Have you ever had that out of body experience where you feel like you’re watching yourself kill a sale? …where it feels like you can literally see the prospect becoming less eager to buy but you just can’t stop yourself from making the situation even worse? You aren’t alone. I work with exhibitors full time and, because the sales process is accelerated during trade shows, there are plenty of opportunities to observe booth staffers who feel like they’re under intense pressure (or simply out of their element) and inadvertently turn off their visitors with nervous habits.
If you have ever experienced this issue, or know someone else who has, this article is for you. Here are four of the most common nervous habits that kill sales and what you can do to avoid them in your next selling situation:
1. Not talking enough.
As the meeting host (FYI – if you’re selling, you’re the host …whether that “meeting” is taking place in your office, trade show booth, or local Starbucks line), you are responsible for progressing the conversation. I don’t mean that you should monopolize the conversation (see habit number two below); but, it’s not okay for you to clam up either. If you don’t do your part to carry the conversation, instead of making your guest feel welcome and at ease (so they begin to like, know, and trust you), you’re placing all of the pressure onto them to entertain you. In this scenario, your problem is that you are not talking enough.
So, if you find yourself becoming too quiet, speak up! You need to be engaged, ask questions, and listen thoughtfully so that you can respond to your prospect’s comments before transitioning the conversation from one stage to the next. If you do get stuck (say you stumble upon a sensitive topic or draw a blank), just take a breath, remember that you’re probably more bothered by any awkwardness than your contact is, and redirect the conversation to a topic that will help you reach your mutual goals.
2. Talking too much.
If you get carried away with avoiding habit number one, you may see your prospect’s eyes glaze over, notice that he has a sudden fascination with his watch/phone, or feel like something really exciting must be happening just over your shoulder. These are all signs that you are talking more than you should and have lost your prospect’s interest. On the flip side, you may find that this habit causes your contact to withdraw from the conversation (especially if your “talking” sounds more like “interviewing”) or become confused while trying to translate your babbling back into coherent sentences. If you observe either of these responses, you are talking too much.
So, if you catch yourself being a bit too chatty, wrap up your current sentence as quickly as possible and immediately follow it with a question for your contact. As long as you let him answer and listen thoughtfully while doing so, this can be an excellent start to reengaging your prospect. From that point forward, it will be even more important to ensure that you are focusing on his needs, his interests, and his continued involvement in the conversation (so that there is a conversation to progress).
As a sales professional, there are times when you might feel unprepared or inadequate (for example, when you find that you aren’t as familiar with your prospect’s situation as you should be or you realize that your competitor excels in key areas that you don’t). In this situation, there are two clear options: lie or own up to your unpleasant feelings. However, in the moment, you may choose a different option. You may choose to “highlight” the knowledge you do have, like irrelevant industry information (to distract from anything you don’t know) or your competitor’s personal and professional weaknesses (to detract from their positive attributes). Even if you justify this by saying you’re doing your best in a challenging situation, you should know that you’re really just hurting yourself by overcompensating.
So, if you find yourself exaggerating to make up for your lack of preparation or confidence, reevaluate your options. If the information you don’t know is necessary in order to progress the conversation, either ask or reschedule your meeting until you can do additional research. If you are tempted to badmouth the competition, don’t; simply shift your focus back to the relevant benefits your products/services provide. Take the high road and bite your tongue as needed.
4. Appearing desperate.
In a society where the old “minimum standard” is seen as the new “extra mile,” going above and beyond is impressive to prospects and appreciated by clients. However, there is a fine line between providing excellent customer service and offering too much. Once you have offered a huge discount, promised to personally be available 24/7/365 to hold your (hopefully) new client’s hand, and agreed to rush the order at no additional cost, you have probably given away too much. In fact, if your prospect was sold on the value of your offerings themselves, throwing in all of those extras may just be causing him to question his original assessment… Your prospect may now be saying to himself, “why does she need this order so badly? If her offerings are as great as I thought they were, why is she practically giving them away? Maybe they aren’t so great after all…”
Side note: If your prospect can’t see the value of your offerings without so many extra benefits, you missed a step in the sales process; randomly throwing in extra benefits at this point, without resolving these issues, is not your best long term solution.
So, if you catch yourself going too far, just stop and wait for your prospect to respond to what you have already promised. If the package isn’t quite right, design a new offer that is a better fit for his situation (if he wants more benefits, charge a higher price or if he’d prefer a lower price, take away the expensive extras). Negotiating is part of the game, but don’t trade your self-respect or give your offerings away at a loss to get the sale. Premium offerings should come at a premium price (or else they won’t receive the respect they deserve).
In conclusion, nervous energy isn’t all bad. In fact, these actions can actually be helpful in small doses (for example, striking a balance between facilitating a conversation and being an active part of it, reinforcing your relevant expertise without getting lost on a tangent, and offering a great opportunity without appearing too needy or being unfair to yourself). However, it is important to consciously rein in those actions; instead of watching yourself spin out of control, keep your nervous habits in check and utilize them in the more positive ways mentioned throughout this article.