Some things in business are crystal clear. One of them is that people will not buy unless they believe they’ll get what they want and avoid what they don’t want. You become indispensable to your customer when you demonstrate that you both understand his or her problems and goals — and have the ability to help with them.
That requires great customer conversations.
Prospects become customers when you solve problems for them, and there’s no shortage of business problems.
Customers will always need to be educated. Don’t assume that they know the difference between good and poor quality products or services.
It’s your job as a salesperson to point out the relative advantages of your product or service and how it will help prospects solve problems.
Test of effectiveness
The most important test of whether you’re handling preliminaries effectively is whether your customers are generally happy to move ahead and answer your questions. If so, then you’re probably handling this stage acceptably.
While you are thinking about the benefits of your proposal, product or opportunity, your customers will probably be thinking about problems, such as:
- Will the workers see it in a negative way?
- Will my present suppliers serve me better?
- Will there be political repercussions?
- Is the item too new, too radical?
- Are there built-in biases against it?
- Will bringing in the product line be more problematic in any way?
Achieving maximum motivation to buy
You want your sales interview process to generate the maximum opportunity to motivate your prospects to buy. This process centers on three things:
- Getting a clear picture of the prospect’s objectives and showing how the product or service will meet those objectives.
- Getting a feel for the prospect’s motivation to buy, and
- Getting a sense of the prospect’s behavior and selecting a sales approach that matches the way the prospect likes to be sold to.
First 5 minutes
The first five minutes after you present an idea for the first time are the most critical in the sale. If your audience decides your presentation lacks merit, you’ll be dismissed after a short, polite discussion and the meeting will roll on to the next subject. If the idea is deemed worthy of consideration, you’ll explore it in greater depth together.
First salespeople must have a clear picture of both the organizational objectives and personal objectives for the prospect. For their organizational objectives, look for things that include increasing performance, reducing cost, improving quality, increasing sales, reducing turnover, modernizing the office, and so on.
Personal objectives usually will be related to promotions, raises, respect, power, influence, acceptance, and so on. The chances of making the sale are limited unless salespeople can help prospects achieve both personal and organizational objectives.
Getting behind their objectives
The way to get a good sense of what’s behind a customer’s objectives is by asking and listening. It starts by simply having one or two questions that you feel comfortable with, such as:
- Can you give me a feel for your objectives?
- What do you want to happen?
- Why did you decide to see me?
- Can you give me a sense of what you’re trying to accomplish?
This approach can be softened by putting the question in contrast, as shown in the following examples:
- When we talked briefly by phone to set up this meeting, you said my call was timely in view of something new you’re trying to accomplish. Could you tell me more about it?
- To get started, could you tell me what prompted you to meet with me now?
- As we discussed earlier, I’m here to talk with you about … . What are your objectives regarding this?
- You mentioned a couple of problems you wanted to talk about. Could you tell me about them?
Seven tips to meeting needs
Here are seven tips to help you meet the needs prospects reveal to you:
- Produce information that educates the customer about primary problems you know similar companies face. Benchmarking data helps.
- Once you lay out the key issues, provide a fresh perspective that makes the customer think differently about the matters you’ve unfolded.
- Lead to your unique strengths. Your teaching should lead the customer to think “How can I make that happen?” This is where you educate the customer about how your solution will help.
- Challenge customers’ assumptions. You must reframe the customers’ thinking. You want the customer’s reaction to be. “I never thought of that before.”
- A new way. Now that you’ve laid out the problem, try to provide a solution on how the customer would benefit by instituting a quick change to improve the situation.
- Explain ROI. Organize your return-on-investment calculations to focus on the money the customer wastes by not taking action. The goal is to build the customers’ sense of urgency about fixing the problem.
- Tailor your message. Explain how your solution is the best answer for the customer.