How to get more sales is a vexing question facing many smaller business owners. It’s said that “nothing happens until a sale is made” and to some extent, this is true. Whilst marketing may create the opportunities to sell, a simple truth is that it’s the sale that brings the money in.
This may be bad news for many smaller business owners, who launch their new enterprise without fully realising that selling will be another skill they’ll need to master, at least unless or until they can employ sales professionals to attend to this crucial aspect of business. Indeed, for me in my own business, selling is a skill I would claim no real expertise in but the time has come to get serious and address this. So I’m working on it and this is what I’ve found:
It seems there are 4 main stages on the route to a sale, after marketing has delivered a lead:
- Build Rapport
- Analyse Needs
- Present Solutions
- Ask for the Sale
Simple! If only!! Actually getting to first base can be quite challenging, particularly when faced with ‘The Wall’. This is what I call the barrier that some prospective customers put up to salespeople. In the worst cases, prospects give you the widest possible berth and do anything to avoid eye contact. It’s amusing to watch and the only way I’ve found to counter it is to approach, but not too close (don’t want to invade their personal space), and say a cheery “hello” followed by some non-threatening comment, perhaps about that great British conversation piece, the weather. I’d welcome alternative suggestions and, of course, some people will ignore whatever ice breaker you present – their loss!
Having broken the ice, it’s time to build rapport. This is crucial because people buy from people they like, so a little time needs investing in demonstrating that you’re a likeable person. Showing some genuine interest in your prospect, asking several open questions to get them talking and sharing information about themselves, try find something in common and, throughout, mirroring their body language are the best methods I’ve found to achieve this. This is also a good time to qualify whether the prospect would be a good customer for you if the marketing didn’t address this.
This can seamlessly flow into an analysis of their needs. To do this, questions are the answer. A number of well formulated open questions, addressing the who, what, where, when, why and how can usually get to the heart of their needs or wants. It’s important to listen to the answers carefully and delve deeper with additional “what do you mean by that” or “… and besides that, what else …”. Be alert to the major benefits they’re looking for and also clues to the major issues that could form their main buying objections. Simply asking “what would cause you to buy this” or “what would prevent you from buying this” may be the quickest way to find this out.
Done well, customers will often tell you exactly what you need to know to sell them your product or service, providing what you offer matches their needs. Indeed, the presentation of solutions should simply be a case of feeding back to them what they’re looking for and how your service or product perfectly satisfies these benefits. It is a good idea, before making your presentation, to seek commitment along the lines of “if I can provide benefits a, b and c, are you ready to proceed?”
This process, simply outlined above, doesn’t in itself tackle the finer points of buyer behaviour, which is worth being aware of to ensure success. Buyer behaviour is a huge and fascinating subject that this article only just touches on. However, a couple of fundamentals are that every buying decision is aimed at being better off as a result. People are looking to avoid pain or increase pleasure as a result of their purchase or, put another way, prevent fear of loss or provide desire for gain.
The other fundamental of buyer behaviour is that people buy for emotional reasons, not logical reasons. This feeds into the fear of loss versus desire for gain equation and means your presentation needs to address the benefits, not just features, of the product or service and make sure the benefits and desire for gain outweigh the fear of loss or making a mistake.
So, you’ve built rapport, listened to your prospect’s needs and provided well match solutions – job done? Not quite. Some customers will undoubtedly volunteer to buy at this point … but not all. Which is why asking for the sale is an essential final step. Sometimes, a customer may be holding back owing to some doubt or concern. Anybody who wants “to think about it” hints at unresolved issues and could well think themselves out of the purchase owing to such doubts or concerns. It’s failing at this stage that prevents buyers buying, potentially leaving money on the table. I know – I’m guilty of it! I suspect a subconscious fear of rejection could be the cause of this but the bottom line is, we can’t afford to not follow the process to the end.
As I’ve said, I’m still working on developing these skills and the only effective way is through practice. If you have any helpful suggestions or tips to share, I’d love to read them.