Almost all my career I have been involved in sales. It has been a passion to share my professional dreams and have people buy from me. But convincing people to buy products or services is not easy. Especially if it is something the customer or prospect does not want or has not been waiting for. So as a sales person you can easily come off too pushy and eager.
It’s incredible that still today, after so many trainings going on in the hospitality and meetings industry, I see sales managers, directors of business development – or whatever they call themselves – walking up to me and start spitting out features but no benefits of their product. Will they never learn? I agree that striking the perfect balance in sales can be difficult, but it’s less difficult if at least you follow the basic rules of selling. Something that’s completely necessary to learn if you don’t want to come across as unprofessional to potential customers and make a bad impression of your company. Talent is great to have but selling techniques can be learned.
So where does it all go wrong?
In my home office, I have a little frame that I’ve kept for many years. It says ‘selling is not telling but asking’. The person who asks the questions is in charge of a conversation and lets the other person feel important. While it’s important what you want to sell to your buyer, not asking the right questions will slow down the process or not get you anywhere where you were hoping to go.
The sales person’s questions will direct the conversation to the point where I, the client will start asking questions. And here it is very important to listen pro-actively-or at least to respond to my questions and concerns. Not doing so is a huge turn-off. So make sure to pay full attention to what I’m saying as your potential client–selling is a two-way street! And sometimes the answer will be in between the lines or you will have to read it from my body language or my tilted eye-brow.
Are you talkin’ to me?
Now that you have asked the proper questions and you are getting the right questions back it’s important that you have done your homework! Because there’s nothing worse than being caught off guard when I will ask you about something you’re supposed to know. Especially when you’re attempting to convince me to purchase it. Make sure you know your product and service intimately well before you make any sales call. So that you can answer all but the most personal of questions. Product knowledge also means in my dictionary knowing who your competition is and what their product is like. What are the advantages and disadvantages of your product? So selling is not only talking but listening carefully too.
Sell me a hamburger!
I’m often told that people buy on price and I’m not convinced that is true. I buy something that I need or which will make my life, my job or that of my client easier. I don’t buy something purely on price. Price does not even come in the first 3 reasons why I would buy something although staying within budget is always on my mind. If you are withholding the price to later in the conversation you will appear less pushy and more empathetic to my needs. Hold onto the price until you have a firmer grasp on the situation and the potential outcome. And when you sell on price, sell it according to what a friend of mine called it the ‘hamburger model.’ Just imagine the two buns, the meaty part and the salad inside. The two pieces of the bun represent major benefits, the vegetarian particles some fringe benefits and the meaty stuff the price itself. It comes as a total package and well-motivated. So I suggest you start of selling on price by first presenting me a benefit, you then call the price, throw in some more minor benefits and close off with one of the key benefits of your product or service. Capeesh?
I mentioned the eternal features and benefits before. The main obstacle that I have when I have to decide whether or not to buy something from you is how the product will benefit me or my company. Selling the product’s features as potential future benefits is something that will persuade me to buy. Nothing ticks me off more than receiving a canned presentation for a product or service that has nothing to do with my comfort and my company’s unique needs. Making me into just another person to sell to reeks of unprofessionalism. When I’m being sold to, I like to see that the seller has done his or her homework and understands who we are and what we do. Today there are many more ways to find out and social media has made it easier. When I prepare for sales calls, the first thing I do is look into what data I can find on the person and company who I want to sell to. For that I go first to our CRM system to look up the history and experiences our company may have had with them. Secondly, I will look up the prospect in LinkedIn Pro (or similar platforms like Facebook, Xing in Germany or Viadeo in France). I check what I can find on them on Twitter or Instagram. And study their website for sure. This will give me even more perspective on the company and the person in particular before I call them to make an appointment! If they are really interesting and if they are not in my professional network yet I will ask them to connect. Or connect with them after the call. May I suggest you do the same?
The art of articulation and eloquence
Even though it’s not necessary to be the best speaker or writer who ever lived, it’s definitely important to demonstrate good speech and impeccable grammar and spelling in your dealings with customers. Be it in emails or on social media, the rules have not changed. Otherwise, you will give the impression that you don’t care much about the product you’re selling–and if you don’t, why should anyone else? I do not want to hear the words we and I too much. Start your sentences from the client’s perspective, use you and your. And never forget that a picture sells a thousand words!