Effective sales performance depends on a great many factors. In this section, we’re going to look at what leads to effective selling. Once you know what is needed, you can then assess your own selling abilities.
Keys to Effective Sales
Some of the requirements of an effective salesperson are:
- Positive mental attitude
- Inviting personality
- Complete product knowledge and/or knowledge of services offered
- Prospecting and approaching skills
- Ability to identify customer needs
- Professional presentation skills
- Handling objections
- Closing the sale
- Time management skills
- Health and stress management
- Professional image
- Constant focus on customers
Basic Selling Process
Selling essentially involves four steps:
- Identifying needs and prospecting
- Presenting and Probing
- Building Relationships
A need is something that a customer wants or desires that can be satisfied by services or products.
When customers are expressing a need, they generally use statements such as these:
- “I’m looking for …”
- “I really need to …”
- “What I’d like is …”
- “What we’re interested in is …”
- “I want to …”
- “I wish I could …”
Finding customers with a need for your product or service is an on-going and constant activity.
Your market research results will help you to identify your potential customers and the best methods to reach them.
The activity of searching and seeking customers who may be interested in your product or service is called prospecting.
Prospecting is the number 1 priority of top sales people. It is an “everywhere” and “anytime” activity. Your goal is to identify “qualified prospects” and avoid “unqualified suspects”.
A qualified prospect is 5 times more likely to buy than qualified suspects!
- Results of Market Research Study
- Telemarketing and/or Door Knocking
- Friends, neighbours and family – talk it up
- Trade Shows and Fairs
- Networking with other businesses
- Compatible type business relationships
- Flyers, Advertising
- Follow-up with past clients
- Church and Club Memberships
- Lead Exchange Clubs
- By observing what is happening around you
- “Just Lookers” in your store
Click on Worksheet 5.1 to identify possible prospects for your business.
Every sales situation involves some form of presentation. Sometimes the presentation may be in a prospects office, home or conference room. At other times, presentations take the form of greeting and detailing with customer in a retail store. Presentations also take place every time a potential customer calls your company over the phone.
Whatever form of presentation applies to your business some preparation is needed. Similar steps need to be followed to ensure success.
Preparing to Make the Presentation
The first step in any sales presentation is to prepare yourself — both physically (appearance) and mentally (how you feel about yourself).
The ability to be successful in sales depends on your ability to be confident and sure of your abilities. In short, the selling process begins with you.
The following techniques will help you to positively prepare for a sales situation:
This technique, used successfully by athletes, involves closing your eyes and visualizing a positive image or outcome – THE SALE!
2. Counting Down:
Similar to visualization, this involves visualizing all the steps necessary to make a successful sale.
3. Positive Affirmations:
A positive saying repeated at the beginning (or throughout) the day.
Any form of calming relaxation technique such as listening to soothing music, yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises helps you to focus on your goal.
5. Sayings & Slogans:
Inspirational sayings help prepare you to meet the challenges ahead.
6. Dress for Success:
Also dress for success. Dress appropriately for the sales situation — always dress as well as or better than your potential customer. Do a thirty second check before the sales presentation, ensuring fresh breath, combed hair, and neat and lint-free clothing.
Preparing Your Presentation
After preparing yourself, you should be ready to make the presentation. However, you must prepare prior to making the presentation. Usually, the preparation for a presentation is three times as long as the presentation itself.
There are four steps to preparing your own presentation:
- Product/Service Information
- Knowledge of your Company
- Knowledge of the environment, industry and competition.
- Understanding the value of your Product or Service.
1. Product/Service Knowledge
- Use it yourself
- Watch it in action
- Use it with a customer
- Avoid surprises – you must know more about your product then your customer or competition
2. Knowledge of your Company
- Know your company’s supply capability
- Know its goals and objectives
- Know your roles and responsibilities as it relates to the rest of the company
- Know the decision making process
- Develop long-term relationships within your company to support your sales efforts
3. Knowledge of the environment, industry and competition
- Read trade journals and publications
- Know everything there is possible about distributors and suppliers
- Personally visit the competition
- Attend seminars and conferences
- Attend industry trade shows
4. Understand the Value of Your Product or Service
- You must believe in your product’s value in order to be able to explain its benefits to the customer
Refining your Approach for the Presentation
The purpose of the approach is to capture the interest of the potential customer. While there are many methods of achieving this, here are some factors to take into consideration.
1. Get the Appointment – Focus on getting an appointment – even if only 10 minutes! Sales literature often ends up in the garbage. Treat “gatekeepers” – secretaries and administrative assistants with respect.
2. First Impressions – First impressions are formed in five seconds. To ensure that the impression you create is favourable, be polite, enthusiastic about what you are selling, punctual (if an appointment has been set), and dress appropriately.
Remember, people buy from people they like and feel comfortable with!
3. Utilize Your Marketing Tools – If you have a referral, promotional material, a product, etc. use them. They can often help to establish some common ground for you and your prospect.
4. Be Creative – The purpose of the approach is to hold the prospect’s attention so that you have the opportunity to present them with the benefits of your product/service.
5. Timing – Ensure your timing is appropriate if following up on flyer distribution, etc. For drop off, allow a maximum of 1 week and for mail outs, 10 – 14 days.
Elements of an Effective Sales Presentation
Every successful sales presentation includes some elements.
1. Define your objectives: Know precisely what you hope to achieve as a result of your presentation.
2. Focus on the long-term relationship: Consider your sales presentation as the beginning of a long-term relationship with the prospect rather than a short-term meeting.
- Make the presentation a meeting of people dealing with people rather than buyer/seller.
- Put the relationship above realizing a quick sale
- Show genuine interest in the customer, their operation, and product
- Establish the customers’ goals.
- Work as partners.
- Assess the customers’ needs and wants and work to fulfill them.
- Relationships build trust which means repeat business.
3. Focus on the prospect.
4. Establish credibility:
- Be honest.
- Use customer testimonials
- Use references
- Use letters of recommendation
- Never “leak” confidential information
- Say what you are going to do and do it; say what you are not going to do and don’t do it.
5. Present the product/service benefits:
- Focus the prospect on their interest
- Turn features into benefits
- Don’t over promise or mislead the customer
- Don’t under promise
Click on Worksheet 5.2 to identify your product and service benefits.
6. Understand group dynamics:
- Determine who the “real” buyer is – the key decision maker
- Determine who the influences are
- Direct answers to the key decision makers
- Don’t ignore anyone in the group
7. Arrange another call:
- Never leave a call without another appointment
- Review reporting back information as an opportunity
- Write down commitments – establish a “to do” list
- Clarify, before leaving, what information is to be provided
Click on Worksheet 5.3 to prepare your sales presentation.
During any sale presentation, you will encounter some rough spots. When this occurs, probing is one technique to continue the presentation on a positive note.
If you are unsure whether or not a customer has a particular need, you should try probing to confirm if a need exists.
Probing involves using questions which start with phrases such as:
- “Are you interested …”
- “Which would you prefer … or …”
- “Are you concerned about …”
- “Have you ever considered …”
Types of Questions
There are a variety of question types you can use in your role as salesperson:
- Open-ended Questions
- Begin with what, when, where, why, who and how?
- Encourage interaction and usually generate more information
- Closed Questions
- Begin with verbs
- Are you in the market today? Does this make sense to you?
- Generate a yes or no response
- Affective Questions
- How do you feel about the product or service?
- Generate feelings
- Preference Questions
- Ask “Which do you prefer?”
- Trial Closing Questions
- Is this what you had in mind? Is this what you are looking for?
Once you have uncovered the customer’s needs, it is important to do two things to help build relationships with your customers:
1. Indicate the Benefits
You must indicate the appropriate benefits that will address those needs.
In other words, how does the product or service you are suggesting satisfy the customer’s specific need?
Be careful to avoid listing features of a product or service. Relevant features should be translated into benefits to the customer.
2. Acknowledge and Confirm
Acknowledging and confirming demonstrate that you agree with or understand the customer’s need.
Statements beginning with, “I understand…”, “You’re absolutely right …”, “I can see how you would …”, “Yes”, “Hmmhumm”, “Right”, “Exactly” all encourage the customer and help to create a positive rapport.
Other situations that will develop during sales presentations are objections — questions or concerns raised by the potential buyer about your product or service.
Buying objections should be welcomed in any sales situation. Without any buying objections, you have no way of determining the prospect’s degree of interest and have no idea what they want or think. Objections are the opportunity to address and clarify the buyer’s concerns.
The key to handling objections successfully is preparation – anticipate typical objections and be prepared to address them in terms of the benefits the prospect is seeking. The other key to handling objections is learning to identify “real” buying objections from smoke screens. Active listening, experience and skilful probing are means of identifying “real” buying objections
Dealing with Objections
The following highlights the effective way of dealing with buying objections:
- Objections indicate an interest. Do not be discouraged.
- Always hear an objection out. Ensure that you understand the objection.
- When you answer an objection, try to close the sale.
- Act confidently and enthusiastically about your product.
- Don’t put the competition down.
- Approach objections with a problem solving attitude.
- Objections indicate a fear of making a wrong decision.
- Prepare responses to typical objections before the presentation.
Common Buying Objections
There are three primary buying objections when dealing with potential customers.
Not Interested: This is one of the most common responses of consumers particularly to door to door and Telemarketing sales. Not interested is not a valid objection unless the person does not have a need or want for the product. If you have prospected properly, you will have ensured that the customer has a use for what it is that you are selling. Therefore, it is advisable to follow “not interested” with an open probe to determine why the person is not interested. Usually, there is another reason for them not wanting to purchase and in fact they really may be interested.
Price: Price objections are usually phrased in terms of not having money available, money has not been budgeted, or the price is too expensive. The most common means of dealing with this objection is to offer payment alternatives such as postdated cheques, lay away plans, credit, or credit card charges. Another approach is to illustrate the cost vs. benefits of making the purchase. This is particularly useful when dealing with large ticket items to illustrate to the prospect how purchasing now and at this price can actually save them money in the long term.
Current Vendor: Another common objection is that they are already dealing with a current supplier. Indeed, many companies are already using products or services from established suppliers. In many cases, they are very satisfied with the current vendor and may not be interested in changing to you. It is important to probe to ensure that this is a legitimate objection and not just a smoke screen. You may wish to ask closed probes to determine the degree of satisfaction with their current vendor including service, quality and price. Another approach is to have the prospect use your product or service on a trial basis in order to compare with their current vendor. This is one of the most effective means of overcoming the current vendor objection.
Click on Worksheet 5.4 to prepare for objections you may encounter in selling situations.
Closure occurs only after all objections have been effectively handled and there is a transfer of energy or enthusiasm about the product.
Notes on closing the sale:
- 73% of all sales calls end without an attempt to close.
- 80% of all sales happen after the 5th attempt to close.
- To achieve the close you must display confident expectations and enthusiasm.
- Most of the close takes place in the presentation when you answer objections.
- Make the close as easy as possible.
There are four steps to closing the sale:
- satisfy all objections
- listen for buying signals
- use trail closes
- take the order
An effective way to close the interaction is to first summarize the benefits that the customer has accepted, then develop an action plan that requires a commitment from the customer.
The action you suggest may be agreeing to an appointment, attending a demonstration, placing an order.
- Trial Close – At certain points in the sale, check to see how you are doing by probing. eg. “Is this what you had in mind? Is this the right colour?”, etc.
- Invitational Close – Use questions such as “Why don’t you give it a try?” to allow a smooth slide into the close.
- Sharp Angle Close – Use an objective to close. “If I can have it ready for Tuesday, would you take it?”
- Instant Reverse Close – If they say they can’t afford it, tell them that is exactly why they should buy it and demonstrate the value.
- Secondary Close – Close on a minor question such as “Do you want to pay cash or charge this purchase?” to avoid forcing the customer to make a conscious decision.
- Assumption Close – Assume the decision has been made and wrap up the sale by asking about method of delivery.
- Order Sheet Close – Writing down an order on contract, order sheet, etc. either at the end of the presentation or as you do the presentation.
- Summary Close – Briefly review all the features and benefits discussed and go for the close.
- Testimonial – Give a testimonial on how someone else benefited from the sale.
Building Long Term Relationships
The Friendship Factor is a key determinate of your success. Take good care of your customers. Treat them as friends.
Low pressure selling keeps the conversation and focus on customers’ needs and wants and not on your product.
Always keep the subconscious needs of your customer in mind:
- Acceptance — simply smile.
- Approval — praise.
- Appreciation — build the trust bond.
- Admiration — compliment (with sincerity).
- Agreement — never argue
The most powerful way to build trust is to listen. Why?
- Listening builds self-esteem in the person who is listened to.
- Listening lowers resistance.
- Listening demonstrates that you care.
Effective Time Management
- 40% of your time in the sale is spent building trust — friendship factor.
- 30% of your time is to assess the needs — ask questions.
- 20% of your time in the selling situation is presenting your product or service.
- 10% of your time is spent on asking for the sale.
Consultative selling involves seeking out ways in which you can help your customers increase revenues or reduce costs. In this sense, you become an advisor for your customers rather than simply a sales person. Customers come to appreciate that interaction with you benefits them directly. The result of building this relationship is confidence, trust and longevity.
Influences on Buying Decisions
Many factors affect the buying decisions of your customers. Here are three main ones:
1. Unconscious influence or reciprocity.
- This is the desire to pay people back for something they have done for us.
2. Other people
- Customers are influenced by other people who have bought your product or service.
- Satisfied customers will give a referral when asked the question “Who do you know?”.
- A referral is worth 15 times the value of a cold call.
Why People Buy
Some reasons why a customer might buy your product or service: