When I was first given a job that included selling a product, I recall how I stood there thinking, “Now, how do you do that?” Over the years, I learned that the mystery I once thought was not achievable was actually much simpler than I initially believed.
As a blind young man, I moved from the sheer terror of finding a client’s office to present my product, to becoming the top salesperson for 11 years running in North America for a large international yacht manufacturer. In this blog post, I will share five thoughts I have developed over the last half-century.
In general, sales is a step-by-step process. It requires the completion of these steps in a specific order.
“As a blind young man, I moved from the sheer terror of finding a client’s office to present my product, to becoming the top salesperson for 11 years running in North America for a large international yacht manufacturer.”
How to start?
You need to first understand your client. This is best handled by engaging in a relaxed casual conversation with him at your first meeting. Don’t just jump in and explain your product. Identifying his needs is key to making the sale.
To begin a conversation, first know something about your client. The internet has much to offer here. Knowledge is useful to begin a casual conversation with the client. During the conversation, you can learn something about him and his job. The day-to-day problems they often face will come out as well.
A relaxed conversation is the best way to gain information. People like to talk about themselves and their job. You just need to get them started. Here you’re acting more like a consultant than a salesperson – understanding their business and their goals.
If the internet does not give you any information you can use to start a conversation, then you can simply ask broad, open-ended questions. How long have you been here? Where were you before? What was attractive to you about this company? What has been your most challenging accessibility task?
After you have gained information about their business, you can better frame your product in relation to their needs. Think of how you would handle this part of the meeting beforehand. After the meeting, stop to think about how it went and how it could have gone better.
Not many salespersons take the time to do that. This will make you different.
It’s ok to be you
You can learn a lot of sales techniques and approaches from books, which are good. However, remember “to yourself be true.” You have to be genuine when transmitting information, as this reassures a client that they are getting the straight story. You are who you are, and you have to sell from that perspective. Using or memorizing an author’s phrases will never work as the author is not you. You can be you and still get to the same place. Your “you” needs to be present.
Remember why people buy
A man had a bad headache. He went into a drug store to buy an aspirin. What was he buying? Not aspirin – he was buying relief. People buy what is in it for them. Given what you have learned, from your casual conversation, ask yourself, “What’s in it for them if they buy my product?”
Remember, people buy from people they trust and like. It’s not about hearing, but it is about listening. Hearing is sound waves moving into the ear. Listening is understanding what the person is saying.
Listen to what the client has to say. To do this, you have to have a clear understanding of the words they’re using. After all, words mean different things to different people. For example, “relax”: for some, this means sitting with low background music reading a book, for others it could be waterskiing.
When you’re having a conversation and you want to clarify the meaning behind a certain word, the process of finding out is easy. Just ask a question. Let’s use the word “relax” as an example. “When you relax, what do you enjoy the most?” Their answers will bring clarity. This process works for any word you want to better understand.
Clearly understanding what a client is telling you is how you learn about his need, and therefore how to present your product to him.
Presenting your product
The process up till now has been about having a relaxed conversation to understand your client’s needs and what is in it for them. When you are confident you understand how your product fits their needs, it’s time to frame your presentation.
All products have features, but it’s their benefits that clients are buying. You should know the benefit of each of the features of your product.
Always present a feature followed by its benefit.
Starting your presentation
Start your product’s features that are most directed to their needs, and frame them to match their goals. You only need to talk about one or two features, not all of them. Remember, there only a few of your product’s features that will deliver what they’re looking for (i.e., what’s in it for them). After you have their interest, you can introduce two other features that may be of further interest. At this point, you’re still holding some features for future conversations. The rule in closing is if you agree on two features, broaden your discussion on these two features, then ask for the sale. If they are not ready to close, that was a trial close. Probe to see what their objections are.
Presenting proposal and pricing
For me, getting the client excited about the product is the first step. When they are excited, a proposal outlining what they get is in order. Here, showcase the features that most meet their needs or goals. When they’re ready – then it’s time for the price. At this point, you’re only dealing with one thing: price. You have won on all the other points and now have them excited.
General tip: Throughout the sales process always be helpful, provide information on a timely basis, and follow-up without being a pest – you should always have a reason to call or write.
These actions are how the client judges the service he will get after the sale.
When the deal is done, regularly check in with a call or email.
Whenever you can, have a face-to-face with the client; people still like the eye-to-eye contact.
While it was hard to reduce my 52 years of experience in a short paper, I hope these tips prove helpful. They’ve certainly worked for me over the years.