Suffering from a communication breakdown?

Marc Thaler

ORLANDO – You may have the gift of gab. But what you’re saying to potential customers – or what you’re failing to communicate – makes all the difference in your ability to seal the deal.

So says sales coach Paul Kenny of Ocean Learning.

“We often focus really heavily on what we do, the technology and the products,” Kenny said during his keynote address at the MAX 2014 U.S. Customer Conference inside the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. “What we don’t focus enough on is what it all really means to the customer, or what the customer really values.”

When it comes to sales, Kenny said most companies speak in generalities. The approach fails to help improve sales conversations.

User-Experience“It’s a great shame when you have everything else right in the process – leads in the pipeline, inbound marketing, great technology – if it’s the sales conversation that lets you down,” Kenny said.

And if that’s the case, it could be because:

  • All value exists only in the mind of the buyer.
  • Few, if any, purchasing decisions are rational.
  • Our perceptions of value are driven by many different factors.

Kenny made those three points while presenting a slide he labeled “Three insights.” He went on to discuss winning five key “battle areas” when making a sales pitch:

The first battle is making a good first impression. Kenny said customers form attachments very early in the sales pitch process. And gut instinct is often used to choose. Standing out in the sales acquisition process is essential.

The second battle is showing you have a deep sense of insight and understanding. It’s critical that the customer feels you have it.

“We feel compelled to be with, do business with, people we believe know us – know us on a deep level,” Kenny said.

The third battle is ensuring you score something Kenny calls “air time.” Who does the customer discuss when you’re not there? Whether you are mentioned after you leave the meeting is often determined by your ability to tell a story that resonates.

The fourth battle is credibility. Does the customer consider you trustworthy?

The fifth battle is planting the seeds for an enjoyable relationship.

“Can I bear to talk with them frequently? Can I share my deeper fears and concerns?” Kenny said. “If my answer is no, I may take a second-best solution.”

Winning those five battles, he said, requires engaging in the “zone of uncomfortable debate.” All companies enter the zone when they talk strategy.

The problem, Kenny said, is sales teams typically focus on the easy fixes. They find ways to avoid attacking the tougher challenges. The result?

“Businesses get stuck, and sales is the same,” Kenny said. “People don’t like to have honest, deep conversations.”