We have all heard the saying, "You should never assume, because when you assume, you make an ass of 'u' and 'me'."
The problem is that we still do it.
Consider just a couple of very simple situations.
The CIO says, "We won't be spending anything now until next year."
The salesperson takes this onboard, makes a mental note to check back in October to have lots of planning time.
The CIO actually means "next fiscal year" ... which starts in March!
The COO tells the salesperson that his spending will increase by 100% next year.
The salesperson plugs that number into his forecast and creates a sales plan around getting his share of that extra spend.
The COO did not share that 80% of that total spend is earmarked for a capital purchase, meaning that the actual services spend is going to decrease significantly.
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." George Bernard Shaw
A big part of a salesperson's role is to understand and qualify opportunities.
The way to do that is to ask questions ... probe, qualify and confirm that what you heard is what the person meant you to hear!
Then ask more questions!
The salesperson could confirm what the CIO said by saying, "So if I were to schedule a follow-up meeting in October would that give us enough time to plan?" This would surface the confusion and would lead to more questions about budget, planning and how the salesperson could best bring value.
Similarly the salesperson could confirm the COO's statement by suggesting that this would mean a big increase in services spend, to which the COO could provide clarification.
A salesperson should always be prepared when heading into client meetings. Having a list of desired information and desired contacts; together with a meeting agenda will help to get the right outcome.
"Success occurs when preparation meets opportunity." Zig Ziglar