Know Your Stuff

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Meaningful communication happens when people meet in-person. By literally being in front of someone, you have the ability to guide the conversation to the topics of your choice. That’s why salespeople always strive to set face-to-face meetings, and the results are generally far more successful than in other forms of communication.

The best part about a meeting is that it doesn’t have to necessarily be planned far ahead of time or one that has a firm agenda. By that I mean that conversation is what starts the sales process. I was reminded of this recently when I returned to my hometown and met up with my long-time friend Bill. We were talking about our careers and he said something that is a good lesson for anyone in sales.

Bill works in software consulting, a complex field that demands an advanced level of expertise. Additionally, given the specialization, the cost per day to hire a software consultant is high, and the price for mistakes can be far greater. Clients need and demand leadership, a voice of assurance to tell them the correct answers to their questions. Many salespeople likely share similar circumstances of selling a high-value product or service. Information conveyed to clients must be stated in a way that builds trust and confidence. Over time, there will invariably be times when a salesperson is caught unprepared with a difficult question.

What is the correct thing to do when a client asks something complex that doesn’t have a clearly defined answer like “yes” or “no?”

In general, people are unsure of themselves, especially with a complicated topic, and they want to talk with an expert. Salespeople need to be trained to be self-sufficient and capable of answering most questions and, if they are unsure, to ask another team member or manager. Clients much prefer the certainty of “do this” versus the uncertainty of “I think this should work.”

With software consulting, Bill’s experience has been that it’s better to sound sure all the time and be wrong occasionally, rather than to seem like you’re never 100 percent sure what you’re saying is correct. Know that your clients will respond to the cues you give them when you answer their questions and internally they’ll be asking themselves other questions. Are you truly an expert? Are you to be trusted? Should I buy from you? Ultimately, strong, confident leadership will pave a path to more successful selling.

Rob Wardlaw is the associate publisher of Gulfshore Business magazine,


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