Good salespeople are known for their can-do attitude. They dont let anything get in their way. Yet, the road to closing sales is getting rougher. Customers are more discerning, demanding and cautious. They expect guarantees, free enhancements, incredible support and, of course, a bottom-dollar price and beyond. Theyre not satisfied with reducing risk; they want to eliminate it.
All this drives salespeople to search for more inventive ways to get the job done everything from finding appropriate prospects to nailing down appointments to getting the order. Because selling is a tough job, its often necessary to do things differently to close sales. Here are six ways to go about it:
1) Forget about getting the order
Sounds harsh, almost subversive. But it may not be so crazy when you consider that closing rates are painfully low. And if that isnt enough, the toughest lesson salespeople must learn if they want to survive is coping with constant rejection.
The real task is figuring out how to move past hearing no, not interested, maybe or thanks, but were all set. These are important comments because they almost always are heard when a salespersons focused on making the sale.
If a customer gets the feeling that a salespersons sole objective is getting the order, the chances that it will happen drop to near zero. Its easy to forget that customers want to buy; they do not want to be sold even if they need what a salesperson is selling.
2) Skip courting customers
Salespeople are known to make a serious effort at building a relationship with prospects. They do those things that build goodwill and establish friendships, all of which they hope will lead to getting the account or coming away with a contract. While such efforts may produce short-term results, enduring relationship building can require a lot more today.
Initial contacts with prospects are of crucial importance, far beyond just getting acquainted or establishing common ground. Its sizing up time, when first impressions become indelible. Its when prospects decide whether or not to work with a salesperson, which is why being perceived as a knowledgeable, competent, and committed professional is essential. So, dont derail the opportunity with distractions. This is the time to demonstrate your insights into the business, including challenges and opportunities.
3) Push getting out of your mind
Pay forward is a core value of selling, although it is mostly misunderstood. This has nothing to do with spending time and money courting prospects or keeping customers happy with tickets to sporting events, special excursions or even free dinners and the like. It has to do with another type of giving before you get. Specifically, its about funding an account with your demonstrated value before prospects become customers. How to do it? Just begin by asking for an opportunity to demonstrate your value. Whether its a problem to solve, researching an issue, finding a needed resource, or offering insight from your experience, consider it a mini internship, if you like.
Instead of talking about the value you bring to a prospect, demonstrate it. If youre too busy to pay forward, then you may be too busy to get the account.
4) Make differentiating yourself a top priority
Many salespeople claim they dont worry about the competition. Well, perhaps. Or, maybe theyre just whistlin Dixie. While your company may work at differentiating itself from the competition, its equally important for salespeople to do it, too.
Start by analyzing the way other salespeople who serve your prospects and customers do their job. Get acquainted with what they do, how they perform and how they interact with your prospect. Develop an understanding of their modus operandi.
The goal is not to replicate what others in sales do. Its to identify what you might do better that will set you apart. What will make you stand out? What will get the customers attention? What are your competitors salespeople missing?
With this information, you can fashion a sales role that surpasses the competition.
5) Anticipate customer needs to grow your sales
There are two negative behaviors that ill-serve salespeople: The first, can be called the when-I-get-ready syndrome. Customers hear from them when they want an order or the sales manager instructs everyone to get on the phones for two hours on Thursday. Both quickly become clearly transparent to customers.
These same customers learn to rely and trust those sales reps who take the time to create a needs profile so they can be in touch at the right time. They listen carefully and pick up on upcoming projects, new business opportunities, organizational changes, and problems that will, at some point, need attention.
The objective is to know when a customer faces a specific issue and to make contact at that moment. This is when a customer feels that a salesperson is an alter ego, a person who knows what a client is thinking.
Its this level of attention and responsiveness that builds client trust and results in additional sales.
6) Educate customers to build trust
Even though it may seem futile today, there are salespeople who persist in acting as information gatekeepers, attempting to control customers by managing the information they give them. In answering a customer question, theyre selective in the answers they give them.
Ironically, its just the opposite that builds trust with customers. Confidence in a salesperson comes from making sure customers have accurate and reliable information, even when it may not reflect favorably on what a salesperson is selling: Frankly, I dont have exactly what you need, but these people do, as she handed her customer the contact information.
Highly effective salespeople want to be regarded as reliable, forthright and competent resources. When they ask questions, their customers know they will receive straight, reliable answers.
Going against the tide isnt really an ethical issue. Its quite practical. Whats in the best interest of customers is good for salespeople, too. More satisfied customers and increased sales.
Graham, of GrahamComm, is a marketing and sales consultant and business writer. He publishes a free monthly eBulletin, No Nonsense Marketing & Sales. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, (617) 774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.
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