You may not realise it but everyone who is in business or any customer facing role needs to know how to sell. The truth is, you’ve been selling since the day you were born. Each time you cried as a baby you were selling, each time you talked your parents into letting you have ice cream or a visit to the fairground you were selling, when you got your first kiss in high school you probably used your basic sales skills to a larger or lesser degree.
Regardless of if you work in sales, in accounts, or in dispatch, It’s important to understand the science behind selling, or more importantly, the science behind buying!
Once you understand the psychological processes that a buyer goes through then you can manage any sales situation. Regardless of if you’re a store owner, a plumber, a nail technician or a gardener, you will benefit many times over if you take the time to learn why people buy and how you can best assist them. Selling has changed dramatically over time, some elements of the old school selling still apply but the execution is different.
Let’s be honest here, selling has had some bad press over the years, double glazing, insurance and car sales are all industries that have employed high pressure sales techniques and as such, as buyers we are often wary of salesmen and indeed being ‘sold to’. Certainly in the UK, we are pre programmed when asked if we need help to reply “no thanks I’m just browsing”. I was in the USA on business recently and I was tempted to to say the same thing when approached by an assistant in a store. Only for me being fascinated by how other countries do business I’d have made an excuse but this assistant came at me with the opening line of “Hi Sir, let me assist you with your purchase today”. In fairness, he did, he was a great help, I bought, and not once did he appear to try to sell!
The Ethics Of Selling
If you genuinely, 100% believe that your product or service is of benefit to the person sat opposite to you then go ahead and let that person know, watch them as they delight in finding that product is everything they wanted, assist them in financing it, and help them to answer or dispel any objection that they may find before purchasing, We all find objections when making a purchase by the way, it’s natural to question ourselves, am I doing the right thing? Can I afford it? Is there a better, cheaper alternative? Should I go away and think about it?
These are natural questions that people have in their mind when making a purchase, the larger the ticket price, the more doubt there will be. It’s completely ethical therefore to assist any purchaser as long as you believe that the purchase will benefit them, If you don’t, if you’re only thinking about your commission or profit then shame on you. Seriously, work on that basis and you’ll have a short, unfulfilling career. Help people, be fair, and the rewards will come to you, over and over again.
Law of Selling #1 – Don’t Try To Sell
Seriously, there’s nothing worse than someone trying to sell. It’s so unnatural, It’ll have your potential client disappearing faster than a donut at a weight watchers convention. When you first meet a client then how can you possibly try to sell something to them? You know nothing about them, what they need or how you can meet that need. So instead, introduce yourself, be natural and don’t try to be a salesman, speak to them as you would speak to a friend. If you’re dealing with a regular client then naturally this step changes a little, You would have already built up a rapport with them and should have an understanding of their needs, wants and desires.
Law Of Selling #2 – Ask, Listen, Learn
Ask questions, lot’s of them and listen to the answers. Ask about the products or services that your prospects are currently using, what do they like about them? what do they dislike? You’ll notice that psychiatrists ask a lot of questions, one question leads to the next and ultimately leads to the root of a problem.
As a salesperson, By asking these questions, you’re helping the prospect establish what it is they want or need. This is far more powerful than you telling them what they need right?
Law Of Selling #3 – Only Try To Match Your Product Or Service Once You’ve Identified Their Needs
If you’ve followed law #2 correctly then you should already have a good idea of what your customer needs or wants, you’ll have an idea of features, budget and expectations. You’ll know about what they currently use, you may have even picked up their wife’s /husband / kid / pet name too, referring to these in conversation from this point on will show that you’ve listened, it’ll make the conversation more personal and will build trust.
You should by now have an understanding of their expectations, their fears, their desires. You should be able to then match the features of your product or service to each requirement.
Law Of Selling #4 – Overcome Objections Before They Become Objections
Objections are the biggest fear to anyone in sales, Once you realise that objections only arise when someone is ready to buy then you can look at them in a different way.
Think back to when you last made a major purchase, maybe a house or a holiday, do you remember how you felt? You’d been offered a great deal and yet you were still on the fence, you wanted to be pushed into a decision, you wanted someone to say “hey, this is a great deal, it’s meeting all your requirements and the price is great, go on, treat yourself, you deserve it!” We create objections in our head, can I find a cheaper alternative? what if this, what if that etc.
The best way to overcome objections is by addressing them yourself before your customer has a chance to. If you’ve paid attention in step 2 then you’ll have an idea of what their hopes and fears are. Be aware that the most common objections are about price, or fear of change. Everything else is pretty much a stalling technique.
In matching your product or service to the clients need you can touch on budget, you can even remove any price objection with statements like “Would you agree that it’s worth paying a little more the first time and getting it right rather than having three cheaper solutions?” You can gain agreement throughout the interaction by asking these kind of questions, People find it hard to say no if they’ve been answering with a “yes” for a number of times. If you feel like there may be an element of fear, either by them breaking away from the normal product that they use or by them adopting a new way of doing things, then by all means include some short stories of other clients and how your product has helped them. People don’t like being left behind, they don’t like to miss out. It’s human nature. We all want a piece of the action.
If the client raises any further questions then try to answer them with a question. This helps to gain further commitment from them. For instance, Q “is this available in other colours?” A “Yes it is, did you have a colour in mind?”
Law Of Selling #5 – The Close
Closing seems to be a dirty word these days. This is thanks to the years of high pressure sales techniques that were used by some dubious home improvement and finance companies. The truth of the matter is, the close is just what it says, it’s bringing a close to the deal, the transaction, the interaction. A close is no different to a proposal of marriage, it’s a call to action, it’s asking for the business.
There are many schools of thought on how this should be done and each of you will find ways that suit you. Ultimately you’re looking for approval to make the sale. How you do this is dictated by many different variables, not least your own comfort zone.
I know lots of people who have enough charisma to just ask “Can I have your business?” I actually like sales people who do this, Especially if they’ve earned it, if they’ve followed all the rules of engagement beforehand. Personally, I like to be more subtle. Here’s a couple of my favourite closing techniques.
1) Alternative Close
This is perhaps my favourite close of all, I’ve done all the steps above, I’ve identified a need, built a rapport, explained how my product or service can meet all their requirements, I’ve qualified the price, gained their agreement, answered any additional questions that they may have and now all that needs to be done is to seal the deal. I can simply choose two alternatives and ask the question:
Do you want red or blue?
Should I put you down for the standard or the deluxe model?
I can deliver to you this Tuesday or Thursday, which is best for you?
The beauty of this technique is that these questions can’t be answered with yes or no. They demand an answer! This is a hybrid of the assumption close, meaning simply that you’re assuming they’ve made the decision to buy, Chances are, at this point they have, you’re just facilitating the sale, you’re pushing them off the fence, in truth, they’ll be grateful for it. I know I always am.
2) Puppy Dog Close
If your product is s good as you say ( which if it’s not then seriously consider a career change) then let it sell itself. The puppy dog close means to essentially leave the product ( or a sample) or give a free trial of your service on the assumption that it’ll be so good, the client won’t want to give it back ( just like a puppy). This is only effective if your product or service really is the mutts nuts! It’s also great if the prospect is an existing customer, Maybe you have a new product line, offer a discounted trial or introductory offer, let them use it.
There are so many other variations of closes but if I’m honest, if you’ve done your job well enough then you simply won’t need them. If you have to resort to other techniques then chances are you’re employing high pressure sales tactics and that just isn’t ethical, Never bully or trick someone into buying anything. Seriously, it’s not good for future business, it’s unethical and it’ll keep you awake at night. Just remember, everyone that you sell to is someones kid or parent or sibling, treat them as you would want others to treat your kid or parent.
So there we have it, the rules of selling in a nutshell. the most important rule of all is to be you and to be genuine. People buy people, it’s an age old fact. People will forget what you said, but will ALWAYS remember how you made them feel.
I’ll follow this up in a few weeks and bring some NLP techniques into play, in the meantime, have fun discovering your clients needs, wants and fears!