Sales are the lifeblood of any business; without a healthy stream of customers for it’s products or services, any business will fail, fact! So if you or your sales team are not working effectively, this is a problem that you have to fix quickly.
Effective selling is a combination of process and skill, when executed correctly should feel like a rewarding experience both from the sales-person and customer perspectives. Nobody likes to feel they are being sold to; it feels pushy and uncomfortable. Contrastingly, we all enjoy making a purchase when we feel confident that what we are buying is the right product or service to fulfill our needs. Feelings are key; however before I talk about the emotional aspects of selling, I want to deal with the process piece first.
The Sales Process
It comes down to six fundamental points which can be exposed by asking these simple questions:-
- What is the need that we serve?
- How does our product meet those needs?
- What value does our product offer?
- Who is our customer?
- What does the buyer need to know to make an informed decision?
- When is the right time to close?
The first and most important part of selling is having a razor-sharp understanding of exactly what needs your product or service fulfills. If you can’t articulate this with absolute clarity, then you’re not ready to start selling.
Then you need to be ready to explain in a concise and compelling manner, precisely how your product meets those needs. The more tangible and demonstrable the explanation, the better; most people are dismissive of vague claims and waffle, so again the emphasis is on clarity, honesty and precision.
We all talk about price, but people buy on value, so it’s imperative you have a detailed appreciation of what value your product or service provides. If you don’t, you risk either over or underselling, neither of which represents a good outcome.
To understand value, you need to understand your customer. Don’t make assumptions; ask questions to really understand what their need is and what it means to them or their business. Another important tip is to avoid assuming that they fully understand or appreciate their need; you may need to help them explore this by asking incisive questions to expose the full extent of their requirements and the implications of buying or not buying.
For a successful sale, it’s vital that the customer makes an informed decision, so you need to be sure that you provide them with all the necessary information. But, again, don’t rely on the customer to know what to ask; you are the expert in the field, so it’s up to you to help the client by sharing the most pertinent questions. This also reduces your risk of mis-selling and losing out to the competition; if the customer understands the product or service’s complexity and value, they are less likely to be seduced by inferior offering or price discounts.
Like most things in life, timing is key; you need to know when to close the sale. Too often, inexperienced salespeople fail to ask the customer for the business letting them procrastinate and avoid taking action. It’s no use doing all the groundwork and then failing to close; you have to look for the right moment to close the deal. Keep control of the situation, so if now isn’t the time make sure you get a commitment for the next meeting.
Any salesperson needs to be fully conversant with the above points before they step into their first sales meeting. You may be surprised that I haven’t mentioned any of the typical buzzwords like USP’s. This is deliberate as when you focus on your product rather than the customer, you will over- focus on information giving rather than information receiving mode. Focusing on the customers’ needs and how your product or service serves that need will put you in the right mindset when describing all the unique attributes of your product.
Sales Skills and Mindset
Selling is a skill that all of us learn and use, in some form or other, every day, but many people struggle with it. Many of my coaching clients say, “I’m not a salesperson” or “I’m just not comfortable selling”. A classic limiting belief, but what sits behind it? I usually respond with the question; “when you think of yourself as a salesperson, what do you see?” This invites the person to start to explore their self-perception, the assumptions they are making that are shaping that perception, and how this perception fits with their core values.
Many people have a vision of a verbose, pushy, untrustworthy salesperson reminiscent of a 1970’s car-salesman. This does not relate to who they are or how they would approach a sales conversation, but once that mindset has been created, its hard to let it go, and it conflicts with values of humility and authenticity. Others struggle with the relationship between persuasion and their values of honesty and integrity. Again their personal values are not at issue here, it’s simply that they are making invalid assumptions about the process of communicating and explaining product value. The third issue that frequently comes up is respect and accountability; they make invalid assumptions about where the decision-making responsibility lies.
Once we work through the limiting beliefs and assumptions that are getting in the way, the individual can start to utilise all their skills and emotional intelligence to become an effective salesperson:-
- Building rapport based on mutual respect and understanding
- Incisive communication using a combination of targeted questioning and active listening
- Expert knowledge
- Presenting, explaining and reasoning
- Summary and persuasion
Once you have removed the limiting beliefs, you will see that you can execute these skills in a state of emotional balance whilst staying true to your values. Sometimes it helps to develop a new self-perception built around an expert or educator whose role it is to help people make their best buying decisions. Giving yourself a more attractive self-image can help you step into a more confident persona when it comes to selling.
If you would like some help unlocking your inner salesperson or optimising the sales process in your business, please get in touch.