Selling. Cold calls, introductions, interviews, appointments, proposals, referrals, call cycles, building rapport, listening, asking for the order, overcoming objections, closing the sale, and rejection. There’s a lot to know about the business of selling. No wonder many people are a bit overwhelmed when they are asked to do it.
And it’s not a job for the faint-hearted. Selling is a communication-rich activity, with lots of verbal and non-verbal clues to simultaneously recognise, understand and respond to. It’s a tough job looking after the interests of the customer and the company at the same time. Especially when you have to do this many times a day, every day.
To make it even more demanding, the sales process does not usually proceed in a linear, one-way direction. Sellers and clients will often meander along paths filled with associated ideas, go back to items already discussed, find answers for problems (overcome objections) and explore the features and benefits offered.
An effective selling style will display a relevant and appropriate personal manner combined with a strong focus on the required outcome.
On many occasions handling a sale is much like steering a boat across a strong current. There is a need to constantly assess the amount of ‘drift’, making minor adjustments to stay on course for the destination.
A skillful sales person can handle these diversions and carefully guide the prospect to recognise why they should make the decision to purchase ‘this’ product from ‘this company’.
For those working outside the field of professional selling, it’s common for the sales process, and sales people, to be misunderstood. Indeed, there are those who think of sales staff as being universally pushy, overbearing, and making the customer feel ill at ease.
‘Consultative’ selling and ‘challenger’ selling
However this type of behaviour is usually the result of inexperience or poor sales training. Over recent years the art of selling has been transformed into a process now often referred to as ‘consultative selling’.
More recently ‘challenger selling’ has appeared with a focus on providing insights that challenges the current view of the prospect. The intent is to bring extra value to the sales conversation and differentiate the seller and their proposed solution.
More than just a buzzword, consultative selling refers to the process of developing a clear understanding of your customers needs and following this with a logical presentation of how your product or service can help your customer be satisfied. In effect consulting with your client to determine their needs and develop a solution.
Modern, effective sales people have mastered the skill of identifying the needs of individual prospects, matching those needs with benefits offered by their product or service, and closing the sale by ensuring the customer can see real value in the deal being offered. It’s a win-win result.
Throughout the process an experienced sales person will generate a level of trust with the customer that can stand the test of time.
For sales leaders here are a few tips to help you manage your sales team:
- Respect the personal barriers your sellers must overcome on a daily basis.
- Have a territory management plan in place.
- Provide appropriate supervision to ensure good sales practices are maintained.
- Ensure the customer has regular contact with other people (or departments) within your business other than the sales person.
- Comprehensively train your sales people on company procedures, their responsibilities and your expectations.
- Have a procedure for listening to, assessing, and acting upon feedback from people in the field.
- Avoid involving sales people in non-sales activities such as deliveries and collecting account payments. These tasks will undermine the sales relationship and will adversely impact on your sales results. Keep your sales person as the ‘good guy’.
Many aspects of selling can be measured. As such, it is part science.
But there are many components of selling that remain an art form – the art of guiding the sales process to a mutually satisfying conclusion.