Nothing gets done in this world without selling. Follow this method step-by-step and you will get a yes, but if you miss a step, you’ll get a no.
1. Greet and introduce
The first step in sales is to introduce yourself properly. Let people know who you are and what you do. Then, always ask a question. Sales are about what clients or customers need, not what you can sell them. The key throughout this process is to ask questions. To sell is not to tell. If you start by telling a client about your product, you’re trying to make him or her do something that you want. This does not plug into the clients’ motivation to gratify their own needs and wants.
2. Create rapport
The next step is to ask questions to establish common ground. People tend to forget the elementary stuff. The point of this exercise is not to hurry a sale, but rather to establish a platform on which to build a relationship. People tend to be sceptical until you find commonalities. Ask them about their interests, try to find people you know in common, places you have both been to, what they do, their goals and needs. If you can establish similarities, they will open to you. That’s when people see that you care.
Remember this: if you go in high and arrogant, your client will bring you down. If you go in low and humble, they’ll lift you up.
3. Establish needs
This is the stage where the sales person generally wants to talk about the product, but they haven’t even established a need yet. This is the most important component of the sales process. It’s all about data collecting. The more needs you can establish, the easier the selling process will be. If what you are trying to sell to them does not speak to one of their needs, why would they buy?
One of my mentors, Walter Haley of K-Mart, referred to a ‘dominant buying motive’, but he calls it the client’s highest value. He says that you need to establish as many needs as possible. Don’t stop until you have a minimum of five to seven needs, motives or voids that they want to fill. Until they are asking you to help them, you haven’t established enough needs. The aim is to get to the point at which the customer or client wants to know more about what you can offer them.
4. Confirm needs
Until this stage all you have done is ask questions — you still haven’t made a single statement, making it feel like the client is in control of the conversation and making all the decisions. However, it is you, the sales person, who is actually directing the conversation by probing.
Now summarise your client’s needs as it’s vital to show that you have properly understood them. When you have their confirmation, then you can make an offer.
5. Offer a solution
First, a warning: If what you are offering doesn’t match the client’s need, you’d be a fool to offer it. You’d be better off not trying to make that sale and finding someone who does match the offer. At this point you have to consider the long-term, rather than your immediate gratification in making a sale. The short-terms costs, the long-term pays. If you go for the sale and the product you are offering doesn’t solve the client’s needs, you will undermine the potential referrals that the client might still give you. Don’t make them resent you.
Either find a way to give them a product that matches or you can simply loop back to step three and establish a new or different set of needs. If your product or service does match their needs, admit you want to do business. Let them see that you’re interested. The solution, as always, must be a win-win. Help them to get what they want, and you’ll get what you want.
6. Handle objections
This stage is inversely proportional to how well you established their needs. Objections are symptoms that you have not established enough needs and are not offering the service that matches their needs. Listening is central and your preparation and product knowledge will be key to your success. If objections come up, you may need to skip back to step three and four, establishing and confirming needs, as well as identifying new needs. This is also an opportunity to try step five again. Once all objections are taken care of, it’s time to close the deal.
Be clear and direct about your intention to close — don’t make it ambiguous. Ask: When would you like to fulfil your needs or objectives? Remember, this is a question. You’re not imposing terms on the client, but allowing the client to direct you — the decision is in the client’s hands and he or she is made to feel in control of the decision.
Once you have the paperwork done, you have served your client. Then ask if they would mind you asking one or two more questions. Do they know other people with the same needs? At this stage, remember that you still have to keep in mind what is in it for the client. If it’s of no benefit, why would they do it? Generally, when clients feel good about a product or service, they’ll give you references.
9. Continued service and follow-up
Keep your follow-ups informative and friendly, but don’t become friends — always keep it professional. And if the referrals didn’t come the first time, get them now.
Want To Become A Supplier To A Big Company? Consider This First
A giant customer can be highly profitable or cost you your business. Have you considered all the angles?
“How do I get into the big corporates or Government?” Business owners visualise huge sales and profits by becoming a supplier to a giant, and that is often the case. For a big organisation with billions to spend, a trivial expenditure to them may be a large fortune to you. Do not let the number of zeros dazzle you, riches are not guaranteed; many entrepreneurs have suffered losses or businesses collapse from such dealings.
You must understand the motivations of managers of large organisations, and the risks they face. They are KPI-driven and risk serious damage to their careers if something goes badly wrong. Compared to these issues, your profitability, work hours and ego are minor considerations. You may believe that you only have to perform in terms of your agreement, but in reality, you need to make your contacts look good. Aim for a zero fail rate; deliveries that are late, faulty or incorrect may cause a disproportionate explosion because that means your contact has let someone down. If you are smart, you can help your contacts get a reputation for superior internal service.
Understand the risks that big customers pose to your business
There are risks in any unequal buyer/seller relationship. The biggest risk is if the giant stops buying. Large customers can be extremely demanding; they see you as an extension of their business and can be intolerant of your need to service other customers. Many small suppliers will be familiar with a peremptory summons to an immediate meeting and occasional rudeness. A supply contract inevitably favours the big guy, and this means pricing and other terms of trade are vital. You must protect your ability to make a reasonable margin even if circumstances like inflation, exchange rates or sector wage agreements change.
Large organisations care about meeting their budgets, not about your profitability, and many suppliers have failed because they were bound to supply goods at an unsustainable price. Managers move around, and if your champion is promoted, the replacement manager may prefer their favourite suppliers, so out you go. Broaden your range of contacts in the organisation to avoid this risk. Large organisations are huge bureaucracies; decisions may take time and payments may be delayed, especially if your paperwork is not perfect.
There are opportunities — but evaluate them carefully
The major opportunity is significant growth. They will buy if you supply a product or service that suits their needs and budget at service levels that make the managers look good. It is entirely possible to make your company almost indispensable by solving problems and offering them innovative new ways of exceeding their KPIs at reduced cost. There are opportunities to supply other parts of the giant, as well as their supply chains. Be careful with growth. Your primary contact will be used to your full attention and if he or she senses that this is no longer happening because you have grown, they can seek alternative suppliers. Never let growth reduce your customer service level.
A very large and prestigious customer gives your company credibility, allows you to attract the brightest staff, makes selling to other giants easier and gives you funds to develop new markets and new products.
Is it worth it?
Is it worth the big money? Yes, if you can manage the risks, chief of which is becoming too dependent on one customer. However, dealing with the big gorillas is not the same as having a more balanced supplier/buyer relationship. It works if you use your ability to be nimble and flexible to solve their problems. It helps if you are innovative and can use your creativity to respond rapidly in ways that big corporations cannot. It works if you can give very personal service, even if that means you, the owner, are the primary interface. By doing these things you can become an indispensable cog in a huge machine.
You need a champion in your client’s organisation, but ensure you have other contacts too. What happens if they leave or are promoted? Is your contract safe?
Accurately Predict Future Sales With These Two Things
Being able to predict your sales for next month and those to come, is a result of a combination of two things.
As someone responsible for sales in a growing business, you would love to be able to predict your sales accurately, month after month – but this can be a difficult process. Fortunately, it’s not impossible. With some initial effort and careful monitoring, you can predict whether the team will have positive sales results in the future, and where you can see trouble looming, you can take advance action to avoid problems.
Being able to predict your sales for next month and those to come, is a result of a combination of two things:
1. Developing a sales process
As ‘boring” as it might sound for many entrepreneurs, it is extremely useful to understand the benefits of working to a process in business. This applies to any part of the business, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, is very applicable to sales.
Think about it this way:
- If you do the same task a different way every time, you can expect a different outcome every time. It becomes difficult to predict whether the outcome will be good or bad.
- But if you do the same task the same way every time, the outcome becomes very predictable, and you’ve laid a platform for systematic improvement. By making one small tweak to how you do the task, you can see if you get a better, or a worse, outcome. You can then keep all the tweaks that improve your outcome and drop the tweaks that make it worse.
2. Developing sales systems
A superior quality sales management capability necessitates that you have a Sales System on a best of breed technology platform, to help manage the sales function in the business.
A good sales system helps you capture your sales process. Good sales management practices drive home the discipline needed to implement the sales process, and in turn, predict sales results.
Take the first step in your journey towards accurately predicting sales by developing a sound sales process.
Next in this series: HOW TO DEVELOP A SALES PROCESS THAT WORKS LIKE A CHARM
Why Customers Don’t Respond To Disruption
You’ve got chatbots running your customer service, interactive screens across your stores and you’ve just appointed a chief digital officer. Why aren’t you seeing sales going through the roof?
PwC partner Quinton Pienaar says there could be many reasons for this. But the short answer is probably that in your understandable rush to stay relevant and keep up with the latest technology trends and developments, you lost sight of your number one priority. You’re just not that into your customers – and they know it.
It’s fairly easy to get dazzled by the array of technologies out there. But the trap that you’ve got to guard against is that you start seeing the world through a technology lens, rather than a customer one. Remember, technology is a tool, not an outcome. It’s the means to the end, not the end itself.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be transforming your business digitally. You absolutely should. But there’s a big difference between investing in technology to keep up with the Joneses, and investing in technology that’s going to drive specific business outcomes and improve the customer experience.
Related: Reimagine The Use Of Technology
In fact, it would be downright dangerous to ignore the game-changing benefits that the current wave of emerging technologies brings to the table. To understand what they can do for your business, you have to know what they are. We at PwC talk about the ‘essential eight’:
- The Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the building blocks for the next generation of digital work.
- Robotics, drones, and 3-D printing are all about machines that extend the reach of computing power into the material world.
- Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) merge the physical and digital realms, and offer incredible advances in customer experience.
- Blockchain rethinks our approach to commercial transactions by allowing participants to exchange value, and verify ownership of something, without a third party.
Some of these technologies are verging on science fiction. So how do we use them in a way that supports customer obsession? The starting point of any successful customer transformation is a customer-focused design that brings together three essential elements – business strategy, customer experience and technology – into a coherent, fully-fledged digital strategy.
In other words, today’s most successful companies have a strategy that is focused around a simple and regularly-updated list of priorities. They incorporate the new generation of technologies like IoT, blockchain and AI. But they keep their people, and their customers at the core of their business by designing strategies that directly address customers’ underlying needs and desired outcomes.
This sounds dead obvious. But what we find is that many companies we talk to are focused on growing their revenues, or making improvements to their products and services, rather than creating better customer experiences. Or they have the strategy, but are battling to execute it effectively.
Of course, to underpin this customer transformation journey, you’re going to need some data and the foundational technologies on which today’s innovations depend – data mining and analytics, mobile, and cloud. You may also need to rethink your processes to manage, enrich and maintain data, and operationalise it throughout your business.
So you have all of that in place? Good. Now stop. Breathe. Ask yourself whether your technology and data are truly supporting an unwavering focus on the customer. Because if you take one message from this article, let it be this: in today’s marketplace, putting your customer at the centre of your business is imperative to driving growth and profitability, winning market share and unlocking the value of your technology investments.
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