Selling for non-salespeople

In businesses that don’t have a sales team, the responsibility for sales activity will fall on somebody else’s shoulders. Could be the CEO of a small business without a sales team, a one-person band, or perhaps somebody that has been unwillingly ‘lumped’ with the responsibility for driving new business.

Your customers and prospects, of course, don’t care whether it’s your responsibility or not. So here a re few tips for people who are unskilled at sales activity or are perhaps unwilling salespeople.

The first place to start is with you! Your success (or otherwise) at sales will depend upon your own attitude to it. If you are a reluctant salesperson it will show in your attitude, or at the very least in your body language. We often suggest that salespeople look in the mirror and ask themselves “Would I buy from me?”

Further, we talk a lot about the desire to sell and the Hunger, Urgency and Motivation – Sales HUM – that we display. Here’s a link to a blog that discusses it in more detail.

Having sorted yourself out, it’s time to think about the most important people – your customers and prospects!

Research tells us that 80% of salespeople don’t sell properly, preferring to push product rather than take the time to explore needs, or assuming they’ve heard it all before. (They haven’t of course, no matter how often they might have heard it!)

So here’s a starter for 10 on how to sell:

  • It’s never about you, it’s always about them! There is nothing more important than fully, fully understanding the needs of your customers.

You should paint a painting of your customer and their needs, by asking well thought out and intelligent questions. Erase everything else from your mind and focus completely on them. Keep asking them questions until you fully understand their business. If you were an artist you wouldn’t try to sell a painting that was half-finished would you?

Likewise in sales we believe we leave a lot on the table by not asking the right questions.

I can hear people saying:  “Won’t your customer or prospect get annoyed with you asking all these questions?” Actually we’ve found the opposite – When you get people talking they’re only too happy to talk about themselves and their business.

  • Having got them talking, listen intently to their answers. This is more than just sitting there listening. Sales should be conversational; you want your customer to start talking and you want them to keep talking.

When your customer is talking you should be giving constant affirmatives, nodding aha’s and the like. If they say something that is positive react to it enthusiastically, or even ask a question like “Wow tell me more about how you did that?”

Hang on I can hear you say, what if the customer goes rambling on about something that isn’t relevant? My answer to that is that you control the discussion by the questions you ask. It’s easy to jump in with a question like “That’s really interesting, how does it relate to your day-to-day business?”

  • In the first meeting you want your customer to do the majority, possibly as much as 80%, of the talking. When they’re talking you’re learning about them and their business, and most importantly you’re showing you’re interested in them, and you want to build a relationship with them.
  • We believe the failure to focus on the customer is the main reason that salespeople struggle to close sales.

As salespeople we know we have to ask questions, but we’ve found that many salespeople will ask a couple of questions, get a sniff of a product sale, and go into a detailed ‘product dump’ on the customer, something that they’re probably not the least bit interested in.

  • It’s also the reason that price becomes an issue. By not fully understanding the needs of the customer, salespeople are unable to link the benefits of their solution to the customers’ needs, and they become simply another product-pushing salesperson.

By fully understanding their needs you can clearly detail how you will add value to their business by selling the benefits of your solution. This is value for money. People want to feel they’ve got a good deal and you can do this by showing how you add real value.

  • Never interrupt your customer. The next thing they say might be vital information. If they say something you don’t understand, use jargon or acronyms, ask them to clarify. As we say, the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.
  • When your customer is talking, take good notes. This is harder than you think, and we believe it’s a real skill.

You can take lengthy, detailed notes, but if you do your customer will be staring at the top of your head. Remember that you want to build  a relationship with them and to do this you must make good eye contact.

Try to organise your notes so that you can continue to make good eye contact. The challenge is of course you want your notes to be legible so you can understand them afterwards. I tend to spilt my notebook into 2 columns, on the left I record important details about the business, on the right I record potential needs which makes it easier when I come to summarise.

  • Speaking of summaries, when you think you’ve finished exploring their needs, summarise what they’ve told you. If you repeat their language back to them it’s even better, it shows you’ve been listening. You could close this off by asking “Have I go that right?” or “Have I missed anything?”

Remember it should be always about them, never about you. Most salespeople will say they do this, but research suggests that 80% don’t, and they leave their customer feeling like they’ve been sold to.

The best way to sell…is to sell as if you’ve got nothing to sell! Start with a blank notebook and ask great questions.

You want to make these discussions conversational, like you’re in the pub with a friend on a Friday night and chatting over a glass of wine or a beer. Trusting, long-term relationships start this way.

Next time we’ll discuss presenting your solutions and closing the sale. Watch out for it!

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Brendan Walsh