Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rules 16 - 18 From The List

16. Solution ≠ Product. Speak to their pain by presenting solutions to problems.

Lazy sales people let themselves fall into the habit of presenting their product with the same generic pitch every time.  This inevitably leads to rattling off a list of features and capabilities that could have easily been read from a brochure the prospect lifted off your website.  Instead of focusing on a specific issue, this is a shotgun strategy: Throw everything out there at once and you’ll probably hit something. 

Diligent sales people realize that generic pitches get generic results.  They listen to the prospect’s (rule 14) answers to open ended questions (rule 15) to determine the core set of problems/needs, and they direct sniper-like focus on how their product can be a viable solution to these specific issues.  Note: Snipers don’t use shotguns.

Don’t waste time losing the prospects interest blabbing on about issues that they don’t find important.  Maximize your window of opportunity by committing to a laser focus on the problems the person is trying to solve and the needs they need to fulfill. 

17. Note and constantly reference the core selling points.

Executing on rule 16 entails constantly reminding the prospect why you are having a conversation in the first place.  Keep banging away at how you can solve their problems until they feel obligated to make the purchase in order to satisfy their own stated demands.

If the prospect told you they want to save money, forget the bells and whistles and focus on saving them money.  If they complain about their last vendor’s poor customer service, stress your organization’s commitment to customer satisfaction.  If they tell you they want more bang for their buck with latest technology, now it’s time to focus on the innovative functionality of what you have to offer. 

Listen to the clues on what this person wants to buy and how.  Make note of these clues for future reference.  And remind them of how you solve their problems.  It’s not complicated.  It just takes discipline.

18. Use examples to explain benefits.

Turn the hypothetical and boring into the relevant and exciting by driving a point home with real-life examples.  This means using the names, figures and circumstances previously mentioned in your dialog to illustrate the benefit of what you have to offer.  Nothing helps build the ‘ah-ha’ moment of understanding like hearing their story played the way they’d like to hear it.

Instead of ‘saving companies an average of 50% compared with other providers’, ‘save (insert company name) 48% compared with what they are currently paying (insert name of current vendor)’.  Instead of making the warehouse manager’s job easier through automation, help Cliff better control inventory by tracking crates of widgets instantly.  Every detail helps bring your solution to life.

This person needs to understand that your offering adds value to their unique situation. So don’t be vague.  Tell them directly through examples. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rules 13 - 15 From The List

13. Admit when you don’t know. Find the answer. Close with it.

As discussed in rule #1, “I don’t know” can be a sales disaster turned opportunity given proper execution. The goal as an educated sales professional is to have all the answers on hand (again rule #1), but, inevitably, situations arise where you just don’t have all the info. Amateurs will submit to their initial temptation to concoct a plausible answer hoping to get away with the ruse. Professionals will acknowledge their shortcoming while keeping in mind that the situation is setting itself up for an opportunity to go above and beyond the call of duty and follow up with a purpose.

If you don’t know, (a) admit it, (b) assure the prospect that you will find out, and (c) follow up with the answer. The prospect will appreciate your honesty and willingness to work for the privilege of their business. It’s a natural opportunity to build trust as an asset who’s helping them make the most well informed decision possible. Plus, it elongates the dialog for more mindshare during the purchasing process.

Don’t ruin your trust by chancing a made up answer. Build trust by admitting you don’t know.

14. Keep the conversation 65% buyer / 35% seller.

Probably the most insipid assumption about proper sales technique is that the sales person should do all the talking. You can’t tell a person what they need to hear without learning about them first, which is why great sales people are better listeners than talkers.

While gurus will debate the proper ratio of talking to listening, all will agree that the buyer should do the majority of the talking. It helps them feel in control while actually revealing how to steer them towards a deal. My opinion is that speaking for under 30% of the conversation is getting dominated and more than 40% is a clue that you’re being too domineering. Regardless of measurement, getting the prospect to express their needs and motivations at the outset of the relationship is crucial to formulating your pitch. Keeping their communication flowing clues you in on their thought process as you come closer to a purchasing decision. And maintaining this trend through the close helps the buyer feel good about making a controlled decision.

So, it’s clear that you should do more listening than talking. See rule 15 for how to make it happen.

15. Ask open-ended questions to keep building a database of buying wants/needs.

People hear the term ‘open ended questions’ and it seems to go largely misunderstood. The very basic goal is to ask the buyer questions that don’t let them get away with uninformative answers. Questions that start with ‘what’ ‘how’ and ‘why’ are better at eliciting responses that reveal motivations and needs than the more limited ‘who’ ‘where’ and ‘when’. If you can’t think of a question, simply instruct them to ‘tell you about’ whatever you want to know. Then, once you’ve gotten the easy surface level information out of the way, ask ‘what else’. Constantly ask questions and seek information about what this person needs in order to feel comfortable moving ahead with a deal.

‘What would you like to see in..?“ “How do you plan to..?” “Why are you looking for a…” These are questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. They are questions that cut down to the buying motivations and pain points of a prospect suddenly eager to share.

Keep digging too. After a long explanation of buying needs, have the wherewithal to ask “and then what?”. Don’t stop asking questions until you feel confident that every drop of useful information has been extracted.

Document each answer in your notes or CRM as soon as possible for future reference. They are all clues in putting together the puzzle of how this person will buy. More on this in rule 16.