The following is a guest post by Michael Boyette, the Executive Editor of the Rapid Learning Institute.
You’ve probably heard that you should never assume anything in sales. But that’s not so.
It’s human nature to make assumptions. In fact, our brains instinctively do so, and you really cannot sell without making them. Some positive examples: You can and should assume that any prospect you contact has some sort of performance gap that needs filling, that they will behave honestly, and that they don’t plan to use your services to further some evil agenda. Not everyone will live up to these assumptions, and you may have to revise them for any given prospect, but they allow you to get the ball rolling.
Recent research even suggests that experienced salespeople can make accurate judgments about a customer’s needs based solely on their assumptions and first impressions. Call it a salesperson’s intuition. The study concludes that when salespeople rethink their first impressions and go against their intuition they may lose out on sales.
The real key is to avoid making assumptions that lead to bad decisions. For example, you might assume that a good meeting with a client means you can forecast the business at 50%, that someone who downloads a white paper is worth calling, or that doing good work means customers will refer you.
Assumptions can become an easy way out, make you lazy about increasing your pipeline and cost you opportunities. Here are three of the most common:
1. Customers know we want referrals.
It’s dangerous to assume that customers know you want to grow your book of business. The reality is that the most satisfied customers you have are focused on their own agendas, businesses and families. They aren’t going to think about your need for referrals. Those who care about you will be happy to help, but they won’t think to do so unless you ask.
2. Inquiries are good leads.
You can fritter away a lot of time on tire-kickers with assumptions like this one. Just because someone downloaded a white paper or visited a trade show booth does not make them a qualified lead. Qualified leads match your “Ideal Client Profile” and are motivated to speak with you about your product or service. They don’t reach that level until you ask your qualifying questions about need and budget and decision timing. Like Goldilocks, you want leads that are “just right.”
3. Appearing busy will yield more business.
If you run a restaurant, you want the place to be visibly busy, because it sends the right message. But that’s not the case in sales. If you appear to be too busy, customers won’t want to refer you, because their connections might not get the attention they deserve. So don’t send the message that you’re swamped. If someone asks how you are doing, avoid talking about how busy you are. Instead, say something like “I’m working on some great projects but I'm always looking for new customers to serve.”
Action step: Take a look at your pipeline, and think about how assumptions you’ve made have panned out, for good or bad. Don’t let wrong assumptions — especially about referrals — keep you from missing opportunities.
Source: Adapted from a post by Joanne Black at www.nomorecoldcalling.com