I’ll never forget the first time it happened to me. The presentation with the customer was going well. I had prepared extensively. In fact, I had not just spent more time than normal, I had stayed up nearly all night to make sure I had every element covered perfectly in my presentation. For me, this sales call was going to be a huge success. My boss had told me this was going to be a difficult quarter, and that’s all I needed to hear to motivate me to close this particular sale.
The customer I was meeting with was tough. In fact, using the word “customer” was simply too nice. This customer was the ultimate professional buyer who would routinely drive salespeople crazy with questions, bold accusations and flat out rejection.
For this sales call, I was prepared. The program I was presenting to him that day included a new item that I knew in the back of my mind he didn’t need and would most likely flat out reject with some very colorful language. Shortly into my presentation, I noticed him giving me a high level of attention and agreeing with what I was saying. Before I was even half way through my presentation, he said he wanted what I was selling.
To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I couldn’t believe it! I began to wonder if he knew what he had just agreed to. Yes, he did know and yes he said again he would take it. At this point, we all know as a salesperson that it is wise to take the sale and leave. Yet, I was a bit hurt. Remember, I had spent nearly the entire night preparing an incredible presentation, and suddenly more than half of it was never going to see the light of day. My ego took control and I felt that if I had spent hours preparing it, he was going to hear it, so I continued on.
Go ahead and say it – BIG mistake! You’re right – it was a big mistake. The more I continued on with the presentation, the more the buyer was becoming upset; however, he was not upset enough to throw me out without the order. He listened, and honestly, I’m still not sure why. That’s when I made the final mistake. I shared with him some information that I never should have had in my presentation, and suddenly he began asking me questions. It’s not hard to imagine what happened next, as he decided not only to NOT buy what I was selling, he also went into a tirade about how I and the company I worked for didn’t know what we were doing.
My mistake was very basic. I kept talking after the buying signal was given and in so doing, I lost the order and I lost credibility. The reason I’m sharing this is not to say this has happened to me only once in my more than 25 years of selling. I’m sharing it because it’s one of many situations where I’ve unsold something. It’s just that on this particular occasion I saw it coming like a slow-moving train and still didn’t do anything to get out of the way.
When the buyer gives a buying signal, close the sale and leave. It’s simple, yet we as salespeople allow our egos and our pride to get in the way. Let me share two rules I have regarding sales presentations. They’re not complicated rules, but many times are overlooked.
Rule 1: Close the sale as early in the call as you possibly can. The only exception is if the price or quantity the customer wants is not within the range of your objectives. If the buyer’s requests are in your range of expectations, then get the order.
Rule 2: Close the sale before you run out of presentation. I tell salespeople with whom I am working that the measure of success is to not have to go through your entire presentation to close a sale. This rule is extremely important. You always want to have information and questions you can share with the customer. I like to view it as always having a “back pocket” presentation – information I can share with a customer, but only if it is necessary. This gives me more flexibility and helps me close the sale earlier. My ego is saved and the buyer is not subjected to information they don’t necessarily want to hear. Final benefit of keeping some of your presentation in your back pocket is it subconsciously gives you confidence and determination. You will have confidence in knowing you have more information if you need it, and you will have determination to close the sale with the initial round of information and questions.
It seems crazy that a salesperson could unsell what they have already sold, but it can happen. Do whatever you can to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
If you’re wondering what happened to me and my relationship with the customer, here’s the epilogue: He never did take the new item, and although he did continue to work with me on other activities, I never did get our relationship back to the level it was before my mistake.