One of the perennial faults with many sales people (note: Sales, not Business Development) is the tendency to talk incessantly rather than to ask questions and then shut up and listen.
I well recall a young lady who came to us for a sales position and she proudly told us that she would be ideal for the job as she “had the gift of the gab”. She was right. End of interview.
It seems to me that not only do we need to ask pertinent questions and then listen but we also need to be very aware of what might be called buying signals from the buyer. I am using that description although it encompasses any individual sitting across the table in a sales pitch and they can be in any function of their business, not only in the Purchasing role.
Again I remember being taken to a sales call with a senior colleague a lot of years ago and I was there to learn from the master. He started out by showing the buyer our brochure with some lovely photographs of the Managing Director and the factory and eventually got round to discussing the reason for the call.
The buyer listened to the sales pitch which had been delivered without any reference to his possible needs and started to nod from time to time and make interested noises.
This is called a “buying signal” and the great sales people like my old sales mentor, Phil Copp, the Sage of Wythenshawe, would immediately take the hint and start in on the detail and possible ways in which we could help to solve a problem.
Not my senior colleague. He prattled on until the buyer’s eyes started to glaze over as he looked at his watch and shuffled some papers. Even then my colleague didn’t take the hint until we were courteously but firmly shown the door. My colleague appeared satisfied with this result and said that we would meet again in a couple of months time etc etc etc and off we went.
The moral of the story? Not only do we need to ask questions and then listen but we also need to keep a very close eye on how the buyer reacts to information.
In fact I was given a great mnemonic this week to ensure that we do just that. It is:
which stands for
Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action those being the stages through which any buyer would pass during the sales pitch. Please note, that is what would IDEALLY pass.
The initial route is to ask relevant questions to elicit, if at all possible, the level of need on the part of the buyer followed by at least a modicum of information to create the awareness of your product or service, always answering the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) question.
At this stage we need to look out for expressions of interest and ideally expressions of desire (that would do the job, it sounds just right for us, how much?) and so on.
Finally there is the action phase and surprisingly that seems to be the one which gives so many sales people the biggest problems.
Heaven protect us from those sales people who create great relationships and don’t ever close them out. In the end, we have to Ask For The Order (another acronym - AFTO) and there are many ways in which to do that.
The key to the whole discussion of effective selling techniques is to realise that we don’t sell, but people buy from us and they buy from us because they have a problem to solve. They are in the driving seat and it behoves us to use that charming lady, AIDA to encourage the buyer along the path to success (ours, that is).
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