If you could only teach one component of the sales process, what would it be?
I am writing a book on my own proprietary sales process. I would like to get some supporting insights from top sales people from around the world. Best answers may be used as supporting quotations in my book (with permission of course!).
Eric Vaughn , what a good answer! You cheated the question by giving a single "thing" answer (sales process), which of course is much more than one thing. However, if I were writing a book Dave, I would insist that the implication of Eric's answer is that there isn't "just one thing" to learn. Selling effectively and consistently is relatively complex and if you want to be among the very best in your market, learning it well is a key criteria. Otherwise, wouldn't everybody do it?
Although good open end questions and empathic listening is paramount, I always advised my sales teams of running their territory like their own business. Let's face it, when you have a corporate position with an expense account and a salary, you can get pretty comfortable as a sales rep. I think every corporate sales person should early on in their career, either work straight commission, or do something on their own with no guaranteed money and benefits. That reveals the true work ethics.
You have made the perfect point. The Sales Process.
If your business still relies on the traditional sales approach of telling the client about your fantastic product or service then you will lose more business than you gain.
The modern buyer does not want to be told and sold.
He or she is a professional and knows what their business needs rather than wants.
You need to SELL your SALES PROCESS. One that exudes confidence in your business and its ability to be able to support the buyer in making the right decision for them.
Your process should be at the forefront of every salespersons lips. This is how we can provide you with the right information and specialist support from the beginning to the end of the sale; from delivery, installation and after sales service, combined with project management, regular discussions to make sure things are on track, and a plan of action to make things work, even when they sometimes don't.
The salesperson should be able to deliver the sale of" the process" in their sleep, and never get to sell anything else. The client gets to choose from beginning to end.
When your client describes you as their preferred supplier, you have reason to be proud.
How to acquire the prospect. Unless, you are supplying the prospect.
I'm paraphrasing Tom Peters. "The customer doesn't care what you know, until he knows that you care."
#1 - Talk to them about the one thing they know more about than anyone else in the world........... THEMSELVES !
#2 - THEN LISTEN!
I think the key skill in the sale process is listening carefully. I have found that customers and prospects, with the right prompting, will tell you exactly what they want, why they need it, and how valuable it is. As a person who sells/advises on insurance and risk, I need to listen carefully to my customers for these important points. Then, if I heard correctly and have product/services which can meet their articulated needs, I can offer, overcome concerns, and make a sale that is a win-win. For me, listening - before speaking - has become the key skill.
I don't know if this is apocryphal - but it hasn't been mentioned so far...
I was told that the *one* biggest difference between successful and unsuccessful sales people is to ask for the sale.
My own epiphany was around developing a sales "identity": I was kicking against becoming a sales person. Then I had the realisation that we are all in sales: presenters sell ideas to their groups; parents sell good behaviour to their kids; spouses sell their choice of evening to their beloved.
In all of these you take people from where they are to the point of acquiring the new "product": persuasion is OK, coercion is not. The same principles apply.
Learning to truly listen to the customers. their problems, requests, complaints, desires, opinions, everything. That's the best chance to initiate a good deal, in my opinion.
Try the books of the "HIT," I think it was version 2009 or earlier by "Jay Allen."
I think that a sales process starts with the "thing you want to sell".
If one starts with the "ask questions, listen, understand, etc" it suggests you are developing a solution and in most cases it looks like a scam.
You are selling cars and you provide an array of cars and financial terms to fit the customer. In this case you have to listen and understand the customer to suggest the solution that will make the most profit and fit the customer needs.
The need to "listen first" is related to the need to optimize profits in a sales solution.
But if you are selling a phone plan, the ability to expose the product and its features to the customer improve the ability of the customer to choose added value to it's sale experience.
Most sales do not worth variable profit margins without risking looking like a scammer. The ability to promote the value of a product during a sales event is done by exposure, enthusiasm and confidence. Otherwise a product is just a product and not "the product".
Teaching someone how to listen with enthusiasm and confidence is probably good but if that someone is not able to elaborate on the product with the same enthusiasm and confidence, most sales leads will not materialize.
Soft skills all sound great and sure they matter but they are overstated. Give me a salesperson who is good at and dedicated to prospecting behaviors and he can stink at everything else and still make you money. Give me the best sales listener or presenter or closer who stinks at prospecting and he will struggle to grow his business.
Don't skip over the fundamentals of the effective sales/marketing message. All it typically takes is thought and a process. If every one just did a better job of fashioning messages that did a good job of defining how they distinguish themselves and defining what all the key things are that compel their target market to buy from them -- the rest would be a whole lot easier.
The most important part of the selling process is the pre-planning phase. Knowledge about customer, their needs, how you can meet their needs. So many sales people, whether cold calling or relationship selling don't understand the needs of the customer and the key decision makers within the organization.
Know when to close the door. Asking to early or even to late can cause you to lose the deal altogether.
A lot of excellent answers... so many stress listening. I totally agree.
My answer is very simple: be honest.
There is nothing more important than this is the sales process. The relationships you develop will only succeed if you are completely honest about the product or service you offer. You may lose some sales with this approach, but even that is a learning experience that you can take to upper management in order to improve the overall company. Honesty develops long-term relationships. These are the very best you can have.
The one thing to remember is "people buy people first" if the client does not like you or feels intimidated by you, you will NEVER sell to them. If they like you they will trust you and even if you're light on product knowledge or cannot do the paperwork, they will actually help you to get the deal done! All the other stuff comes later, you will never get to objection handling, which is pre closing, unless you have first made your pitch,,,,