Every now and then, I will say something completely inappropriate out loud — and on purpose — and then follow it up with, "Did I just say that out loud? That was just supposed to be my inside-my-head voice." It gets some laughs. Maybe not. I like to think it does.
Anyhow, as a salesperson with tons of experience selling high-tech products and services, there is one situation in particular that I frequently find myself in:
"You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?"
Ever been in a meeting with someone where you are presenting an idea or a concept that you have a really good grasp of and you realize that the decision-maker you are presenting to has no idea what you are talking about? You understand the math of it, the science of it, the language of it, etc., at a high level, and he or she hasn't a clue. Maybe some of the decision-maker's minions who are in the meeting get it, but the guy or gal who will write the check is not feeling warm and fuzzy at the conceptual level, much less at the "how do we implement this" or "why should I buy this" level.
Well, what do you do about it? Do you punt and say to yourself, "This meeting is going to be a total waste. If he or she doesn't get my brilliant presentation, I'm hosed." Or, do you face up to the challenge at hand and try to make the best of the opportunity? As a small-business owner, I know that I can't miss chances with too many decision-makers. If I've worked hard to get myself that meeting, I must make the best of that situation.
What can you do? Well, for starters, don't say something like, "You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?" Or, act in such a way as if to imply that is the case. Adopt the role of trusted advisor or teacher and earn your customer's trust. You've worked so hard to be in this room with this person for this meeting. A little patience can go a long way. Some things to consider:
• Don't assume that they will make even an obvious connection or draw the right conclusions on their own. Explain everything in great detail. Leave nothing to chance. Connect the dots. If you're going to succeed, you will find yourself saying variations of, "And, that's important because ..." a lot during the course of the meeting.
• Use open-ended questions to figure out the customer's personality quickly. Is he a "numbers guy"? Is she going to be sold with a "3rd party anecdotal story" approach? There are ways to communicate just about any concept with anybody. Don't give up.
• Remember that you are not expert at everything either. Begin a relationship built on mutual respect in that first meeting.
If you're like most entrepreneurs — chief, cook and bottle washer — one of your titles is "salesperson." And, if you've been selling for any number of years, you've probably encountered similar situations. Regardless of how you may have handled it in the past, in the future, recognize the situation for the opportunity that it is and take full advantage. For, truth be told — if you learn to recognize and capitalize on the less-than-optimum opportunities, too, your sales pipeline shall be full.
Let's face it. While total ignorance on the part of a potential buyer of your goods/service/concept would never be confused with an outright "buying signal," it is in fact a "how to sell to me signal" that is being shared with you. Don't miss out! Anyone can sell the lay-downs (or lay-ups, if you prefer). Great salespeople can close anyone. In this economy, if your small business is going to thrive, you need to become a great salesperson.