Some time ago, I was interviewing for a trainee sales person and I saw a nice young lady, very presentable, well groomed and articulate. It all seemed encouraging until she suddenly proclaimed that “I would be good at sales, I have the gift of the gab”. Interview over.
My mentor, the Sales Sage of Wythenshawe, Phil Copp, used to say that for most sales people, the opposite of speaking isn’t listening, it’s waiting. And that means that I can’t wait to tell you how wonderful our product is.
How often have we been enjoined to ask questions and then listen carefully so as to discover precisely what it is the customer needs?
So many companies consider that the most important part of sales training is knowledge of the product to the extent that the trainee comes out of the sessions with an intimate knowledge of the materials, the production process, the name of the production manager, the colour of his socks and so on, but very little concept of what the product will DO for the customer.
If a sales person is in front of a buyer it seems to me self evident that the product, per se, is a given. What the customer really needs to know is how it will solve his/her problem. In other words, not what it IS, but what it DOES. We should be selling solutions not products.
How then to change the approach? It’s all a matter of the difference between open questions and closed questions. Open question begin with “Who, why, what, where, when or how” while closed questions start with “do, have, will etc” all of which can be answered either yes or no. Open questions demand an answer.
The key then is to ask the question and then LISTEN! People love to talk about their issues so just wait until the reason that you are there emerges, as it surely will. That is the time to explain what the product (or service) will do for the buyer emphasising the solution to his/her problem.
The moral of the story? The most important criterion for a buyer is peace of mind, the knowledge that the deal is a good one for him/her and for the company and that he/she can sleep soundly at night without worrying about you and your products. Just telling the buyer about the product won’t go anywhere towards solving a problem; it can often exacerbate it.
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