The goal of a salesperson is to sell something on behalf of a business, to get the customer's signature on the dotted line. Some salespeople think of this as their only objective, before they race off to the next prospect. But master salespeople understand that selling is a process that involves listening to the prospect, mirroring the way they communicate, leading them step-by-step to a decision, and getting their feedback after they've used your product over time. We asked three sales experts to share some of their techniques and insights for managing the process and closing deals more often.
Keep the ball rolling
"The biggest obstacle that most salespeople face is that they don't realize that probably 95 percent of the people they're dealing with are not in the buying mode. They are in the status quo mode," says Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling. "But these people are really where the biggest opportunities lie if you can show them how their life will be better by making a change."
The first step is to explain how your product or service will have a positive impact on their life. Instead of boring the prospect with a dry recitation of bullet points, Konrath likes to tell stories about how other customers with similar problems reached their goals when they made a purchase.
Next, salespeople should ask a lot of questions to find out what the prospect is trying to accomplish—then, take a few days before getting back to them. "You're showing them that you're actually going to spend time thinking about their situation, and people appreciate that," Konrath says.
After the salesperson presents options at the follow-up meeting, the prospect may ask for time to think about them. Konrath says to be understanding, but suggest a definite course of action to guide them along. For example, a salesperson selling in a business-to-business setting could say: "I know this is a lot to think about. Usually when we work with people in your situation, the logical next step is to get the IT person involved. Why don't we set up another meeting to get that person involved right away to determine if our solution will work with your system?"
After the sale is made, Konrath highly recommends interviewing the new customer once they've had time to use your product. The contrast between what they had been using and the improved performance of your product will be fresh in their mind, and you can use their laudatory comments in a future customer presentation.
"A lot of salespeople think that if they could become a better negotiator, they could sell more," says John Palumbo, CEO of The Sales DNA Institute. "Instead they should learn how to influence their customer's way of thinking."
Like Konrath, Palumbo is a firm believer in listening attentively to the prospect's problems and then sharing the success stories of other customers. Another hot button technique to persuade the prospect is what Palumbo calls the "deserve it" factor.
"Salespeople have to help their prospective buyers understand how they deserve their product more than anything," Palumbo explains. "I like to see salespeople shift over into the mindset of the customer from not whether they need or want the product, but that they deserve it. The prospect doesn't say that out loud, but that's what going on subconsciously: we earned it."
A third strategy is to harness the power of numbers to make the advantages of buying really come into focus in the prospect's mind. Palumbo likes a two-sided technique that he calls "enlarging to the magnificent"—magnifying the benefits that the product or service delivers—or "reducing to the ridiculous," which shows how the cost of the product over time is a bargain.
"I don't mean skewing numbers," Palumbo says. "I just mean knowing your numbers inside out so it causes [an unsure prospect] to reverse their thinking."
Make it easy
"You don't get very far when you get stuck on the way you like to communicate over the way your customer likes to communicate," says Laurie Brown, a communications and customer service expert at The Difference. "[Salespeople should] listen to their style. When you can meet them and match them, it's far more effective to persuade them."
For example, Brown identifies people as either "towards" people—goal setters who have long-range plans—or "away from" people, who are more interested in solving problems. When trying to close a deal with a "towards" person, the salesperson could focus on the positive benefits gained from buying the product or service. With an "away from" person, emphasizing the risk management attributes would resonate more with them.
While price is a consideration in any purchase, there is another item that buyers focus on today. "I think what people really want more than anything else is for everything to be easy," Brown says. "They want the process easy. Buying from you should be easy. Using your product or service should be easy. If you can make things easy—whatever that might look like in your circumstance—that's a place where value gets built. As consumers, we have less time, less patience, and we just want easy."
If a potential client says that he or she needs time to think about making the final buying decision, Brown will invariably ask what they need to think about. Then she will send them something of value, such as an article that addresses their concern, to inform and help them come to a decision—again, making it easy for them.
"If you always have their best interests at heart," Brown says, "the more trust you'll have and the more likely you can close the deal."