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Schneider Training Solutions, LLC | Portland, OR

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Have you ever had a selling opportunity that seemed to be headed toward a win -- and then lost the deal when you found out that you and the buyer had different ideas of what was really under discussion?

We've all been there. It’s called mutual mystification, and it’s our responsibility as professional salespeople to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Salespeople live in a fast-paced world. We face all kinds of pressures to make things work as quickly as possible. When we are out there selling, it’s very tempting to try to rush to the finish line. But here’s the thing: Sometimes, when we rush to the finish line, we miss out on important information. And not having that information may keep us from getting to the finish line!

When we're talking to buyers, there may be moments when they say things to us that are ambiguous or even a little misleading. When that moment occurs, we may be tempted to fill in the blanks. This may be because we’ve made an assumption about what we just heard. Or perhaps we suffer from a common condition that afflicts salespeople all over the world, the syndrome known as “happy ears.” Or it could be that we just don't feel like asking.

But let's do a little reality check. If a buyer says something that you honestly don't understand, and you realize you have no idea what they're thinking... why in the world would you choose to fill in those blanks yourself? It is in your best interest, and the buyer’s best interest, to pause at that moment and make the effort to find out what the buyer really means.

For instance, suppose you hear the buyer say something like, “We have to solve this problem, and money is not an issue.” Sure, it sounds great. But what does that really mean? Shouldn’t you find out?

Or let’s say a buyer looks at a proposal you've put together and tells you, “You're certainly close.” Is he saying he’s close to making a decision to work with you? Or is he saying there are only two other companies that he’s considering playing you off against? Those are two different situations. What does he really mean?

What about the buyer who tells you, “You’ve given me a lot to think about. Let me take a couple of days to consider this. I’m going to have to get back to you.” If that really translates as “This isn’t going to happen,” wouldn’t you rather she told you that now? But, of course, it might not mean that. So how can you find out what is really going on if you don’t ask?

You’re a professional salesperson. That means your job is to get to the bottom of things and figure out what's really going on. STROKE-REPEAT-REVERSE is a great technique for making sure you get to the bottom of what you think you’re hearing. Here’s what it looks like in action:

STROKE (make them feel good for saying what they just said): Thank you for letting me know that.

REPEAT (restate what they just said in your own words, as supportively as possible): I appreciate you letting me know that money is no object.

REVERSE (ask a question that shifts the momentum of the conversation back to them): When you say that, though, what exactly does that mean in your world?

At this point, you can let them expand on what they've said. If you execute this technique properly, you will come across as supportive and curious, and not as hostile or demanding. As long as you are supportive and curious, you can keep using the technique as often as necessary in the conversation. More often than not, the other person will eventually fill in the blanks and let you know what they truly mean.

Let’s face it: What you just heard from the buyer may mean exactly what you think, but then again, it may not. So use STROKE-REPEAT-REVERSE . . . and avoid mutual mystification.



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