When you hear the word sales, what comes to mind? It’s usually not a positive image. Sales to many has become a four letter word, and is something too many small business owners avoid or are afraid of. In fact, if you want to start, run or grow your business you need to learn how to sell.
The place to start is by embracing and understanding the fundamental concepts, techniques, tools, and skills required to be an effective salesperson for your business.
What is Sales?
It’s all about knowing and effectively communicating your value proposition. It’s how your products/services solve a problem for the customer.
The best salespeople are those who approach sales as an opportunity to help others. It’s not about convincing someone to buy something they don’t need or want. It’s about finding out what they need and communicating the value of what you offer to them. If you can truly help the customer, then it’s more about helping them navigate through their options and concerns to the point of making a purchasing decision in your favor. The lesson here is the more you know about what your customers needs and wants are, the more effective your sales approach will be.
There are a lot of misconceptions about sales and selling. Things like:
It’s about manipulation. (It’s not)
You don’t have to sell. If your product/service is good enough people will find you. (The won’t)
It’s about giving customers lots of potential choices. (Not really)
It’s all about your features. (No, it’s about your benefits and value)
You are either a natural born salesperson or you aren’t. (Not true - no one popped out of the womb saying, “have I got a deal for you!”)
The internet has made sales obsolete. (It hasn’t)
To be an effective salesperson for your business here are some of the characteristics you should have or develop:
Empathy (being able to connect emotionally – putting yourself in the the customer’s shoes).
Emotional Intelligence – ability to effectively read, influence, and control and react to emotions.
Deep understanding of your solution (not just the features of your product/service).
Strong communication skills including asking great questions and active listening.
Passion/Energy/Enthusiasm/Belief in what you have to offer
Honesty and Integrity
Coachable – always be learning!
The Simple Sales Process
Just like a pilot goes through a checklist when they enter the cockpit, so too should a salesperson have a checklist of the steps of the sale. Being prepared for each step will make you more prepared and effective. Here is a simple 6-step process. A good place to start.
1. Initial Engagement
Marketing ideally generates interest and generates qualified leads for your business.
Work your most qualified leads first by responding quickly.
Prior to speaking with a prospective customer, ask yourself 2 questions:
What do I want to have happen as a result of this conversation?
What do I want the customer to do as a result of this conversation?
When you know the answers to these 2 questions, you have the start of a plan of action for the sales call.
2. Discovery - asking questions
During this phase of the sales process, you want to ask questions and listen carefully so you can identify and understand the pain, need, problems, or desires of your prospective buyer.
Prepare a list of questions before you talk to your prospect that will uncover their needs/problems.
Keep in mind, if the customer is 100% satisfied with their current situation they will not buy. But - if they are 99.9% (or hopefully less) satisfied, you have an opportunity to offer them the a new solution to their potential needs.
3. Proposal - positioning of your solution to the customer.
Using the answers to the questions you asked in the discovery phase, position your products/services as the answer to your customer’s problems/need.
Use benefit statements to show the value of your solution.
If you have direct competition, show how you are different and/or better.
The more value (e.g., customer service, ease of acquisition, more benefits, etc.) you add, the less sensitive price is to the sale.
4. Negotiation - the give and take of the sale.
Recognize you are always negotiating. It could be price, terms, conditions, dates, availability, etc. It’s part of almost every sale. Be prepared and ready to negotiate.
5. Close – the win or loss.
At some point you will have to ask for the customer’s business!
Debrief: Go back to the answers to the first 2 questions: Did what you want to have happen in fact happen? Did the customer do what you wanted him/her to do? If not, why not?
What would you do better or different the next time?
The key to building customer loyalty is in the follow-up!
Win or lose a sale, always follow-up. They may not be a customer today, but could be tomorrow.
Different forms of follow-up may include a phone call, text, email, or personal note.
Change your mindset about sales. It’s not a four-letter word and if you own/run a business you’re in sales. Learn as much as you can about the problem and needs your target customers have, then work on effectively communicating your value proposition.
Continue to refine your process and techniques over time. You can learn to sell and you can get better at it!
Need help? That’s what MBMentors does - for free! Contact us today!