The art of selling has changed dramatically over the last 30 years, and the way that sales people and business owners now prospect and sell to the customers has moved on significantly from the one-way sales monologue and cold calling techniques that used to reign.
Over the last several decades, the sales industry has become focused on the consultative selling approach – and this is still as important today as it has been over the last 30 years. Your buyers still need you to provide that consultation of their wants and needs when you go into a sales meeting with them, so we as sales people must understand how vital the consultative selling process is to our continued success with our clients and customers. Watch the short video below to find out more about the 5 step consultative sales process that has stood the test of time.
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My team and I have sat in on many visits with sales people, listening to great examples (and not so great!) of consultancy sessions, where the client has specific needs and the salesperson deals with those needs.
Recently, I came across a sales technique that had me thinking about whether those salespeople could really have dug deeper to discover needs and uncover opportunities.
What we find is that buyers often have long-held beliefs that drive their decision-making philosophies. The things they say and do are ingrained because they have been used for so long in so many situations.
These belief systems may have worked well in the past, but with the new global economic situation and the changes in culture we have all experienced, these beliefs may not now be up-to-date and might not be as beneficial to them as they were before.
So what can you do to encourage them to think differently about their business and maybe go down a different decision-making direction?
Well, you need to be getting beneath the surface of your prospects’ beliefs, by asking questions they may never have thought of before.
Let’s say your prospect has the opinion that their customers will not change their point of view, so we have to give them the same products as we have over the past few years. In other words, their beliefs are that consistency in product offering is the only way to sell to their current customer base.
Here are four ways that you can get beneath the surface and dig deeper on this belief:
1) Ask, Is this belief worth challenging? Does it get in the way of their business growing?
2) Is this a universally-held belief? Are there examples of how this belief has been changed and shown to be not so beneficial? If so, what can we learn from these counter-examples?
3) How does this belief serve the interests of the prospect? What do they gain from believing it?
4) What alternatives could there be to this belief? What advantages would there be in having different beliefs?
By answering these questions, you get a differing viewpoint of how the business could be in the future. You highlight situations where there have been changes in other companies, and you determine the results that those businesses have enjoyed.
Now, what you DON’T do is try to change that belief system in your prospect by telling them how others have got results by doing things differently. A long-held belief will not be changed instantaneously simply by seeing how others have got different results.
The prospect will simply assume that their situation is different to theirs and, if they changed, they would not get the same results.
No, the way to dig beneath the surface of your prospects’ beliefs is to
a) get them to look at the current results they are getting with the belief. Then,
b) ask if these are the best results they could get. Then,
c) determine if they want any other type of result. If they do,
d) ask what would have to change for them to get that result.
These questions dig to the root of the belief system and help the individual themselves determine if changes are needed. Even if they have great respect for you, their beliefs will remain the same UNLESS THEY CHANGE THEM THEMSELVES.
That’s the key to any change. You get the other person to see the value of the change, so they start on the self-motivational change themselves. What you hope the prospect will conclude by going through the above process is that their current belief is worth challenging, that there are examples of other companies that have tried different things and got better results, that it would serve their better interests if they changes that mindset, and that the alternative beliefs would be better in the long run.
Use these ideas with your strategic accounts and you may well find that you are quickly facing a different mindset, one that will drive better choices in the future.
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(Image by The Path Traveler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
In tribute to the many sales managers, trainers, directors and coaches who are always in need of more creative, effective and memorable ways to relay sales training concepts, I am starting a new series called, “And the Moral of the Story is…”
Start your weekend by looking here every Friday morning at 10:00 am for some entertaining sales stories. Like “King Kong’s Got Nothing On Me,” from Memories of a Sales Manager, some stories are funny, some are serious, but all have a strong sales message!
If you miss one, not to worry. You can find them all in the new MTD Blog category, “Sales Stories.” First up…The Sunday Ham
The Sunday Ham
One Sunday morning, a young mother began preparing the usual big Sunday family dinner as her young daughter looked on. After unwrapping the huge ham shank, which was star of the show, she promptly placed it on the cutting counter, grabbed a giant meat cleaver and with one powerful, almost vicious swing, hacked off the tip, the triangle edge of the ham.
Startled, the daughter asked, “Mom, why did you do that?!”
The mother confidently replied, “Oh, it’s ok, Honey. You have to do that because it makes the ham come out better. It cooks better and tasted yummy!”
“Really?” The young inquisitive child, asked, “How? Why does it make the ham taste better?”
After a moment of deep thought, the mother replied, “You know, Sweetie, I’m not really sure. I learned how to cook the ham from your grandmother, let me call her and ask.” Moments later with nana on the phone, the mother asked, “Mom, you know when you make the ham and you always chop off that shank tip, why do you do that?”
The grandmother quickly and confidently responded, “Oh, well, it comes out better that way, child, you know that.”
“Yes, I know Mom, but why, how?”
Also puzzled, the grandmother said, “I don’t really know. I learned how to cook that delicious ham from your grand, let’s ask her.”
Now on the telephone in a three-way mini family conference, the great grandmother, and three generations of family asked the question, “Mom, you know when you used to cook the ham and you would always cut off that corner shank tip? Why did you do that?”
The great wise grand, now in her nineties, paused and matter-of-factly replied,
“Well, I had to do that…because the ham was always just too darn big to fit in that little pot I had back then.”
And the Moral Of the Story Is…
Just because you have been doing something one way for a long time does not make it right. Remember that much of what you know about professional selling has been “passed down” from one generation to the next. Your sales manager learned from his sales manager, who learned from her supervisor and so on.
The problem is not that those tried and true sales techniques of the past no longer work. The problem is that those prospective buyers of the past no longer exist. Today’s modern consumer is far more educated, sophisticated and sales savvy than ever before. They also have a worldwide database of information at their fingertips with the Internet.
Check out my video, “Why the Modern Day Buyer Has Changed,” and if you have not yet done so, download my latest report, “The Sales Person’s Crisis,” below.
The fact is today’s prospective customer has changed from those of the past and your entire selling paradigm must change to keep pace.
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The days are long gone since you could pitch up at a client’s office, tell him about your products and services, do a little negotiating and close the deal. Today, the emphasis is on building relationships, long-term and mutual.
To do this, the salesperson needs to earn the right to continue the discussions, build integrity, establish reliability and offer the confidence to understand and recommend solutions.
How can you do this in today’s environment? Well, clients are looking for these things:
* Up-to-date knowledge of their industry and their business. There is simply no excuse these days for turning up ignorant of the prospect’s business. Asking the question “So, tell me what you do”, is the biggest warning signal to the prospect, because it means you haven’t done your homework and it shows that the prospect would have to do all the background work for you if he did start working with you. The message you are sending is you are more interested in your product than their company, and the prospect will wonder what else they will have to do to help you out.
* A readiness to exchange ideas between your company and theirs. Clients are looking for support mechanisms between you, so they can ascertain how the support they can get from you will mean greater market opportunities for them. The more you can identify the correlation between their company and yours, the greater the chance they will consider working with you.
* A long-term alliance between you and them. This alliance will achieve a great amount for the client, and that’s where your emphasis in the relationship should be made. If you just rely on transactions, your products and services will be commoditised by the client, and you’ll end up talking price and discounts. Forge an alliance with all parts of their business, and you open up relationships that will survive price issues in the long run.
* Suggestions on how they can improve their business and discover new markets. If you can become their ally and help them see how your products can open up new markets or build on existing ones, they will see you as a preferred partner and approach you for advice, guidance and recommendations when the going gets tough. You’ve definitely build up a good reputation when that happens!
Build your strategic plans with your prospects and they will soon become loyal clients.
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
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Many salespeople have heard the reasoning behind why they should be concentrating on consultative selling, and may have even tried to achieve that end goal.
But many more have wondered how they actually start on the road to consultative selling, so here are some ideas to get the ball rolling and the confidence flowing:
Firstly, don’t talk about price or cost to your prospect; talk about investment. Price is a cost and has a negative value in the mind of the buyer. Customers want to pay as little as possible and still get great value. On the other hand, investment signifies a return on that investment and customers will gladly pay out to receive a larger return in exchange. Get the prospect thinking about how they can invest in your services, and the whole conversation changes.
Secondly, talk about your product/service as monitory value applied to the customer’s business. You can assign values to benefits such as reduced lead times or down time so that the customer knows exactly what value they will get from securing a deal. You can also add the positive side of the equation, too, so the prospect will see how achieving their goals could be measured in monitory terms.
Then, change your focus from standalone sales to a relationship of recurring sales. A customers profit-improvement proposal should not be a one-time event. Instead, you should aim for multiple streams of new business that can be predicted. Once you can prove that your products and services improve profit reliably, over and over again, then you becomea real partner to the customer.
If you follow these steps effectively, there should be a solid movement towards you offering a consultative approach and mind-set to your customer base.
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
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