you back.