Little things can make a big difference
Have you noticed how much more skeptical people have become of sales information and people who make their living selling? As a society we have become more skeptical of all the information we receive. We believe politicians aren’t talking straight with us, and that the news channels are giving us half-stories and opinionated news. I used to know the people I bought things from, but that just isn’t the case these days.
On top of that, add a tight economy and people are suspect of anyone trying to encourage them to spend their hard-earned money. So how do we sell in this challenging sales environment?
Know the five questions every buyer must answer before they will buy:
- Can I believe you? I’ve watched people actually turn down free offers because they didn’t trust the other person. Every salesperson needs to understand establishing believability is the critical first step in selling. Being genuinely interested in solving the customer’s problem or meeting their needs is the best approach to selling. Not forcing products and services, but demonstrating you can be believed and you want to help is important.
- Do you care about me? Buyers have had enough of salespeople more interested in closing the sale than in the customer. Demonstrate your care for the customer by listening to their needs. Before telling them you have just the thing they need, ask questions and listen to responses to truly understand what they need. So few buyers believe salespeople really care about the customer that you gain a tremendous advantage over your competition by actually demonstrating that you care.
- Do you have what I want? You would think this is the first question the buyer would ask, but it isn’t. Even if you have what they want, if they don’t believe you or feel you care, they will walk away. This is why the first two questions are so important. You can still lose the sale even when you have exactly the product they want.
- Are you enjoyable to work with? Part of building an ongoing relationship for repeat business is the connection the customer feels with you. If they have already answered the first three questions positively and you are someone they feel connected to, you have the opportunity to make this a long-term sales relationship. Look at the complete process the buyer goes through. A salesperson can be great, but if the sales process is difficult, the customer will go elsewhere.
- Are you going to be fair with me? Be careful not to take advantage of the customer once you’ve brought them this far. I see many organizations with back-end “gotcha” charges or excessive paperwork that causes the customer to question who they are dealing with. Be upfront about add-on charges or additional fees in the beginning. If you drop those surprises later in the process, you can still lose what should’ve been a closed sale.
Even if a salesperson is ready to successfully answer these five questions correctly, there are ways to still lose the sale. The four most common reasons are:
- Preparation. When the buyer is more prepared or more knowledgeable than the salesperson, the buyer will lose trust. Whether you are dealing with a walk-in customer or a large contractor, your sales staff members need the training to know more than the customer.
- Exhaustion. I see the energy level of some salespeople and I swear they look like they’ve been on a three-day bender. The lack of energy could be from feeling beat down, the strain of unrealistic expectations or just not taking care of themselves to be ready for the day. Good energy sells. Exhaustion sends customers away.
- Courage. Especially when dealing with B2B sales and large orders, the customers are first going to test your price and then they are going to test your will. You have to have confidence and courage to engage in this type of negotiation. Expect the customer will want champagne on a beer budget. Be strong.
- Outsold. Is it possible to do everything I’ve mentioned in this article correctly only to lose to the competition? Yes. Why? Because they did it better. Know your competition and know where your advantages are. Be sure the customer knows them as well.
Finally, being in sales is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. In today’s market you have to be almost schizophrenic. The best salespeople recognize how to be a chameleon and adopt the customer’s personality and communication style. Little things will make a big difference in the competitive marketplace we are in.
Russell White, president of Pinnacle Solutions, Lake Wylie, S.C., is an author, columnist, consultant and international speaker on leadership and growth strategies. As a speaker at The Rental Show 2011 in Las Vegas, he will present “How to Sell to a Skeptical Society” on Sunday, Feb. 27, at 10:15 a.m. He can be reached at 803-831-7600 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.