In my work with technical specialists and professionals across many industry sectors there is one thing I have seen time after time that undermines their ability to successfully ‘close the sale’.
That is, not following a plan.
Having a structured sales conversation is critical to win more clients
The structure of the conversation enables you, as the seller, to:
- Discover the real needs driving the clients decision
- Keep the conversation on topic
- Keep the conversation on time
- Establish your credibility
- Quickly establish trust
- Minimise (or even eliminate) potential objections
- Be confident, knowing you are following a system that works
- Avoid creating the “expert gap” that occurs when you jump ahead in the discussion
When they are in ‘sales mode’ many advisers, service providers, professionals and technical specialists think they need to wing-it and let the conversation take its own course, or (even worse) expect the client to do all the talking after they have been asked a few preliminary questions. Why? Usually because the seller doesn’t have any other plan.
The better, more professional way to manage your sales conversations is to…
Structure your conversation around the questions you need to ask
Your questions don’t turn the conversation into an interrogation (unless you make them that way) and they don’t create a straight jacket for you as the seller. And the structure is certainly not a script to be slavishly followed. Conversely, the structure creates head space for you to focus on listening and fine tuning the questions (and therefore the conversation) as it progresses.
Importantly, because it is a structure you will have certain mid-points or milestones built into it, at which time you know it would be suitable to insert a client success story or recount some salient industry data that is relevant for that particular client. These are important trust building opportunities.
As the expert in your field you probably want control, and you have it:
At important junctures of the conversation you get to choose what to do and when, but it is done within a framework of a ‘best practice’ sales conversation created especially for your environment.
Which brings is to the issue of…
How do you ask the best questions in the right way at the appropriate time
My recommendation is to download a free copy of my guide The Assassin Analogy as it explains this in more detail (with more educational resources) than can be covered in this article.
However, the short answer is that your questions must create a path along which the conversation can naturally flow. Ideally you start with more general questions first, before digging into more specific and possibly more confronting questions.
But more importantly you need to create a sense of flow by using a question strategy that looks at the past, present and future of the client.
In The Assassin Analogy I introduce the 3-stage SOX Question Strategy that provides a clear framework for which questions to ask and when. The SOX framework also makes it easy to discover the real areas of value that are a priority for the client.
It’s too important to rely on vague answers or incomplete information from the client. So you must have a manner of asking the questions that will encourage the client to provide deeper responses which indicate their true desires, fears and preferences.
One of the main objectives for any sales conversation is to identify how and why the client will see value in what you can provide. If they don’t perceive value they won’t buy from you and won’t become your client.
Using a structured sales conversation enables you to craft the best questions (in comfort, in advance), ask them in the most appropriate way, and get the most complete answers from clients.
If you would like some help to create highly effective sales conversations that increase your conversion rate of conversations-to-clients please get in touch for a complimentary meeting via phone, Skype or in person.