If you’re a business owner, you’re also a salesperson.
You’ve had to sell the bank to get them to loan you your start-up capital. You’ve had to sell the best employees on why they should work for your business. You’ve had to convince your business partner, spouse, and friends why your business idea is a good one.
Now you have to repeatedly sell your product or service to your customers.
The ability to sell effectively and efficiently is one every successful business owner has cultivated, and continues to develop. It can be a complicated and time consuming task; one that you will have to continually work on throughout your career in order to be – and stay – successful.
Fortunately, making sales is a step-by-step process that can be learned, customized, and continuously improved. There are a wide range of tools available to help and support your sales efforts.
You don’t have to be the most outgoing, enthusiastic person to be successful at sales. You don’t even have to be a good public speaker. All you need is an understanding of the basic sales process, and a genuine passion for what you are selling.
As I said before, making sales is a process. There are clear, step-by-step actions that can be taken and result in a sale.
The sales process varies according to the type of business, type of customers and type of product or service that is offered; however, the core steps are the same. Similarly, sales training varies from individual to individual, but the core skills and abilities remain the same.
Here is a basic seven-step process that you can follow, or fine tune to suit your unique products and services. Remember that each step is important, and builds on the step previous. It is essential to become adept at each step, instead of solely focusing on closing the sale.
Make sure you have prepared for your meeting, presentation, or day on the sales floor. You have complete control of this part of the sales process, so it is important to do everything you can to set the stage for your success.
- Understand your product or service inside and out.
- Prepare all the necessary materials, and organize them neatly.
- Keep your place of business tidy and organized. Reface product on shelves.
- Ensure you appear professional and well groomed.
- Do some research on your potential client and brainstorm to find common ground.
2. Build a Relationship
The first few minutes you spend with a potential customer set the stage for the rest of your interaction. First impressions are everything. Your goal in the second step is to relax the customer and begin to develop a relationship with them. Establishing a real relationship with your customer will create trust.
- Make a great first impression: shake hands, make eye contact, and introduce yourself.
- Remain confident and professional, but also personable.
- Mirror their speech and behavior.
- Begin with general questions and small talk.
- Show interest in them and their place of business.
- Notice and comment on positives.
- Find some common ground on which to relate.
3. Discuss Needs + Wants
Once you have spent a few moments getting to know your prospect, start asking open-ended questions to discover some of their needs and wants. If they have come to you on the sales floor, ask what brought them in the store. If you are meeting them to present your product or service, ask why they are interested in, or what criteria they have in mind for that product or service.
- If you are making a sales presentation, ask for a few moments at the outset to outline the purpose of your visit, as well as how you have structured the presentation.
- Listen intently, and repeat back information you are not sure you understand.
- Ask open-ended questions to get them talking. The longer they talk, the more insight they are providing you into their needs and purchase motivations.
- Ask clarifying questions about their responses.
- If you become sure the customer is going to buy your product or service, begin to ask questions specific to the offering. e., what size/color do you prefer?
4. Present the Solution
Once you have a solid understanding of what they are looking for, or what issue they are looking to resolve, you can begin to present the solution: your product or service.
- Explain how your product or service will solve their problem or meeting their needs. If several products apply, begin by presenting the mid-level product.
- Illustrate your points with anecdotes about other happy customers, or awards the product or service has earned.
- Use hypothetical examples featuring your customer. Encourage them to picture a scenario after their purchase.
- Begin by describing the benefits of the product, then follow up with features and advantages.
- Watch your customer’s behavior as you speak, and ask further qualifying questions in response to body language and verbal comments.
- Give the customer an opportunity to ask you questions or provide feedback about each product or service after you have described or explained it.
- Ask closed-ended questions to gain agreement.
5. Overcome Objections
As you present the product or service, take note of potential objections by asking open-ended questions and monitoring body language. Expect that objections will arise and prepare for it. Consider brainstorming a list of all potential objections, and writing down your responses.
- Repeat the objection back to the customer to ensure you understand them correctly.
- Empathize with what they have said, and then provide a response that overcomes the objection.
- Confirm that the answer you have provided has overcome their objection by repeating yourself.
The Eight Most Common Objections
The product or service does not seem valuable to me.
There is no reason for me to act know. I will wait.
It’s safest not to make a decision right away.
There is not enough money for the purchase.
The competitor or another department offers a better product.
There are internal issues between people or departments.
The relationship with the decision maker is strained.
There is an existing contract in place with another business.
This is an important part of the sales process that should be handled delicately. Deciding when to close is a judgment call that must be made in the moment during the sale. Ideally, you have presented a solution to their problem, overcome objections, and have the customer in a place where they are ready to buy.
Here are some questions to ask before you close the sale:
- Does my prospect agree that there is value in my product or service?
- Does my prospect understand the features and benefits of the product or service?
- Are there any remaining objections that must be handled?
- What other factors could influence my prospect’s decision to buy?
- Have I minimized the risk involved in the purchase, and provided some level of urgency?
Once you have determined it is time to make the sale, here are some sample statements you can use to get the process rolling:
- So, should we get started?
- Shall I grab a new one from the back?
- If you just give me your credit card, I can take care of the transaction while you continue browsing.
- When would you like the product delivered?
- We can begin next month if we receive payment by the end of the week.
- Can I email you a draft contract tomorrow?
7. Service + Follow-up
Once you have made the sale, your work is not over. You want to ensure that that customer will become a loyal, repeat customer, and that they will refer their friends to your business.
Ask them to be in your customer database, and keep in touch with regular newsletters. Follow up with a phone call or drop by to ask how they are enjoying the product or service, and if they have any further questions or needs you can assist them with.
This contact opportunity will also allow you ask for a referral, or an up sell. At the very least, it will ensure you are continuing to foster and build a relationship with the client.
Up selling is simply inviting your customers to spend more money in your business by purchasing additional products or services. This could include more of the same product, complementary products, or impulse items.
Regardless, up selling is an effective way to increase profits and create loyal clients – without spending any money to acquire the business. These clients are already purchasing from you – which means they perceive value in what you have to offer – so take the information you have gained in the sales process and offer them a little bit more.
You experience up selling on a daily basis. From “do you want fries with that?” to “have you heard about our product protect program?” companies across the globe have tapped into and trained their staff on the value of the up sell.
Up selling is truly rooted in good customer service. If your client purchases a new computer printer, you’ll need to make sure they have the cords required to connect it to the computer, regular and photo paper, and color and black and white ink.
If you don’t suggest these items, they may arrive home and realize they do not have all the materials needed to use the product. They may
choose to purchase those materials somewhere closer, cheaper, or more helpful.
Customer education is another form of up selling. What if you customer doesn’t realize that you sell a variety of printer paper and stationery in addition to computer hardware like printers? Take every opportunity to educate your customer on the products and services you offer that may be of interest to them.
An effective way of implementing an up sell system into your business is simply by creating add-on checklists for the products or services you offer. Each item has a list of related items that your customer may need. This will encourage your staff to develop the habit of asking for the up sell.
Other up sell strategies can be implemented:
- At the point of sale. This is a great place for impulse items like candy, flashlights, nail scissors, etc.
- In a newsletter. This is an effective strategy for customer education.
- In your merchandising. Place strips of impulse items near related items. For example, paper clips with paper and pens near binders.
- Over the phone. If someone is placing an order for delivery, offer additional items in the same shipment for convenience.
- With new products. Feature each new product or service that you offer prominently in your business, and ask your staff to mention it to every customer.
Employing a team of strong salespeople
What Makes a Good Salesperson?
There are a lot of salespeople out there – but what qualities and skills make a great salesperson? These are the attributes you will want to find or develop in your team:
- Willingness to continuously learn and improve sales skills
- Sincerity in relating to customers and providing solutions to their objectives
- An understanding of the company’s big picture
- A communication style that is direct, polite, and professional
- Honesty and respect for other team members, customers, as well as the competition.
- Ability to manage time
- A great listener
- Ability to quickly interpret, analyze, and respond to information during the sales process
- Ability to connect and develop relationships of trust with potential clients
- Professional appearance
Team Building – Keeping Your Team Together
In many businesses, sales is a department or a whole team of people who work together to generate leads and convert customers. Effective management of your sales team is a skill every business owner should cultivate.
Teambuilding, recruitment, and training will be discussed in later sections, but take some time to consider the following aspects of managing a sales team:
- Are targets and results regularly reviewed?
- Are opportunities for input regularly provided?
- Do sales staff members have a clear understanding of what is expected?
- Do all staff members know daily, weekly, and quarterly targets?
- Are sales staff members motivated to reach targets?
- Are sales staff recognized and rewarded once those targets are reached?
- Are there opportunities for skills training and development?
- Do staff members have broad and comprehensive product or industry knowledge?
- Is there opportunity for growth within the company?
- Is performance regularly reviewed?
- Do you have a solid understanding of your sales numbers (revenue, profit, margins)?
- Are your sales processes regularly reviewed?
- Do you have a variety of sales scripts prepared?
- Do you measure conversion rates?
- How are your leads generated?
Every salesperson should have an arsenal of tools on hand to assist them in the sales process. These tools can act as aids while a sale is taking place, or help to foster continual learning and development of the salesperson’s skills and approach.
The list below includes some popular sales tools. Add to this list with other resources that are specific to your business or industry.
Description + Benefit
> Used for incoming and outgoing telemarketing, cold calls, door-to-door sales, in-store sales
> Create several different scripts throughout your business
> Maintains consistency in your sales approach
> Revise and renew your scripts regularly
> High-quality information about your product or service
> Forms: PowerPoint presentation, brochure, product sheets, proposal
> Serves as an outline of your sales presentation, and keeps you on task
> A source of help and advice, especially when you are on the same team or sell similar products
> Also a source of support
> An accurate, up-to-date database of customer contact information and contact history
> Used to stay in touch with clients
> Can also be used for direct mail and follow-up telemarketing
> A powerful resource for sales help and advice
> Information to help improve your sales process
> Online sales coaching
> Source for product knowledge
> Constant improvement of your sales skills
> Constant increase in product knowledge
> Investment in yourself and your company
8 Tips for Better Sales
- Dress for the sale. Dress professionally, appear well put together and maintain good hygiene. Ensure you are not only dressed professionally, but appropriately. Would your client feel more comfortable if you wore a suit, or jeans and blazer?
- Speak their language. Show you understand their industry or culture, and use phrases your customer understands. This may require researching industry jargon or common phrases. Remember to avoid using words and phrases that are used in the sales process: sold, contract, telemarketing, finance, interest, etc. Doing so will help break down the salesperson/customer barrier.
- Ooze positivity. Show up or answer the phone with a smile, and leave your personal or business issues behind. Be enthusiastic about what you have to offer, and how that offering will benefit your customer. Reflect this not only in your voice, but also in your body language.
- Deliver a strong pitch or presentation. Be confident and convincing. Leave self-doubt at the door, and walk in assuming the sale. Take time to explain complex concepts, and always connect what you’re saying to your audience in a specific way.
- Be a poster-child for good manners. Accept any amenity you’re offered, listen intently, don’t interrupt, don’t show up late, have a strong handshake, and give everyone you are speaking to equal attention.
- Avoid sensitive subjects. Politics, religion, swearing, sexual innuendos and racial comments are absolutely off-limits. So are negative comments about other customers or the competition.
- Create a real relationship. Icebreakers and small talk are not just to pass the time before your presentation. They are how relationships get established. Show genuine interest in everything your customer has to say. Ask questions about topics you know they are passionate. Speak person to person, not salesperson to customer. Remember everything.
- Know more than you need to. Impress clients with comprehensive knowledge – not only of your product or service – but also of the people who use that product or service, and industry trends. Been seen as an expert in order to build trust and respect.