How long does it take for a salesperson to become too knowledgable for his or her own good? According to a study conducted at Xerox in the ’70s, 18 months. The renowned sales guru, Neil Rackham, found that the performance of new salespeople increased steadily until about 18 months on the job. After that their performance not only levelled out but actually dropped significantly!
The explanation? Rackham found that after about 18 months the new salespeople had become so knowledgeable about their products and about every imaginable application of those products that they simply didn’t feel they needed to ask as many questions as before. Instead, they started moving too fast with their customers and start offering their solution to them, before the customers were ready.
Now this is a bit of a paradox because every buyer obviously wants to deal with a salesperson who is an expert in his or her field. But on the other hand, buyers don’t like to be told what to do by – not by a salesperson who seemingly has unsufficent information about the buyer’s particular situation.
So a salesperson needs to always keep in mind that even though they believe they know what the customer needs, the customer might not believe what the salesperson tells him or her. They think that without asking the right questions, the salesperson has no way of knowing what is right for them. A salesperson need to keep the lid on his or her expertise – and keep asking the right questions – until its time to present the solution to the buyer. Don’t be tempted to use your expertise as a club on the buyer.
Don’t let your expetise become your enemy when selling. Instead, always have the patience and empathy to ask questions about the buyer’s situation. Believe me, your sales results will improve when you do.