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An unfortunate reality of all client/salesperson conversations is that opportunities for major misunderstanding arise often. If we’re lucky, we’ll recognize our confusion and ask for clarification.  The biggest threats are the undetected misunderstandings— often the birthplace of disagreement and rejected proposals.  Beyond maximizing our listening skills, what can we do to nip potential misunderstandings in the bud?

The key concept here is seeking confirmation; four important examples:

  • Confirming Our Review of Needs as Understood:  Arguably the “granddaddy” of consultative selling confirmation situations, here’s where we play back the client needs we (think we) heard during the meeting’s situation analysis phase.  If there ever was a place where we have to get it right, this is it: our subsequent recommendations will be tied to demonstrating how our product/service meets these perceived needs.  Replay the client’s needs thoroughly— then ask if we got them right and got them all.
  • Confirming the Agenda and Available Time:  These are presumably not miscommunication problems; surprises here usually result from the (client’s) circumstances or needs having changed since we earlier agreed on the meeting’s agenda and length.  The benefits of our understanding the new situation— and being able to adapt the meeting content and timing accordingly— are obvious.  Ask the client straightforwardly if our agreed-upon agenda and meeting length are still valid.
  • Confirming Our Paraphrase of the Client’s Objection:  This third step of the Objection Resolution process “reframes” the objection as an unfulfilled client need, and defines a task that we’ll need to accomplish for our recommendation to be accepted.  Since our paraphrase opens a new pathway by turning the objection into an objective, it’s necessary to get client confirmation that he/she agrees that our proposed task is the way forward.
  • Confirming the sale, itself:  our February 5 blog on “Closing” describes a technique for confirming the client’s readiness to buy without pressuring him/her, or resorting to artificial closing “gambits.”  After the client’s objections to our recommendation, if any, have been fully resolved, we voluntarily ask if she/he needs to discuss anything else.  If the answer is, “no,” we can fairly assume that the client has approved our proposal.  This “assumptive close” confirmation tool is uniquely comfortable for both of us.

Although these four applications are especially important, there are many other salesperson/client dialog situations where a confirmation question or statement can be beneficial.  When it comes to confirming mutual understanding, “more is more”; we should ask for repetition or clarification often— and always, if we have the slightest doubt.

Importantly, we can improve the client’s understanding of us by replaying what we’ve heard— an irresistible invitation to correct us and, therefore, to get it right.  (Could we occasionally ask the client to paraphrase what we’ve said, when full understanding is crucial?)

One of the most important selling skills is knowing when and how to “seek confirmation” in our client dialogs.

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