There are four principles you need to embrace to develop positive communication, and therefore, sales, skills. We will look at these in some detail, since they are the underlying principles that all effective salespeople employ, whether they realise it or not.
This has been covered in Market Research quite extensively, however the main points are:
When ever two, or more, human beings are together their attention span is limited. While you have been reading this you may have been away to find out what's for tea, spoken to the kids, heard them playing in the garden, listened to the TV, wondered what you were going to do at the weekend - all without leaving your computer.
Note that the question you ask should be an open question - that is a question which cannot be answered Yes or No, otherwise you cannot make sure they are there, and the conversation becomes a little short.
A closed question is one that can be answered by a Yes or No, such as "Do you like our product range?" and these should be avoided during the sales process, if possible.
There is no need to become paranoid about open and closed questions but, once again, practise makes good (if not perfect)
So, rather than saying "Do you like our products?", how about "What do you think of our products?"
Listening to the answer to an open question will allow you to identify the customers needs and wants and find out what turns them on (and off).
This is a vital part of the successful sales process - practice it.
Good selling is more about good listening than smooth talking, you cannot put water in a full glass.
In other words human beings are all full of thoughts, ideas, problems, solutions, things we have to say, or are thinking about saying, and until we 'empty out' a little there is no room for anyone else's thoughts or ideas to exist.
Let your customers talk, allow them space to think and empty out a little - this creates room for your ideas, products and services.
When they stop talking - wait for three seconds before you speak. It will improve your sales immediately. By waiting 3 seconds you allow them to voice the real problem, the real objection, or talk themselves into buying. Try it, it works!
What is your attitude to listening? Have you heard it all before? Don't you wish they would get to the point? Or are you genuinely interested in what they have to say? Negative attitudes to listening stifle conversations - as a business person you need to become a professional listener. You'll make a lot more sales.
As you saw in Market Research, everyone has their own perspective, on everything.
Human Beings tend to assume that everyone else has a perspective and that their own perspective is actually the truth. Not true, it's just another perspective.
Because of this we have a problem with accepting something someone says, because we feel, if we accept it, we've agreed to it. for example your customer says:
"I think you're product is rubbish!!"
Your immediate response is to leap on them and say "No, it's not!" and an argument starts, but you're not there to win arguments but to sell your product, or service. So how do you deal with it, simple:
Nod and accept it (you're not agreeing) and wait three seconds before saying a word! What usually happens is something like "Well, actually it's not that bad - it's just not quite what I want", you say "What is it you want?" and you're selling again.
It doesn't always work as well as this but it's a lot better than leaping into an argument you cannot win.
Presenting your Case
After a little practice the rules of good communication become second nature and now it's time for the appointment, or the customer walks into your shop, or visits you at your office, etc. All successful sales processes, whether they are on the telephone, in person or in print, follow a formula. That formula is AIDA.
This process is covered in some detail in the section on Advertising and Promotion as it relates to the printed sales process. There are other tips you can consider (following this section) that will enhance your selling success, but for now we'll look at AIDA in person to person selling.
The first step in the sales process is to get the customer's attention. This could be through your window display, a telephone call or, in the case of person to person sales at the appointment by asking an open question.
Although there are a number of ways to get someone's attention, such as winking, loud ties, smiling, shouting, etc. remember the attention you get can be negative as well as positive. For example.
"I saw your son today, tell me, why is he so ugly?"
Will get your customer's attention but will not get you a sale, whereas
"This is a really impressive company, can you tell me a bit about it?"
"Can you tell me why you've asked me here today?"
Will get their attention in a very positive way.
Saying their name, at the beginning of the question, will get their positive attention even more certainly.
When you ask a question, listen ... you are looking for what turns them on, and off. At this stage the more you learn about your customer the more likely you are to sell to them. The more interested you are the more interesting you appear to them.
This is the point where all of the practice you have put into the sales presentation comes into play.
Having got their undivided attention you now need to generate an interest in your product, or service, by selling benefits ... in other words you go through the presentation not just telling them how good this is, or that is, but what it will do for them .. how it will make them: look better, feel better, more profit, save time, save money, etc.
If you have been listening to them through step 1 you should know exactly what turns them on and direct the presentation in that way.
If the presentation has been practised then you will act and feel totally natural and be able to answer questions and interact with them, rather than being a little 'sales robot' - this is usually a sign of someone who is working from an unpractised script with a product they do not really understand or have a lot of belief in.
Look for signs of interest, such as leaning forward, nodding, asking questions - these may be 'buying signals' and are covered later in this section.
This is the part that most poor, or mediocre, salespeople miss out. It is the 'sell them the sizzle, not the sausage' bit, it is the make them want what you have so much that they ask for it.
It is not persuading them or hard selling them, it is selling the benefits!!
An example of building desire is in selling cars: the average salesperson will let the customer sit in the car and then, with the door open, lean over them and explain the features and benefits of the car. The truly great salesperson will invite the customer to sit in the car, close the door and walk away. It is now the customers car and they are more likely to buy it.
At this point you need to reduce 'buyer remorse', which is the feeling everyone has whenever they buy something that costs a little more than a Mars bar ... in other words the 'have we done the right thing' thoughts we all have. Buyer Remorse is the single biggest reason for cancelled orders and it's usually because the salesperson, or businessperson, has not led them to believe that they are doing the right thing.
During the desire building stage it is often a good idea to carry out a review of the benefits that the customer will have by buying your service, or product.
At the end of the presentation, unless the opportunity has come before, you must call the customer to action, tell them what to do or 'close the sale'. There is no benefit to having gained their attention and gone through a lengthy (or short) presentation to simply say 'thank you for listening, goodbye' - this will result in some sales but not a lot.
Closing the sale, or asking for the order, is the final call to action in every sales process.
Without a close there is no sale, unless the customer asks you to sell to them. However this is rare and will only comprise a small number of the potential sales you could make.
There is no particular right time to close the sale, however if you follow the proper sales process: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action, then the close should certainly not come before the first three, although you should always be aware of your customers body language and buying signals and not miss the opportunity to close when you are presented with it.
The average sales person misses the first 6 opportunities to close and, statistically, starts to close on the seventh. There may then be five attempts to close the sale, from that point, before the order is taken, so be aware and be patient.
The key to successful closing is that whenever you ask a closing question Shut Up!!
A closing question is any question, the answer to which confirms that the customer is buying. The majority of sales people fail to keep quiet and literally talk themselves out of the sale. There are a wide variety of ways to close the sale, although I have to stress that these are simply techniques and will not work unless the underlying principles in paragraph three are followed. A good close will not compensate for bad presentation, lack of confidence that the customer has in you, your company or your product and you cannot close at all unless you have their attention.
It is well worth developing a structured sales presentation so that when you are with a potential customer you have a format to follow ñ the additional benefit of this is that you know when you are finished and its time to close.
If you don't know when you are finished how do you know when to stop talking?
Listed are a number of closes, with suggested ways they may be adapted to your own service, or product.
Most of the closes avoid asking the direct question would you like to order, now? since this invites a No and may be difficult to handle, therefore most closes work on the principle that the customer does not get an opportunity to say no, naturally.
You offer the customers a choice of alternatives, both of which lead to a sale, e.g.
Would you prefer it in black or red?
Will you be paying by cheque or on account?
Would you like to order in singles or take the quantity discount?
Once the customer has stated their preference simply assume that the order is yours and write it out. Usually it is a good idea to have an order form, or product ready and be assumptive. If you are using an order form, take it out early in the sales presentation and keep it in sight. Get the customer used to seeing an order form so that, when you are closing, they are not shocked at the sight of you slapping a form in front of them.
If you feel really confident then it is well worth starting to fill out the form with their name, address, telephone number, etc. during the presentation.
This is where you appear to be giving up something of value, to the benefit of your customer, and is not standard practice, e.g.
I normally offer quantity discount on 12 or more, however, since this is your first order how would you feel if I offered you the same discount on six to start with?
Normally the order has to be over £100 to qualify for the free display stand, however, since this is your first order how would you feel if I offered you the display stand with an order over £50?
This works with a customer who doesn't seem to be able to make up their mind and involves going through a summary of the sales presentation concentrating on the benefits the customers will get from the product, or service, e.g.
So, let's just summarise to make sure I've covered all of the points ñ You're happy with the quality of the ...? The discount structure allows you to make sufficient profit? A four-week delivery cycle fits in with the level of stock you would want? Etc.
At each point wait for a Yes. If its a No then you have an objection, which you should be able to handle.
This involves being ultra confident and assuming that the customer will order. You simply bring out an order form, during the presentation, and at the end say something like:
I normally find that most shops take 6 of these (mark it on the order form), 12 of these (mark it on the order form and 24 of these (mark it on the order form as a first order and that lasts them until my next delivery.
You can then finish this off with an alternative close
Will you be paying by cash or cheque?
As you do this you pass them the order form and a pen to sign where you indicate.
The Verbal Proof Story Close
This is a close you can develop as the business does and involves collecting good news stories, cuttings, etc. from customers who have bought your service, or product in the past and what it has done for them, e.g.
Mrs. Jones at the Bridal Shop, in Handsworth, took £50 worth of these products and when I visited her 4 weeks later she was desperate. Not only had she sold all £50 worth, but she had back orders for £100 more and took all the stock from the van. Do you think £50 will be enough for your first order, or would you prefer to be on the safe side and have £100?
The assumption is, of course, that they will buy its just how many.
This involves letting the customer feel that they will miss an opportunity, and the boat, e.g.
I'm developing a small distribution route and for the next 2 weeks I have selected certain outlets to supply. Obviously I don't want to swamp the market, at this stage, my production capacity won't take it. So I decided, since you are the leading store in the area, to give you the first chance to stock these products. If you place your order today I can guarantee exclusive rights for the next 3 months, (pause) or would you prefer 6 months?
Puppy Dog Close
This is when the customer really isn't sure, for some reason or another and simply involves saying
Well I can see that you're not sure, so what I propose is to leave x number here on a sample basis so you can take orders. I'll be back next week to see how you've got on.
Its not the ideal way to develop a business but, if all else fails, it will produce customers - although the risk is all yours. You should not work on the same price structure for this close, so that, when you return, there is an incentive (more profit) to get them to stock your product.
By adapting and employing the seven closes outlined above and by becoming aware of when and how to employ them your success ratio in developing sales will improve.
However, be aware that the true art of effective closing is to already have made a brilliant sales presentation to the point where the customer is on the brink of ordering.
Closing is the gentle prod that pushes them over the edge.