The early days of selling a new product can rock your confidence. You may have done every single thing right to prepare: studied your product thoroughly, written your script and your best questions, studied your competition, and even practiced your pitch with colleagues. Then you start making calls. You’re so good people actually take your calls. You get through to some of the best prospects on your list, but it doesn’t go as well as you thought it might. They start poking holes in your product. They start asking questions you can’t answer right away. Their questions take all of the wind out of your sales. You want to bury your head in your pillow for the rest of the day and start over tomorrow.
That is a totally understandable reaction; you are deflated by reality hitting you in the face. What you actually do at this moment is the key that will determine your future success. Do you give up, stop making calls for the day, thinking you’ll feel better tomorrow, or do you relish the push back and learn from it?
Problem Number One: You’re Not the Subject Matter Expert Yet
If you’re in a new sales role and don’t yet have your sea legs, cut yourself some slack. Over time you will gain so much exposure to the questions you’re getting that you will have answers to most of them. However, if you’re new to the product, or, the product is new to the market, it’s ok to not know everything. It’s ok to tell your prospect that you don’t know everything, but that you can find out the answers quickly.
Instead of panicking, ask your prospect to explain their push back in explicit detail, if they will. Remember, they’re not your paid advisor, so they may feel like it is stepping over the line for you to ask them to give up too much information. Or, they may be more than willing to tell you every single thing they know about your competition and what they think is wrong with your product. This can do two things for you:
- Ramp up the speed of your education, allowing you to learn as fast as possible from an industry insider.
- Position you as the good listener you are, not the know-it-all sales person they might have expected. This interaction can build trust and empathy.
Don’t Take Their Word for It
It is great that your prospects are willing to educate you, but don’t let your education stop there. Go back and investigate the claims they made about your competition and get a deep understanding of the solutions they are currently using that they say are good enough. This continues your education about your product and business sector, but you may also find out something your prospect doesn’t know. You may find out information that you can take back to them that changes the game for both of you.
Now, the way you present this new information is critical. You don’t want to come across as if you’re enjoying a “gotcha” moment. Instead, you can choose to present it in the humblest way possible, conveying that you are hopeful that you can help your client, not simply win a deal or even a point in a discussion.
Sales Is Tough
Sales can be the most satisfying, exciting job you will find. You can be a problem solver and trusted advisor, and you can make a lot of money. But no one who does it will ever tell you it’s easy. It’s flat out tough, especially when you’re pioneering a new product or territory. The one key is to just keep going, and keep listening and learning as you go. Before you know it you will be the subject matter expert on your product and market.
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