Like many young salespeople I was pretty gullible when I first started selling. A person would ask me about my product and say they were interested in buying it. I saw no reason to ask any more questions. My emphasis was on speed. Show them what I had to sell. Tell them how great it was. Let them ask the same questions I heard a hundred times before and wait for the commission to come in. It was going to be an easy sale.
That was the problem. A lot of times the sale never came. My manager would ask why the prospect was going to buy from me rather than the competition, why are they buying now instead of latter and who are all the people involved in the decision process. I would just give him a blank stare. That stare is preceded by a lot of lost sales. Worse yet, at the sales meetings my boss would ask me who I lost to…and I didn’t know who or even why! How embarrassing.
My manager would tell me I needed to understand what was motivating the prospect to buy. I soon discovered that few prospects really even know themselves. That’s a big part of the salesperson’s job, is to help them discover why they want to make a change now. It really isn’t that hard if you make it a part of your sales rhythm.
Why People Change
Most people change for one of two reasons. They either have some kind of pain that they want to avoid or some kind of pleasure they want to gain. Many times it requires helping a prospect to recognize both types of motivation in order to get a prospect to buy. our job, as a salesperson, is to find out what issues are causing them pain and what pleasures they desire. After you gain this insight you can use it to position yourself as the best vendor for them to do business with as well as to create a sense of urgency around making a decision.
How do you find out what is motivating a prospect? It’s pretty easy – ask them. My sales rhythm is to ask prospects a big, ambiguous question the first time I speak with them. Commonly I will break the ice and then after I have shared some information about the company, I ask them, “So why is right now the best time for you to buy?”
The responses I get are interesting. They generally fall in one of two categories. The first category is, ” I don’t know if now is really the right now for me to do this or not!” And the second category is when they will tell me exactly why they want to do something right now.
Either way I win. If they tell me that they are not sure that now is the right time to buy; I simply ask them why. And I keep on asking them questions until I understand their anxiety, needs, money and decision making process. Let me be clear. I don’t interrogate the prospect. I’ll ask a question or two. Repeat back to them what I heard. Relate to them a story of a prospect who struggled with the same issues and how I helped them avoid the same pain and gain the same pleasure the prospect is seeking.
And Then Ask Them Some More…
My goal is to understand how to minimize buying anxiety, maximize perceived pain avoided and pleasure gained, clarify how they will secure the funds needed to buy and clarify the steps they need to go through in order to feel comfortable making a decision. After I understand the client’s issues well enough I can I empathize with them, I use my experience and product knowledge to lead them to buying my product.
If the prospect is forthright enough to tell me why they think now is the right time to buy, I take a slightly different tack. I make it clear that they are in control of the situation and that I need some additional information. I make it clear I want to meet their needs on the timeframe they desire. I ask more questions about their decision process, money and the competition than other situations. The quality of my questions and stories I tell builds my image as an expert resource who can help them quickly get what they want. I establish this image in the prospects mind before I start showing any product.
Now I am ready to show product. Most prospects make a decision based upon five to seven selection criteria. They rarely know that criteria when they begin shopping. Your goal is to use the information you gathered during your initial sales conversation to plant a set of criteria in the prospects mind that is advantageous to your offering.
However, this criteria must really fit the client’s needs or your efforts will fail. Use your knowledge of the competition and your product knowledge do choose the right three do five product features and benefits that will enable you to position yourself as the clear undeniable best choice based upon the prospect’s selection criteria.
Keep it simple
Simple is easy to remember and repeat to other people involved in the decision process. Repeat the value of these features and benefits frequently. Tell stories of how current customers gained pleasure and avoided pain by using these features.
The sales rhythm I describe requires a more thought and discovery than the traditional “show up and throw up” sales strategy most sales people employ. It also requires you to have more empathy for the prospect and understanding of competitive offerings. However, if you want to be the best you can be and want to make the most money you can – it will require more work to get more rewards.