The adage, ‘nothing happens till someone sells something’ is just as relevant today as it ever was. Inevitably, there will be times when you’ll have to encourage or persuade a customer to believe in you and your views and accept or buy-in to your ideas. Given the plethora of material available telling you the best ways to sell, you could be left feeling confused about the best approach to adopt and your confidence level may be affected accordingly. So here are some simple rules that will help you to improve your selling skills when your next faced with this challenge.
1. Think tabula rasa.
The 17th century philosopher John Locke believed that man is born with a clean slate – a tabula rasa – so what man comes to think is imposed on him by others. Embrace Locke’s philosophy by assuming that customers have limited or no knowledge of the idea or product you’re bringing to their attention.
2. Know what you want—exactly.
Be clear about the message you’re communicating and the outcome you desire. You can’t present a vague fuzzy shadow of an idea and then grow angry when customers fail to respond in the manner you had hoped for. Pretest your message for clarity: write your pitch down. If you can’t, the idea isn’t a fully developed one. The very act of finding the appropriate words with which to express an idea compels you to think it through thoroughly.
3. Consider customer’s needs.
Ensure that what you’re offering helps to satisfy your customers’ needs, they can afford to pay for it, and you have a too-good-to-refuse offer.
4. Double-check everything.
Make sure that you have all the facts and figures readily available. Your product knowledge will contribute to the level of confidence you transmit. And if it’s an idea, you’ll need to demonstrate your passion and commitment to what you’re proposing. If you’re not ‘sold’ on what you’re selling, it will be like trying to push a rope up hill to achieve customer ‘buy-in’ to what is being offered.
5. Prepare a simple and effective presentation.
Your presentation should take two forms: written and oral. Writing adds weight to an idea by indicating that the ideas are less likely to be half-baked or lacking in commitment. Keep your written proposal to a graphic, simply expressed, concise page or two. Your oral presentation should simply convey the main points of your proposal and its benefits and costs. Avoid being drawn into too much detail. You cannot be accused of hiding or concealing something if you also bring out the disadvantages—before shooting them down yourself. Be convincing and enthusiastic in your summing-up.
The effectiveness of your presentation will also depend largely on how well you have prepared for it, having your facts and figures straight, deciding what you are going to say in what order, and how you are going to say it. It’s wise to rehearse your presentation.
6. Talk to the decision-maker.
The decision-maker is the person who can make a decision—preferably in your favor. Protracted decisions cost you plenty. You’re far better to receive ‘No’ from a decision-maker than to wait for your proposal to be communicated by a third-party to a decision-maker—and then be told, ‘No’.
7. Make your idea their idea.
By skillfully making suggestions, you can often get people to adopt, and commit themselves to, your ideas as if they were their own. It’s amazing how much you can achieve if you don’t mind who gets the credit! As well, it’s important for you to sow the seeds of ownership by getting others, if possible, to contribute in some way to the idea.
8. Highlight the benefits.
The key to persuasion is to see your proposition from other people’s points of view. Their questions (to themselves, usually) will be: ‘How does this affect me?’ and ‘What do I stand to gain or lose?’ So make sure you can clearly demonstrate the specific benefits to be gained by the customer if he or she decides to buy your product or adopt your idea. Keep these benefits foremost in your mind during your presentations and subsequent discussions.
9. Be prepared for the objections.
People are always suspicious of new ideas; most prefer the status quo. Anticipate their objections before-hand by consciously and diligently examining your idea for flaws. List potential objections and prepare yourself to tackle them with data, not emotion. Of course, the surest way to squash an objection is to incorporate both the objection and its solution into your presentation – and by reiterating the benefits for them.
10. Get some kind of ‘yes’ early on.
Good salespeople know that it always pays to start their sales pitch on a point—however minor, even irrelevant—with which your prospective buyer can agree. In other words, find some common ground quickly to start off with agreement of some kind.
11. Check timing and sequence.
Make sure your timing is appropriate, thus giving your idea a greater chance of being accepted.
12. Decide how and when to close.
Views differ on whether or not to so-call ‘close’. If, however, close is about asking the customer for his or her order, then there is agreement that, for the sale to be effective, the customer must commit to buy what is being proposed. Paying particular attention to the close technique is vital to the success of the sale. You need to have a variety of close techniques form which to choose (some of the main close techniques are mentioned in the accompanying document).
13. Check your fallback position.
If your proposal is not entirely acceptable to your audience, make sure you have a fallback position with which you’re comfortable, so that, if your first idea is defeated, you can take make a counter-offer. Don’t let your planning inhibit flexibility.