Making a sale is a daunting task for a lot of us, but only because of the bad reputation salespeople have garnered over time as pests and scheisters. We are now programmed to automatically think that if we try to sell something to someone, we will be thought the dreaded “A” word–aggressive–or worse! And yet, to stay in business we must make sales. So how can we do so without driving our customers crazy, or worse yet, away? By getting back to one basic technique.
Learn what’s important to the customer.
First, selling is an opportunity to get curious about a prospect and what is happening in his world. Whenever I contact a customer, I start by asking questions: How is business this month? Which piercing makes up most of your business currently? Is there anything you wish you had but don’t? Even prospects in a rush will answer a considerate question if they hear there is genuine interest behind it. And getting answers to those questions gives me insight into how I might be able to help the person I am calling upon. If business is slow this month, I can dig into why, and maybe offer an idea to jump start it. If a customer needs something he can’t find or doesn’t know exists, I might have it, or an alternative. And if I know what he is selling a lot of, I know what he is running out of, or what he might need next.
Second, uncover his hidden needs. A customer’s pain points and opportunities aren’t always easy for him to articulate. As a salesperson, I have to suss out how my product or service might change the life of my prospect. This does not mean to rattle off a list of all the great features one of my products has, but rather to think about how those features may benefit my target customer. Metal Mafia makes a piece of jewelry, for example, with an easy-to-open clasp for the upper ear that no other company has–but I don’t call my customer saying our new fast clasp is really great. Instead, I ask him if his clients often decide not to buy jewelry because it’s hard to change in and out on their own without help. If his answer is yes, and 9 times out of 10, it is, then I can easily make the connection between the fact that my jewelry can solve his problem of losing business. By being ready to discuss my product in a way that is relevant to my customer, I can set up the close quickly.
Finally, investigate what it will take to get the product into the customer’s hands. A sale doesn’t happen just because we, the sellers, want it to. It happens when the buyer is ready to accept the transaction. Acceptance depends on lots of things: confidence, timing, and budget. In my 20 years of selling, I have learned that the most important of the three is always confidence. The customer I approached about the easy-close clasp above, heard that I said easy-to-open clasp, and may have concurred that he has a need for a product that his clients can manipulate on their own, but has he fully envisioned what I proposed? A customer must feel he completely understands what he is being offered. If I circle back and learn what he has gleaned from our conversation, I can really assess whether it is time to confirm the sale. I might ask if he has seen the picture of the jewelry on the website, and direct him to it while we are on the phone. I might just explain that the clasp is a clicking mechanism, almost like a seatbelt closure, so he can imagine it. Or I might ask if he has ever used a similar product we offer for another piercing, and compare the functionality to that. Once I get his full comprehension, he is positioned to give his consent.
By spending a little bit of time delving into my customer’s business, current situation, and specific needs, I take myself out of the “A” word category. I become a partner, and as such, it is easy for me to ask for the sale with something as simple as, “Well, based on what you told me, it seems like this easy close clasp would make your clients happy, and grow your business. Do you want to go ahead and pick some up?” And the sale is done.