This is a guest post by Gina Smith

So, you’ve perfected your pitch. You’ve spent hours understanding the needs and desires of your customers. You’ve created the best possible products and/or services. You’ve rehearsed in front of family, friends and colleagues.  Maybe you’ve even had help with lead generation from someone like GlobalResponse. Now, you’re ready to visit prospects and make sales. You continue to rehearse your pitch in your mind as you head to your first meeting. You have it down pat. You’re confident and excited and ready to make a sale… “Thank you, but we’re not interested.”  What?  Not interested?  The lead was even pre-qualified? The words, “not interested” painfully echo through your brain as you wonder, why?  After all, the pitch was perfect. Well, it’s the “pitch” that may have been the problem.  Too often, we approach a potential customer with a “pitch” to sell what we want to sell, but not necessarily what they want to buy. Whether selling a product or an intangible service, it’s imperative to talk less and listen more. If you let your customer talk, they’ll generally convey what they want or need within the first few minutes of  the conversation. The key is, you need to stop talking and listen!

Learn Your Prospect

What consumers desire is based on several variables. Economy, geographical location and current financial status are ever changing conditions which will affect your sale. What is your prospect’s current situation? What  factors are driving their decisions? Are they looking for higher quality? A better price point?  To fulfill a specific need or solve a particular problem? Today, some industries whose sales were previously driven by the fact that they offered a better quality product are now experiencing instances where more customers are willing to sacrifice some quality for a better price. So, if you’re approaching a prospect you “assumed” wanted the higher quality product when they actually desired a better price point, you’ll lose their interest early on in your “pitch.” Understanding what they desire early on and demonstrating how you can fulfill a particular need will help boost your chances at making a sale.

Be Open to Suggestions

Let’s say you’ve successfully sold the same product for years, but sales have recently dropped. Perhaps you’re finding people simply aren’t interested in your product anymore.  Once again, listen to your prospects.  Ask them, “if this doesn’t interest you, what type of product along these lines would?”  Perhaps you already have an offering which you hadn’t thought about pitching to a particular prospect, but after some conversation, you find it fits their needs.  Also, don’t be afraid to take information you gather from your prospects and use it for future product development.  These days, companies willing to diversify their product lines in order fulfill the desires of their target audience are the ones that sustain and prosper.

Develop a Rapport

If you listen and observe, you can quickly make a connection with a prospect and begin to build trust.  And, when a prospect feels a connection with you, your chances of making a sale instantly increase.  Do they have a sports team displayed in their office?  Did they mention a place they use to live?  Do you see pictures or gadgets in the office that you identify with?  Did they perhaps attend the same college?  Once you find a similarity, be sure to point it out.  This often leads to a side conversation about the topic, and an immediate rapport begins to build. Don’t force this — the interactions should be genuine — but don’t ignore opportunities either.

Keep in Touch with Both Prospects and Customers

Even if you get a “no,” be sure to keep in touch with prospects.  Use an in-house or an outsourced calendar like Google Calendar or Vcita to set reminders.  Try to contact the prospect at least once quarterly to just say, “hi” and ask if there’s anything they need.  Be sure to keep in touch with both prospects and customers alike.  Also, email newsletters featuring new products and offerings, advice and tips and even success stories are an excellent way to stay on the forefront of people’s minds.  Be sure to get permission to add them to your e-mail list, then consider developing a monthly e-newsletter update. Aweber is one of the more popular providers offering these services (it’s what Tea uses to keep in touch with her readers). Nobody will transform every lead into a sale, but your conversion rate will be much higher if you listen more and talk less.  And, if a prospect likes you and you pay attention to their needs, you may make more than just a “single” sale.  The ultimate goal is to cultivate long-term customers and relationships.