How to talk to a customer when selling or gathering product feedback
A common mistake is jumping right into selling the product and showing a demo in the hope that the customer will see how the product will solve their problem. This is very common because our initial inclination is to be sensitive to the “customer’s time “. After all, he was gracious enough to give us some of his time, so why not get right to the point?
Never “sell” before you understand the customer situation, pain points and requirements. This is like prescribing a solution before diagnosing the problem. If you were a doctor, this practice would be considered illegal and could have dire consequences for the patient.
Always be curious! It will not kill you or the sell. Start the customer conversation by asking questions about the company – the individual’s roles, the current situation and challenges – without mentioning your product and company. Engage with the intent to learn and diagnose – not sell.
By doing so, you first and foremost learn about the customer’s challenges and needs. This will inform you on how to conduct the rest of the conversation and what benefits to emphasize and which product features to demonstrate. It also signals to the customer you care about him and his needs.
Customers are human beings and like most of us, like talking about themselves. It has a therapeutic effect (ask any psychologist – that is what they do for a living, listen). Letting the customer do most of the talking upfront creates intimacy, builds trust and increases the odds of a successful meeting.
How to Diagnose a Customer
Your goal is to uncover the customer’s pain and the impact of that pain on their business. Once you understand it, you will be in a better position to demonstrate how your product addresses the specific pain points.
Start by establishing their current situation, then uncover the pain, and end by understanding its impact on the business.
The idea is to increase engagement through a series of questions. After each response, summarize in your own words what you just heard. Echoing back shows the other party empathy, builds trust and helps validate understanding.
Let’s look at an example. Assume you are selling a SaaS based enterprise applicant tracking system designed to help companies manage their hiring process. You are meeting the Head of HR at company ‘X’.
Step 1: Discover the situation
You: “How many new employees are you planning to hire in the next 12 months?”
Customer: “We are in high growth mode. We plan to more than double our headcount in the next 12 months from 53 to about 120 employees.”
You: “What tools are you currently using to manage the hiring process – track statuses, collect feedback and schedule interviews?”
Customer: “We use Excel spreadsheets, people and emails.”
You (echo and summarize): “Got it. So you are doubling you company size. You need to hire 5 employees every month to reach this target headcount and each prospect requires lots of interviews and coordination. Currently you are using Excel to keep track of this.”
Step 2: Uncover the pain
You: “How is that working for you? What are your main challenges with how you currently manage the process?”
Customer: “It sometime takes us 3-4 weeks just to complete an interview cycle. Simply coordinating all the interviews and collecting the feedback from each interviewer is easily a 3 week process.”
You: “How much is your team personally involved in managing the process?”
Customer: “My team is spending 80% of their time chasing candidates, hiring managers,coordinating interview meetings and collecting feedback.”
You (echo and summarize): “So the current process is taking too long and your team is overworked trying to juggle so many candidate interviews. You are simply not hiring fast enough.”
Step 3: Understand the impact
You: “How is this impact your hiring?”
Customer: “We have lost many good candidates because we were to slow to complete the process. Not to mention the bad impression that was left on them.”
You: “How did the hiring manager and the rest of the team feel?”
Customer: “There is lots of frustration after losing a good candidate. Most blame HR for the situation for not having a process and system in place. Also, my team is frustrated since they are spending so much time supporting the hiring managers, but then a good candidate is still lost. ”
You: “So the current process is taking too long. Hence you are losing the good candidates and are not able to fill the position at the required velocity. It also sounds like your team is getting most of the heat for the process failure.”
Prescribe the Solution
After learning about the main customer issues and how it is hurting their business, it is time to present how your product will address it. You can now tailor your pitch to the specific pain points and individual’s needs. Emphasize how your solution will help solve these issues and bring about positive change to the customer’s business. Make sure to show the individual how using the product will not only have an ROI but will make him/her look a hero for finding the solution.
By adjusting your selling narrative, you will see an improvement in customer trust and willingness to create a working relationship with you. So go on, kill in your selling ratings rather than your potential sales!