In my over forty years in business, the most frequent failure I see in people conducting sales functions (after forgetting to ask for the business) is that they seem to think as a salesman rather than a customer.
Why do they need to transform their thinking? Because today (as always) salespeople are in the business of providing solutions to problems, answers to challenges and help with opportunities. How can they do that if they are consumed with questions like “do they have money to spend” and “am I talking to the right level” and even “do they have a need for my product”? This is all great sales management questions and we expect our salespeople to get the answers for us to help us ensure our teams are focused on where the business is most likely to come from. But don’t for a minute believe that this activity is actually selling. As a professional salesperson, we need to ask these questions in support of a professional sales organization managing its resources and spending them wisely, but this is not selling.
What else is not true selling? Another common error I see over and over is the belief of some salespeople that they think that if they have just the right phrase or pitch, this will convince the customer to buy. Coincidentally, this is what makes selling to salespeople so easy – they have already bought into the thought of the perfect pitch so when they hear a good one, they are ready to buy. Preparing for a sales call with phrases, benefits, features and references is all part of normal readiness, so it seems to many that reciting these back to a client is actually convincing them to buy. It's not.
Customers buy when they are convinced that your product will directly affect their lives in a positive manner. When they can see how their lives will be better, and by how much, then they are preparing to buy. But how did they get to this point? By the salesperson helping them imagine a life that has been made better by the product they are selling.
So how does a salesperson get a customer to imagine a better life with their product? A good start is to think like the customer – imagine yourself into their shoes for a day. What are my (their) everyday, biggest challenges? What’s the magnitude of the impact of the challenge? Is it lost revenues, delayed sales, high costs, employee skills, missed opportunities? Is there a potential match in the features and benefits of my product that might address the challenges? How much can I (they) afford to invest in a possible solution? What risk am I (they) prepared to take in buying a new product or solution? How will my (their) people adopt the new way of doing business? How will my (their) customers accept the new way of doing business? Sometimes it’s as simple as asking the customer direct questions about their business.
If you can think like your customer these questions (and answers) will come to you and allow you to answer any objections that may arise that might prevent a sale. And after that it becomes the salesperson’s task to use their character and personality to win customer trust – people still want to buy from people they like and trust.