This is going to sound way over-simplified, but that’s okay. The way to avoid a sales wreck is the same way you avoid a crash on the highway: Avoid distractions, pay attention to the highway signs, and follow the rules. In sales, you and the client establish the rules early and often (this is called contracting and partnering). But you also have to avoid distracted selling, and pay attention to the signs your prospect or client is giving you. Even when you’re supposed to be the one who’s presenting.
You would never get almost all the way to your destination, and decide it would be okay to stop steering your car. You can’t just focus on the instruments of your dashboard and hope to arrive alive; you have to keep your eyes on the road, and even drive for the other guy, at times, to make sure you get where you want to go.
Many people think of presentation day as the day of their big performance. They’ll prepare and rehearse, focused almost entirely on what they plan to say and how persuasively they will say it. But many sales hit the ditch not because of something that came out of your mouth… but because of something that failed to go into your ears. You were so preoccupied with what you were saying that you didn’t fully absorb what the client was saying. So, an emerging need has overshadowed the plan you had talked about earlier… or changing market conditions have thrown water on the plan you had agreed to.
These are the reasons that—even on presentation day—the most important words could come from the prospect or client you are there to serve. Before you dive into your profound, perfectly-prepared presentation… remember that even today, you must listen, watch for any signs that might signal a curve is just ahead, and adjust your speed and direction accordingly.