How many times did you think you had a sure sale and then the customer says they need more time? Or, what about those conversations when the customer is giving you every “buy” signal and then they leave the dealership and don’t return your calls? Stack up too many of those scenarios in one month and your revenue goals may be in jeopardy.
Here’s a sales refresher from Kevin Davis, author, speaker and president of TopLine Leadership, in a post for American Express’ Open Forum.
1. Be the first in the door
Studies have shown that customers, managers and executives will often buy from the first person who helps them understand their needs. Step up your prospecting. Think high persistence, not high pressure.
2. Listen before talking
Salespeople have been taught how to get through the steps of their sale quickly and sales managers often encourage them to close a deal faster. What salespeople haven’t been taught is how to slow down and get the customer to do more of the talking.
3. Identify more customer needs
The first need a customer mentions may be at the forefront of their minds, or it may be something one of your competitors planted in their brains. When the customer is talking, listen for additional needs. Probe some more. The more needs a customer recognizes, the greater urgency they will feel for taking action.
4. Go down the chain before going up
Have you been taught to get to executive-level decisions makers as quickly as you can? That’s not bad advice…unless you go there with nothing interesting or important to say about their business. Going down the organizational chart to talk to users about their challenges and needs can give you insights that will help you deliver a more compelling sales message to executives.
5. Don’t just dance with the one who brung ya!
Most major purchasing decisions are made by a team of people. You can hit a lot of speed bumps if all your knowledge comes from only one customer contact. Identify all the decision makers on the buying team. Get to a second decision maker as quickly as you can in the process.
6. Link your differentiators to priority needs
For a differentiator to become a competitive advantage it must be connected to a customer problem. The customer will see you as the best choice only if the things that make your solution different from your competitor’s are directly connected to what they see as their most important needs.
7. Figure out what step of buying the customer is in
When a prospect calls, many salespeople fail to ask a vital question: “What steps have you taken thus far in your decision-making process?” You need to learn whether the prospect has just starting thinking about this idea, perhaps wondering if they have a need to do something, or if they have already been meeting with some of your competitors and are now shopping around for a good price.
8. Measure success based on customer actions
You may think a sales call went great, but what did the customer do afterward? Did you have them commit to take a specific action by a certain date? If not, why not? Every call should get the customer to move forward another step.
9. Schedule a follow-up
Customers often start to have second thoughts after they’ve heard all the presentations or read all the proposals submitted to them. This is not the time to back off. Stay in touch so you can address any concerns the customer raises about what you’re offering.
10. Slow down
Good salespeople are enthusiastic and knowledgeable and it can be difficult to fight the urge to rush in and fix everything with your good advice. But you’ll get farther with the customer, and faster, if you fight the urge to sell on your timeline. Think instead about helping the customer through their buying process.
Now more than ever, sales leaders will be those who differentiate themselves not by what they sell, but by how they sell — and how they treat customers after the sale.