By Lenann McGookey Gardner, www.YouCanSell.com
What ARE the basics of successful selling, anyway?
When asked, most people tell me, “Always Be Closing!” or “Don’t be shy!” or “Focus on building relationships” or even “Give ‘em your PITCH (or your ‘elevator speech’)!”
I don’t think ANY of those things are basic to selling – in fact, I think that they’re ALL WRONG! So before I write what I think are the basics of a good, up-to-date approach to selling, let’s look at these common misconceptions:
· A-B-C (always be closing)? No. If you push and push and push, asking for the business and asking for it again, over and over, you succeed in conveying that all you’re interested in is getting your prospect signed up. I’d rather have my prospect thinking “Lenann really wants to be sure that any business I do with her or anyone else is the best thing for me and my organization!” – and that can’t co-exist with the A-B-C philosophy.
· If you’re shy, you’re shy. We’re learning, now, that many introverted people are very good at selling – maybe because they don’t fit the stereotype of the extroverted sales vulture.
I’m naturally outgoing and extroverted, and I know that works for me in certain circumstances, and against me in others. I’ve had to learn to be less of a talker, more of a listener; less of an energetic proposer, more of a thoughtful considerer; less assuming that I understand people’s challenges and more confident that I cannot appreciate an organization’s situation without considerable guidance from the people who work there.
· The belief that one should build a relationship first, and business will follow, is under considerable fire now. Some broad-based research clearly shows that a prospect feeling as if he or she has a relationship with a potential supplier and actually hiring that supplier have become decoupled: your prospects can feel good about you, but not be moved to spend any money.
· As for giving anybody a “pitch” – I’d say leave that for baseball. Don’t pitch AT people. Instead, discover them. If they ask you “What do you do?” you will need to have a response, but I’d recommend it be short and sweet and customized to their circumstances, and that it end with a question you’re asking them.
For example, yesterday I was emailing with a professional accountant, so when asked what I do I wrote that I “help accountants get new clients faster, and drive new revenue from their existing clients.” If I’d been communicating with a consulting firm, I’d have said that I “help consulting firms to get new clients faster, and, when it’s possible, to drive new revenue from their existing clients.” Both those statements are factually true, and I have testimonials to prove them.
If I were talking with a firm in an industry in which I have never worked, I’d say that I “help firms (or organizations, or companies) get new clients faster, and, when it’s possible, to drive new revenue from their existing clients.” I would follow any of those sentences with, “I’d like to know more about the clients you want to attract, (first name). How would you describe an ‘ideal prospect’ for the services you provide?”
Another option for that follow-up question is a challenge, “(First name), are you aware that loyalty is nearly dead among clients now -- that we have data that show that people change professional services providers quite easily, even when they have long-established relationships with suppliers? How do you think that will affect – or is affecting – (their firm’s name)?”
So what are the basics of successful selling?
1. Listen a lot more than you talk. (And to do that, you have to be good at asking interesting questions that engage your prospect.)
2. Know when and how to follow-up optimally – systematic and methodical follow-up correlates with success in selling.
3. If you’re being brushed off, challenge your prospect – you have nothing to lose if you’re being brushed-off anyway.
4. And, above all, look for people’s PAIN (what’s bothering them in the area in which you work). Remember that PAIN can be “I’m worried that I’m falling behind my competitors!” or “I’m concerned that I’m not keeping up (with technology, with up-to-date selling skills, with hiring trends, etc.).”
Do you think you already know the information in the numbered bullet points above? You might – but I doubt you’re fully using it in your selling efforts. Even people who can recite an up-to-date list of the basics of successful selling demonstrate to me, over and over again, that they don’t actually use those basics when they talk with their prospects.
And that’s why I get to have a business – I introduce them to all the principles of successful salesmanship in today’s marketplace, give them examples of how to use those principles, challenge them to use the principles in real-world sales conversations, and stay with them as they use the principles and turn them into real money. At that point, the improved selling skills are self-reinforcing!
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