Five years ago, if you would have told me that I’d be writing a blog post about sales, I would have laughed. Voraciously. I never saw myself as a salesperson; in fact, like many of us, I ran from salespeople!
I thought that selling was a big, scary thing. Something that I’ve learned, though, is that by paying attention to systems, understanding your client’s needs, and following through, you can feel less like a “salesperson” and more like a problem-solver. Here’s some things that I’ve picked up that might help you, too.
1. Add Value Through Clarity
Knowing your product is the first step, especially if you are a business owner. Also important is realizing that people purchase solutions, not items. The better their problem can be resolved, the better the perceived value.
The key here is clear communication. You might know that your widget has 38 special features, but your potential client may not. Even if they’ve done their research, there’s still new things to discover about how you can solve their problem—and why they should buy. To increase the chance of your sale, clearly explain how your product/service can benefit them. Don’t forget to be enthusiastic and remember that the question you have answered for the millionth time is new to them.
This is especially important with something technical, like a website. Why should your retail client purchase a catalog module for their site? The automation and time-saving qualities of the catalog is the answer. Try to find a way to describe your product in as little words as possible while still getting the main point across—demonstrate if possible. Client education is especially important for sales—after all, if they don’t understand how their problem will be solved, they won’t purchase.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Discuss Price
When it comes to discussing price, be confident. Your service or product is worth something. Always speak confidently about how much your service/product costs—if you can’t own the value of your product, your customer won’t, either. This is probably the most difficult area to discuss, but you will find that by really believing in your pricing, your client will, too.
If you have a product where price can be negotiated, know what your bottom limitations are beforehand, and never let the deal go below this line. You want the deal to be fair to all parties to avoid feelings of resentment, which lead to bad relationships.
Never slip in hidden costs or options. If you think a client needs extras, explain why and allow them to choose if they want them or not. It’s not your goal to take advantage, and if you genuinely feel that the client could benefit from extras, they’ll purchase if you tell them why.
Another important point about pricing is looking at your market. What’s happening in your market’s economy? What are your competitors doing? How does your product compare to theirs? What are people willing to pay? We’ve changed our pricing structure a few times based on these and other factors. As you grow, you’ll be able to tell when pricing should be increased or reduced based on supply and demand.
3. Be Organized
Organization means systems. Creating a general sales plan will help you share your knowledge because it’s a bit like planning a speech—you’ll know the order in which to ask questions and give information.
For example, this is a general overview for website and branding sales during an initial meeting:
- Develop rapport by asking the client why they’ve come to see you today. Look for a very brief overview.
- Tell them about the company and who works there
- Ask questions and listen. You may find it helpful to use a pre-printed questionnaire to fill in as the interview progresses
- Answer questions clearly and consistently
- Summarize what the client has told you in your own words
- Discuss with (don’t tell!) the client what services you can offer and why
While you are developing your sales process, you may find that you have to make changes. That’s OK; each client is different and you can use your instincts to guide each meeting. Don’t force the client into your process; it’s much better to guide than coerce. You should find that you develop a consistent routine that works over time.
Organization also relates to the details, and these details are vital. Do you have all the correct paperwork? Does the client have everything they need to be successful with your product? Have all the t’s been crossed and i’s been dotted? Have you given them all the information in a way that they understand? Is everything filed properly? It never hurts to have a checklist!
You can be the best sales person in the world, but if your organizational skills fall off as soon as the dotted line is signed, your client will regret buying from you because they’ll feel like all you wanted was the sale and didn’t care what happened after. Forget about referrals at this point! But more about this in #6.
4. Develop Consistencies
Once you have your systems and paperwork in order, your key is to remain consistent. This does not mean rigid – your sales process should be like water flowing through a path with the least resistance. (Bet you didn’t know I was a philosopher!)
There are good reasons for this. As your clients get to know and love you, they’ll tell their friends. Their friends get the same treatment. They’ll tell their friends. And so on. There’s much less of a chance for an unhappy client if they’re getting what they expect. If you sell a larger-ticket item that’s a bit more complicated, such as a car or a website, you can bet your potential customer is asking their peers how the sales process and products work. By giving the customer what they expect, you are gaining their trust and loyalty.
Another reason is you—you’ll feel more confident in your sales process if you know what comes next. Rather than concentrating on what you should say and do, you’ll already know. This confidence will be apparent to your client and they will be that much more comfortable with you and your solution.
5. Be Genuine
Gone are the days when a “smiley salesmen” mentality works on today’s savvy buyers. That approach may have worked 20 years ago, especially with uninformed or unpracticed buyers. Today, buyers have a lot more educational tools at their fingertips, especially the Internet and powerful Social Media networks.
By changing your mentality about sales, you can avoid feeling like you are putting undue pressure on a potential client. Again, it’s about solving a problem for the client—don’t sell them something they don’t want or need. This is why the client interview is vital, and this interview can take place in a boardroom, on the sales floor, at a trade show, etc. You want to be making their lives easier when using your product, not sticking them with something they will regret buying later—that is what makes you the slimy salesguy.
You’ll discover that being genuine comes naturally once you’re organized and your systems are in place. You will naturally be more confident.
Being genuine doesn’t mean you have to like everybody. You will certainly find clients that you can’t get along with; it’s true that good chemistry makes for a good sale, especially for projects where you will be working closely together for an extended duration. If you genuinely feel that you can’t supply the client with what they want and need to the satisfaction of both parties, you may want to turn down the sale. Sometimes it’s best to avoid the heartache rather than be miserable together. You’ll find the value to your saying “no” outweighs the value of the dollars you will make.
So how do you say no? It doesn’t have to be difficult but it can be challenging. In most cases, being honest is the best policy, but don’t forget diplomacy! It may be best to say that you feel that you can’t provide the best possible product based on their needs and/or budget. You could also have a referral available, even if it’s to your competition, lending to your professionalism.
6. Completely Follow Through
The sales process does not end once the cheque is cashed. Relating back to organization and consistency, your customers want the same treatment throughout the project. Develop your systems throughout your entire process. Deliver what you sell!
For our service company, the sales process never really ends. We work for a long time with customers even after their website is launched and a brand is developed. Depending on your product or service, your process may be shorter.
A major part of follow through is thinking about what you can provide after your happy customer walks out the door. Once you’ve developed the loyalty and trust through consistency and organization, it will not be difficult to solve more problems for your client; use the strong relationships you have built to keep an ongoing rapport. This may mean contacting them in a few months’ time, following up on how the product is working for them, and filling any appropriate gaps.
If you find that your systems fall off after the cheque is in the bank, you’re in trouble. I guarantee that your customer will spread the word through conversation and/or social media, especially if they are a savvy shopper. No one wants to feel like they have been taken advantage of, and that’s exactly how your customer will feel if you don’t follow through.
The benefits of a clean, clear, and consistent sales process is more sales. People talk, and if they’ve had a stellar experience with you, they’ll be sure to recommend or even champion your company. There’s no better advertising for you than positive word-of-mouth. It’s free and trusted. Plus, those customers are far more likely to return to you, and as you already know, it’s much less expensive to retain an existing customer.
While you are developing your processes, you will hit bumps; don’t consider them failures. Take careful note of what does and doesn’t work. Ask for feedback and don’t be offended if you hear something you don’t like – use that knowledge to land the next sale.
Your goal is not to become a scripted automaton. Keep your passion and enthusiasm for what you sell and pass that energy to the right customers – the ones you can offer solutions to. They’ll love you for it, and you’ll find even more joy in your work by having the best clients to work with.