Preparation is one of the keys to sales success, especially for face to face appointments. It should be one of the main focuses when it comes to winning new business. However, more often than not, I find that lots of people are still doing the wrong sort of preparation.
In my experience when training businesses and salespeople, people often reveal that they are more concerned about their own preparation, such as: Have I got enough business cards? Are my Power Point slides done right? Or, have I got my product samples in my case?
This is a big mistake — surely you should be more worried about your client than yourself?
The best preparation is client preparation, such as looking at and printing out pages from their website. You’d be surprised how many people do not even visit a prospect’s website before meeting them face to face, only to be left faced with awkward situations that involve them asking questions such as: “tell me a little about your business”.
There is no excuse for not even carrying out basic preparation — after all, anyone can use Google.
Google the company name (to see what else comes up, not just checking out their website); Google the name of the person you are meeting; check out their competition and see who you've worked with in a similar industry or situation.
Instead of asking questions like “tell me a little about your business”, ask questions like, “I was looking on your website and noticed that....” or “I noticed on your website that you worked with...and I wanted to know a little more about it...”.
Do you think these have a different impact on the person you're meeting? Do you think they would perceive you differently than your competitors who ask the same tired old questions, time after time? Absolutely.
If you do the right kind of research, do you think it might have a big impact on the results from your sales calls and appointments? You can bet on it.
Are you confident that your company is able to capture your customer’s needs? And more importantly, are you using them to create a viable sales process?
Far too often the traditional structure of a sales process talks about opportunity rather than customer needs or requirements — the focus is very much from the seller’s point of view.
In order to help your potential customer make a decision you need to approach the process through their eyes. It’s essential to think about their needs, not yours.
So how do you create a successful sales process that is designed around your customer’s needs? Here are some tips that we have used successfully and which are integrated into the processes that we design for our clients’ sales teams.
Recognise the customer as an individual person and create a process that adapts to them — don’t expect them to adapt to it. At the forefront of your mind should be customer satisfaction, not sales.
A salesperson’s ultimate role is to present a solution to a problem, or a perfect fit for a desire. The end result is ultimately the same — the customer chooses you and you make that sale.
People want to be served in a way that fits their situation and their buying habits. Whatever direction the sales process takes, it needs to have listening as the first step.
Customer feedback is a big part of this and can be both the end and the beginning stage of your selling process. Feedback provides you with the knowledge to refine your sales technique and/or product. It’s also a marketing tool to show new customers that you are a) actively engaging with buyers and b) providing the solutions they are looking for.
The responsibility of researching the customer is not restricted to the sales team. As social media and ecommerce increasingly dominate Internet and mobile usage, customers are looking to other channels to get the information and, ultimately, the service that they require.
This is why you need a focus on internal collaboration. Your online marketing, social media and customer service teams need to know where to look and what to look out for in order to ensure you are visible to potential buyers.
Restructuring your sales process to suit customer needs can really improve your business. Not only can you create more harmonious relationships with your customers and your staff, a revamped sales process can produce tangible results.
A sales process designed around you customer really does lead to happier customers, more collaborative teams and a measurable increase in business. What more could you ask for?
Richard Edwards is director at Quatreus.
When I’m in London, I travel between meetings on the back of a motorbike taxi. I use them because the journey times are quicker and more predictable than my other options. I don’t choose them because “it’s a motorbike”.
Also, my company chose our IT service providers because they could free up our time; not because “we do IT”.
And we selected our accountant because he could help us grow our business; not because “he is an accountant”.
You see, when we buy things, we aren’t interested in the things. Instead, we’re interested in what they give us. Or, as I call it, the afters — why we’re better-off after buying.
Weirdly, we often don’t realise we want these afters. For example, I imagine you recently bought a newspaper, thinking you wanted a newspaper. You didn’t. You wanted the news. Glasses? Better sight. Toothpaste? Clean teeth.
Smart companies use afters to persuade us to buy. For instance, Kodak doesn’t sell by discussing their photographs; they talk about preserving our memories. Disney doesn’t sell by focusing on their cartoons. They talk about making our dreams come true.
So when you want people to buy-in to your messages, what do you focus on? Your ideas? Initiatives? Proposals? Research? Yourself?
Or, do you focus on why others will be better off afterwards? The time you save them. Or the costs. Or the hassle. The fact you reduce their stress, grow their business, help them look good to their boss… Now, those are great reasons to buy-in.
So, engage others instantly by beginning with their afters. This can be hard to do — after all, you are passionate about what you do. But I would never have chosen a motorbike taxi if some motorbike enthusiasts had spent ages telling me about their motorbikes.
People will never buy into your content unless their afters are crystal clear. So next time you’re looking for quick buy-in, start by explaining why the other person will be better off afterwards.
Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.
You can read more about Andy’s approach to sales here: No more fears — selling made easy
As an ex-professional buyer, negotiation is always a fascinating topic for me. Whenever I’m working with salespeople or business owners, they often fail to get the price for their products or services that they wanted — and often get even less than they deserve.
And the pressure is even greater in today’s market conditions — where savvy buyers are looking to get the best value when they’re purchasing. Therefore to get good results, the salesperson or business owner has to be able to stand their ground in a negotiation in order to get the price they deserve. Sadly, this often doesn’t happen.
So why is it that the buyer often has the upper hand when it comes to negotiation?
One simple reason is that the buyer is often better prepared to negotiate than the salesperson is. Often a salesperson gets caught up in a negotiation when they aren’t ready for it.
So if you think that a meeting or phone call could result in a negotiation, make sure you prepare for it beforehand. If a negotiation starts before you’re ready, don’t be afraid to postpone it and re-schedule it for another time when you’ve had chance to prepare.
Another typical reason that salespeople struggle to get better results from their negotiation is that on most occasions, they’re so desperate to win the deal that this comes across to clients, and they use that as leverage to swing the negotiation in their favour.
Prospects and clients can smell desperation and it certainly isn’t attractive. Once a client knows the salesperson is more desperate to do the deal than they are, that just gives them the green light to get the best deal they can.
It’s about time that we realised that prospects and clients often want to do the deal as much (or sometimes even more) than we do — but often we don’t know it.
Any buyer or decision maker worth their salt will attempt to play tricks during a negotiation. If you can spot these and deal with them, then you’re usually fine. However, most salespeople aren’t even aware what the other party is doing and end up falling for them.
You need to learn how buyers and decision makers operate so that you can deal with their tricks and handle their objections.
Another reason salespeople often come off worst in a negotiation is that they fail to find out enough about the other party before the negotiation starts. The decision-maker may well have strong reasons to purchase now. Very often there are pressing issues that mean they want a quick deal. But if the salesperson doesn’t know this, then they lose the advantage.
Think for a moment: When was the last time you went (or sent a member of your team) on a professional negotiation skills course, lasting for, say, one to three days? Possibly never.
Think about the other side: If they’re a professional buyer, you can guarantee that they will have been on such a course. If they’re a key decision-maker in a business, they’re also likely to have been on a similar course. At the very least, they’re far more experienced at negotiation than you!
If you listen to the news, or anyone commenting on it, they’ll tell you that we are “officially” out of recession.
However, it might not feel like that at the coalface. Even though we may be officially out of recession, many businesses are still experiencing recessionary conditions and that means they’re selling in a tough market.
A tough market for some companies might mean that they’re selling against a lot of competition, or that potential prospects are beating them down on price — meaning lost margins and lost profit.
Whichever of those situations is affecting you and your business right now, here are some tips on how to sell more in tough market conditions.
My first tip for anyone selling in a tough market is to increase their new business or prospecting efforts. If people are taking longer to decide whether to buy or not, having more prospects is a good exercise in risk mitigation. Secondly, the more prospects you have, the choosier you can be who you work with. What’s more, you can then prioritise your prospects, based on who can make quick buying decisions — which mean quick sales.
For most small businesses I work with, their levels of prospecting just aren’t high enough. In this tough market, they sit there and think, “if only the phone would ring more” or “I wish I got more enquiries over the web”. It’s time to take some action and to get some prospecting done, instead of waiting for it to come to you. Because it probably won’t.
One of easiest things to do to get more sales, more quickly, is to increase the levels of interest in you and your business from your network of existing contacts. The advance of social media has made this very easy.
How are you communicating with your prospects and existing contacts over social media? Now I’m not saying that all social media is useful (there are plenty of so-called social media gurus peddling that kind of rubbish), but I am saying that you need to be where your prospects are and communicate with them.
Are you posting success stories for your business? Your new business wins? Examples of how you’ve helped people? Positive feedback and testimonials from customers? If not, now would be a good time to start.
When you’re selling in a touch market, it is vital that you ring fence your existing customers, in order to stop them going to your competitors.
Think about it, you’ve invested time and money in getting that customer to buy from you in the first place. So why on earth would you let them go without a fight? Surveys have told us for years that the biggest reasons customers leave an existing provider is because of supplier apathy. They just didn’t feel like their business was valued; that we didn’t care. So they took their business elsewhere.
Can we afford for that to happen in a tough market? I don’t think so. So make sure you ring fence your existing customers as a matter of priority.
Sometimes there are additional sales opportunities sitting right under our noses. And often we don’t spot them, or sometimes even think of them in the first place.
One of the most effective sales questions of all was simply, “would you like fries with that?”. So simple but did it work? Of course it did! That question has triggered millions of dollars of additional sales all over the world.
Now, if something that simple can have the impact that it did, what could you introduce in your business to have a similar effect?
It’s simply about spotting the additional sales opportunity at the right moment, or even preparing for it in advance. Think about the process that a customer goes through when they are buying from you. What opportunities are there for additional sales that you’re not taking right now? Or not taking consistently enough? And if you did, what kind of difference would it make to you and your business?
“I’m sitting on database gold,” says the owner of a consulting firm.
“I know exactly who I want to do business with. I have a cleaned database of 1500 names. None of them know us yet but we have a really strong track record.
“I really need more clients. What’s the quickest and best way to approach people, get them on side and generate sales?”
This business owner asks a very valid question, one that I know many other businesses struggle with.
Business development is tough today isn’t it? In pretty much every firm I speak to it’s the number one challenge. And so much has changed. Back in the day — well, the early 1990s to be precise — I was a salesperson. At the birth of the telesales era I’d phone people up and they’d sometimes thank me for my call! Can you even imagine that today?
When it comes to doing business today, the big problem is trust. We are all too busy, too oversold to, mistrusting of companies in general and self-oriented selling in particular. When I think of the number of cold sales emails I’ve junked, the number of times I’ve put the phone down on a salesman, the adverts I’ve ignored then this is the only course of action I can recommend.