Even if you think you’re well versed in the selling basics, it’s important to keep your skills razor sharp. Sales fundamentals like listening and asking questions may make the difference between winning and losing, so don’t assume that a refresher course in the basics is beneath your level of expertise. These 10 reminders will keep your skills polished and form a strong selling foundation for career-long success.
1. Listen intently. The 80/20 rule bears repeating: Spend 80 percent of your time listening, and only 20 percent talking. You’re there to serve your customer’s needs, but you won’t be able to if you don’t stop talking long enough to uncover them. Ask a lot of questions, and take notes on the answers to force you to listen carefully and help ensure that you remember important points of the conversation. Sit on the edge of your seat, and be fascinated by what your prospects have to say – a big sale may be riding on every word.
2. Ask questions first, present later. Make sure you understand their needs, wants, expectations and feelings 100 percent so that your presentation hits all of their hot buttons. Ask questions first to ensure that you don’t share all your good news on page one – it may help build your prospect’s trust by showing them that their needs come before your desire to sell to them.
3. Uncover needs – don’t presume them. Just as no competent doctor prescribes treatment before thoroughly examining a patient, you should let your prospects tell you what they need instead of assuming that you already know. Should you make product or service recommendations without consulting them, they may question your competence and intentions. Remember – your prospects know themselves and their businesses best. Give them a chance to share that knowledge with you to benefit you both.
4. Uncover the budget . Once you and your prospects know how much they can spend, both of you can consider a buying decision more seriously. Assure prospects that you’ll do your best for them regardless of the size of their budget. When you’ve proven your honesty and reliability with a small order, your customers may reward you with more and bigger ones. If your prospect seems uncomfortable discussing money, ask for a ballpark figure, and work from there.
5. Uncover the decision making process.Presentations demand a lot of work and time, so make sure you present to those who can reward your effort with a sale. It may take longer to reach all of the decision makers, but trying to sell to non deciison makers simply wastes time – yours and theirs. Instead of presenting to the wrong people, spend your time building trust with gatekeepers who hold the key to the decision maker’s office and your next sale.
6. Build rapport without going overboard. Salespeople who try too hard to make friends of their prospects may be doing more harm than good. Most prospects want a salesperson who will be an informative industry resource, problem solver and reliable business partner – not a golfing buddy. Stick to impressing prospects with your honesty and expertise instead of your winning personality.
7. Don’t answer unspoken objections. When customers voice concerns, uncover the real issue by asking them why they raised that point. You never know just how much your prospects know about your product, so don’t volunteer information they may perceive as being negative.
8. Customize the sale. We all like to be treated like the special, unique individuals that we are, so tailor your selling style to suit each of your prospects. To keep them happy and comfortable, observe their personality and character closely, then conduct yourself accordingly. The more your customers feel like the center of your attention, the more likely they are to return for more of the VIP treatment.
9. Go with the flow. Few people really like to be sold, and fewer still enjoy being manipulated. Your desire to close a sale is secondary to your customers’ needs – make sure you can really help the prospects you target. When your product or service truly solves a problem, you shouldn’t have to manipulate the buyer into a purchase. The hard sell usually only raises the prospect’s defenses. Instead, take greater control of the sale by turning some of it over to the customer.
10. Have a selling system. Make sure you have a proven system that helps you generate prospects, set appointments, close sales and provide quality, consistent follow-up service. When problems arise, your system will simplify diagnosing and treating them.