Chasing sales outcomes limits the types of conversations you need to generate to make the sale. Why? Because it impacts how you listen, what you listen for, and your credibility as you present your case for change. It can be said that the person who listens the best will learn the most and will build the best case for “why” the prospect should make that change. It can also be said that if you and your competition are both focused on an outcome, there will be little difference in the extent of your listening and argument for change.

Let’s start with what it takes to procure a new prospect conversation. The effort you make constructing an effective email that you hope will elicit a positive response; the risk you face making the follow-up phone call when your email garners no response; the constant internal and external pressure you swallow to persuade someone to accept your invitation to meet. Week after week, year after year. It’s understandable why you might be so attached to a positive and productive outcome.

  1. If the initial prospecting effort turns into a meeting, there’s payoff and gratification.‌‌‌
  2. If the meeting turns into something more, you spend less time subjecting yourself to the arduous process of returning to the drawing board and repeating the outreach process.
  3. Financial rewards abound if you engage the prospect in your sales process and convince them to want to do business with you.

What do you listen for when meeting with a prospect? Given the emotional impact of the three points above, you listen for anything that signals a path toward “next steps” – an outcome.

For most, generating next steps is how you judge your performance in the meeting and the value of your time. You’ve also learned that it’s a required part of the process if you are headed toward a sale.

Two Reasons Why Focusing on the Outcome is a Bad Idea

  1. It directly filters what you want to hear vs. what you need to hear. You will listen innately only on the words, phrases, and commentary that will help you achieve your next steps, and miss learning about the prospect’s needs.
  2. You will only ask questions that direct the conversation, discovery, and evaluation toward your desired next steps. Your listening is finely tuned toward the ultimate path of achieving an outcome.

Spending time on the things you want to hear (because they help you achieve your next steps) is not what helps your prospect debate and decide on change. If it were, you’d have a closing ratio far greater than what you experience today. What percentage of prospects that agree to a second meeting – or hand over their data for review – become clients?

The sum of your outcomes – procuring data to analyze, gaining a second meeting and an invitation to present – don’t always add up to making the sale. Fact is, what you don’t take the time to hear and understand always comes back to bite you in the ass. So, free up your listening to better identify and understand the barriers…before it’s too late.

Differentiating Yourself is Critical

Finally, because you compete every day for the prospect’s time and trust, differentiating is critical. Think how your competition approaches the prospect meeting. Which platforms, promotions, processes, and promises will they extend? Everyone searches for that next great hook or technological nuance, every competitor cancels the investment and effort of the other as if it were a military arms race. These are the actions that dominate the arena – and yet the real differentiator is right there in front of everyone, and it’s free.

If you want to sound and feel different to your prospects, start doing what a majority of your competition will not do. Compartmentalize the pursuit of an outcome (temporarily) and listen to what your prospect is really saying.