Sales is the lifeblood of any small business and every business owner has the potential to be brilliant at sales, after all you are the expert in your business’ products and services.
Yet sometimes we business owners get too close to see the wood for the trees. And even when we think we have the sales process down pat, customers have that quirky human quality of ever evolving and modifying their wants and needs. So now is the perfect time to take a step back and review some basic do’s and don’ts of the selling process:
Don’t bark up the wrong tree
Let’s face it, the first thing that can potentially go wrong in sales is to bark up the wrong tree. The whole selling process can only go awry from there – we’ve all experienced the dejected feeling of wasted sales effort. While some sales coaches may say keep at it and you’ll eventually wear them down, I disagree. A little strategic sales planning can go a long way to setting you up for sales success. So exactly how can you avoid barking up the wrong tree?
Do: Profile your target audience accurately
The first and most important step in the sales process is to profile your target audience accurately and regularly. Conduct focus groups, online surveys, one-on-one client interviews. Brainstorm and use creative thinking to understand your target market better. A picture is worth a thousand words so build a visual profile of your target audience by collecting not only data, but imagery too. This research needs to go beyond the demographics of who your customer is and into the psychographics of your target market. What are their values? What’s important to them in the purchasing process? Who are they influenced by?
Don’t ignore emotion
There are always both rational and emotional reasons behind why people buy. Most sales professionals are well trained in knowing features and benefits and communicating them effectively. Yet research shows that people buy emotionally and then back up their decision logically. This means that good sales people have to start feeling their way around the feelings of their customers.
Do: Use emotional intelligence
Effective sales people consider both the emotional and rational reasons to buy. Take some time to explore the beneficial feelings that result from purchasing your product and service. These emotive responses may be actively positive such as generating pride or pleasure; or passively positive by removing negative emotions such as fear or disappointment. For example a purchaser may experience a sense of security that there won’t be any unexpected errors – their fear of errors is removed, or peace of mind that they’ve chosen a company with an excellent track record, or pride in their social responsibility in choosing a green solution. Getting to understand these emotions means a sales person needs to practice the next all-important discipline:
Don’t talk too much!
The days of smart-mouthed, smooth-operator never-ending sales talk are long gone! We live in the Information Age, we have information everywhere, we’re overloaded with it. We want a salesperson to function like an intelligent online search engine, a person that sifts through all the information and produces only the relevant bits, the information that adds value to our decision making process. And ironically to do this, a sales person needs to operate just like a search engine and first find out the relevant keywords… which brings us to the next point.
Do: Ask the right questions
Discovering the customer’s needs, wants and values is best achieved by asking not only direct factual questions but also open-ended value-discovery questions. Salespeople who understand the power of asking smart questions find that they automatically become good listeners too. Good listeners are then able to answer the right questions and that’s what makes the sales process work.
An effective sales process is not a set-and-forget deal, but an ever-evolving cycle of anticipating, seeking and fulfilling customer requirements.