Posted: 11th May 2015
Alison Darrington offers us her advice on ways in which we can overcome our apprehension at the prospect of selling to prospective customers. Basically, it all comes down to developing a relationship with the person you are dealing with. Find out what their likes and interests are, and their needs and goals. You are then in a position to show them how you can help them to achieve their aims.
I often hear women say that they don’t like selling; in fact many more say that they hate it and they’d rather pay someone to do it for them! I think that this is often down to our beliefs and experience of what sales people are all about, and maybe even because of some sales training we went on many years ago in the times of ‘pressure selling’ or the ‘just sign here’ technique.
We’re also very aware that our customers don’t want to be ‘sold’ to (we know this because as customers we hate being ‘sold’ to even more than we hate selling…) Most people are more wary and even sceptical about sales people nowadays, and probably rightly so!
I thought it would be helpful to put together a few tips to show that selling shouldn’t be as frightening or horrible as we might think, and with some thought and planning before meetings with our potential customers, we can feel comfortable and actually enjoy the process ( I can hear some doubts still…..)
The first thing that can make us so uncomfortable that we visibly squirm is how to introduce ourselves. I can hear you thinking, But, what do I say? What if they question me? What if they don’t like me? What if they’re not interested? What if I make them annoyed at me? And still worse negative thoughts go through our minds. So first of all, ignore those thoughts very firmly and think about the other person.
Ask them questions about what they do, why do they do it, what is it they enjoy most, what does that involve exactly, what are their aims or objectives, what would they like to get out of this meeting, who do they work with, what industry do they work in…….and once they start talking about themselves, as people generally love to do, suddenly that fear that you had under control disappears entirely. When someone is truly interested in talking to us we immediately like them and start to trust them; these are keys to selling to people. The other key thing is to LISTEN carefully and ask relevant questions to further the conversation. (BUT don’t spend more time thinking about your next question than listening to what they’re saying- they’re likely to notice and think that you’re either 1) bored or 2) completely fake, or 3) both of the above! Suddenly all that trust and agreement you’ve worked hard to build up will be dashed to the floor!
By this time you’re actually already in selling mode without even realising! What is essential to remember is that it is easier to help your potential customer come up with solutions to their problems rather than telling them that you sell the product that will solve their problems. Once you’ve built some rapport with them and found some common interests, you can bring in your product or service; ask, so with regard to ….. does that mean that you use …. type of product/service? What do you use right now? How is that working for you? How does it fulfil your requirements? What would you like …..product/service to achieve for you instead? The more you find out the more you can tailor what you say about your product to their needs. All these questions can be prepared before the meeting so make your list now.
Here are some more suggestions, applying these to what your product/service does:
• What is currently happening in that department, with that product/service?
• What would you like to achieve?
• What is your overall objective/outcome from using this type of service/product?
• What would you like this to do for you?
• How do you see that happening?
• When do you see that happening?
• What are the current issues with….?
• What and who does that impact on?
• What does that mean with regard to productivity/ performance/ people/ systems/ operations/ customer satisfaction etc?
• How does that impact on performance/ bottom line/ department contribution/ deliveries/ discrepancies etc?
• What has been done to try to change any of the above?
• What effect has that had?
• What do you think needs to happen for you to achieve your overall objective?
You can see where we’re going with these questions –once you uncover the current situation, what they want to achieve and any problems or issues they have along with the consequences of those issues and problems, you can help them find the solutions.
It’s worth recognising that often we talk about the features of our products or services instead of how they will benefit the customer. We’ll say things like, I can offer you a half day or full day workshop, you can have online access, our new product has a new funky green button, this computer has a huge amount of memory…. and the list goes on. Make a list of all the features of your products or services and alongside that the benefits of those features that the customer will understand and be able to relate to. For example:
• This funky green button makes it easier to see and feel to turn the machine on and off
• We can fit our workshops into your day so you can hold them around your regular meetings or around lunch breaks.
• Online access means that you can acquire regular updates whenever it’s convenient to you which saves you from having to wait for someone to send you a report.
• The computer has enough memory to store …. amount of files and documents, and will also store all your photos, as well as all your private home use documentation.
The simple rule is always think about what’s in it for them, rather than what’s it in for you! If it’s going to save them money, time or stress then tell them!
4. The Close. Another, understandable stumbling block is how to close down the sale or conversation. We’ve been taught various techniques from telling them how few are left, to ‘hurry cos the offer will end soon’, to just sign on the dotted line. If we’ve not been taught these, then I’ve often seen people just simply stop talking…….the long pause waiting for the potential customer to say something, please say something, anything at all just to stop this awkward silence. And sometimes the customer will say something; something like, I’m not sure, send me some literature, or let me think about it, or something equally dismissive. Don’t be afraid to ask them something –it means you’re asking for their involvement and consideration instead of asking for the sale (if you don’t feel comfortable asking for the sale yet.) Here are some suggestions:
• Have I answered all your questions with enough information for you?
• How does that sound to you?
• Does it sound or look like something you would like to go ahead with?
• Would you like to go ahead with that?
• If you see some doubt in them….Have you any concerns that we can discuss before going ahead with that?
• How suitable does that look/sound to you?
• Have I covered everything for you?
• And if they don’t want to go ahead yet…. Is there anything stopping you from going ahead that we could discuss?
• And when you find out what’s stopping them…. If I could sort that issue out for you too, would that mean that this proposal is suitable for your requirements and we could go ahead?
• And if you’re really courageous, When would you like to go ahead with that/ have that delivered/ start the process etc?
Hopefully you’re now more prepared for future interactions with potential customers. Take your prepared lists with you –they don’t know and you’ll feel so much more confident with notes in front of you.
Finally, remember that sales are built on relationships with people –you need to find out about that person, their thoughts, views, feelings and needs to truly understand them and be able to help them find a solution, with the aid, of course, of your product or service. Remember, what’s in it for them?
Darrington Training provides bespoke training courses for a wide range of industries. You can visit their website at: www.DarringtonTraining.co.uk