When you run your own business, often you are the salesperson as well. Many are not comfortable with this, and that lack of comfort can lead to an eagerness or even desperation to sign the customer up. It is that very eagerness or desperation that can push the prospective customer away.
The best salespeople are relaxed with customers and help them to make a decision rather than trying to persuade them to buy. We have shown our top tips below, but the most effective top tip is to relax and be yourself. Never forget that people buy people, so if you are trying to be someone other than yourself you will fail at sales more often than you succeed!
You need to pre-qualify a prospective customer to see if your product or service is right for them. This means asking lots of questions such as: “What are they trying to achieve?” “What issue, challenge or concern do they need help with?”, “What have they already tried?”, How much time do they have to get to where they want to be?”, “What budget do they have?” and “What other plans or issues do they have?”.
These or similar questions, help you to really understand the prospective customer and what they are looking for. You will note that they are all open questions (so a customer cannot answer yes or no) and are designed to start a conversation rather than get a one word response.
Using questions like this also shows the prospective customer that you are interested in them and want to help if you can.
Act as an adviser rather than a salesperson. Be clear upfront that your product or service may not be right for them, and that is why you need to know more about what they are looking for so you can advise them. The best salespeople do not sell – they help customers buy!
Once you have asked enough questions, prove that you have listened by paraphrasing what you believe they are looking for:
“So, from what you have said, you need something that can do X, Y and Z, you need it to be in place by A and you are looking to spend up to £B. Is that right?
When you know what the prospective customer wants, start to discuss the benefits of your product or service rather than the features.
You may have heard of a sales phrase “Features which mean that benefits”. This describes a sales process where the salesperson explains a feature of the product or service and the potential benefit. For example, “It includes a rechargeable battery which lasts 12 hours before needing recharging”.
The problem with this is that salespeople have learned the features and benefits parrot fashion and just reel them off regardless of whether or not the prospective customer needs a particular benefit.
The correct way to present your product or service is “Needs which mean that benefits/features”. For example: “So, you need to be able to use a product for up to 10 hours at a time continuously and cannot afford much if any downtime. Our product gives you 12 hours use without needing recharging so your work is not held up at all”.
This type of presentation is the most effective way to make it clear to the customer that your product or service meets their needs, and makes sure that you do not waste any time or turn the customer off by discussing features or benefits that are not relevant to them.
Spend 80% of the time listening rather than speaking. Ask enough questions at the start to make sure you understand what the customer needs, then restate each need and explain how your product or service meets that need, PAUSING AFTER YOU HAVE EXPLAINED EACH NEED AND ASK IF THEY ARE HAPPY WITH THAT.
This is important psychologically – it gets the prospective customer in the habit of saying yes or nodding, and they are several steps down the road of agreeing to buy (obviously this only works if your product or service is right for the customer – if it is not, you should tell them as soon as possible to avoid wasting everyone’s time!).
95% of buyers state that the typical salesperson talks too much, and 74% of buyers said they were much more likely to buy if that salesperson would simply listen to them. Your sole focus should be on understanding the prospect’s needs, concerns and expectations.
Ask for their business (sounds obvious, but many people forget to do it!).
Once you have been through the steps detailed above, ask the prospective customer is there is anything else they need to know. Once they say no, ask “Are you ready to go ahead now?”.
Do not presume that they will buy by saying something such as “Great, let us get the paperwork sorted”. This takes away the feeling of control from the customer and can alienate them.
If they are not ready to buy, ask them why, which leads to our last top tip:
Make it clear to the customer that you are acting in their best interests and make them feel that they are controlling the conversation.
If the customer agrees to buy, then obviously you facilitate that. If they are not ready to buy, ask them what else they need to know and how much time they need. Often there can be a small, unresolved question that you can answer and they will buy.
More often, they want time to reflect on their decision. Respect that, ask how long they need and when you should contact them, making it clear that, if they have any questions in the meantime you would be more than happy to help them.
AND FINALLY – DIARISE FOLLOW UP AND MAKE SURE YOU DO IT! All it takes is a simple phone call along the lines of “Hello D, it’s E from XYZ Co. You asked me to give you a call today about….. I was wondering if you needed any more information or if you were ready to go ahead”.
If you have an accountant, they should be your first stop for business advice. If you don’t have an accountant or they can’t help, BuBul has a wide range of experts available. For more business advice why not follow BuBul on LinkedIn?