- Sell yourself first! Then sell the organization… then sell products and services. By building strong customer relationships we can conduct more comprehensive situational analyses (because customers and prospects will tell us more…), which provide us with important insights into what each customer or prospect is trying to accomplish and how we might best help.
- Objectively qualify sales opportunities; this promotes process efficiency and can also result in greater levels of mutual respect between seller and buyer.
- Conduct comprehensive need analyses; the most effective sales people seek to optimize each situation in a fashion that delivers maximum benefits to their customers; this means our assessment must go beyond the business-at-hand, and must go beyond what customers “think they need.” We must understand needs as well as implications, and seek multiple opportunities to deliver value.
- Incorporate trial closing questions into selling conversations – frequently! As summarized in a recent article, trial closing questions seek opinions rather than decisions. They enable sales people to not confirm a mutual understanding of priorities, but also (and more importantly) to confirm buyers’ receptivity. When we receive positive responses to these questions it also builds confidence so we can more comfortably seek commitments.
- Focus on customer benefits. It’s not about what we do or what we offer… it’s about what they get! To maximize relationships as well as opportunities, we must understand and focus on what’s best for the customer; on the “benefits” that each customer will receive as a result of the sale. However, be warned, distinguishing between “features” and “benefits” is not as easy as one might think!
Our previous post referenced a well-known quote in which Arthur “Red” Motley defined the selling process in fifteen words: “Know your customer, know your product, call a lot of people, ask all to buy.”
That post focused on the quote’s opening three words, “know your customer.” Today’s focus is on the ending… “Ask all to buy.”
Clearly this part of the definition is all about closing the sale; but there is more to it than just asking for the order. If we consider the various steps in today’s consultative selling models and extended business development processes, the “close” might be better described as a “call to action.”
Further, if one is to maximize effectiveness, then every prospecting call, selling appointment or business development interaction should include a call to action.
Since many of these conversations with customers and prospects are not “transactional” — i.e., they do not involve the execution of an order — the “call to action” frequently does not take the form of asking for an order but rather asking for a next step; some type of action step that keeps the overall process moving forward.
These next steps might include a follow-up meeting, an exchange of additional information, a time to present a proposal, a subsequent appointment or conference call involving higher-level managers, or a follow-up telephone call. Of course there will hopefully be instances when the next step will involve the completion of an order but, as a general rule, we typically suggest a next step based on the relative success of the interaction; in other words, we ask for whatever it is we believe we have earned the right to request during the sales call.
Fore-armed for Success!
To enhance the quality and execution of sales or business development calls, it’s best to anticipate the possible calls-to-action or next steps that we might request during upcoming calls, as pre-call planning is a best practice shared by the most successful sales professionals!
In addition, the ideal call to action will include a commitment of some kind or an agreement-to-act made by the buyer. For example, there is a big difference between ending a sales call by saying, “I will call you next Tuesday” versus “Can we schedule a follow-up cal for next Tuesday at 2 o’clock?” If the buyer agrees and schedules the follow-up call, then he or she has agreed to take action.
Read the full article… for a few guidelines you might consider when crafting your list of possible outcomes and when proposing them to your customers and prospects…
And also for a “top 10” list of the most common things a buyer is likely to think if we FAIL to ask for a next step or commitment! (HINT – none of them are good…)
Defined simply by Merriam Webster as failure to communicate clearly, the causes of miscommunication can vary:
- lack of forethought or preparation
- poor verbal skills
- intentional deceit on the part of the sender
- lack of comprehension
- poor listening skills
- distraction on the part of the receiver, and more…
In an on-line article, author and conflict resolution expert Tristan Loo suggests that miscommunication is also the primary contributing factor to conflict.
“Miscommunication opens up the triangle of other factors that inevitably leads to conflict,” he says.
Loo goes on to explain that people tend to fear the worst outcome.
In moments of miscommunication, the mind will fill in missing information with its own creative insight, which is often fear-based. Our minds naturally seek logical explanations to events as well. Absent those explanations, our minds frequently switch to a fear-based mode in which we satisfy our need for answers with that of assumption.
Once we lock-into our assumptions the tendency is to believe them as truth, thus resulting in conflict.
The Solution – Trial Closing
In the selling world, a great deal is lost to miscommunication, conflict, and misunderstanding. Buyers tend to buy from people they like and trust – but miscommunication, as noted above, breeds uncertainty, conflict and distrust.
To bridge the gap, Loo suggests people adopt an open mind with respect to alternative possibilities. To facilitate this, increased use of clarifying questions by all parties during need assessments, business meetings, conversations and presentations is the key.
Since it is an accepted principle that the primary sender of communication must take the responsibility for the quality of the communication, then the person who is selling should be the one to initiate these clarifying or “trial closing” questions which, when properly used, will confirm both understanding and receptivity.
Note that trial closing questions (which seek opinions) are not the same as “closing” questions (which seek commitment). Trial closing questions tend to be open-ended as well, where closing questions tend to be closed-ended (i.e., seeking a “Yes” (or “No”) answer.
Examples of trial closing questions include:
- “How does that sound to your?”
- “What do you think so far?”
- “How would that work for your group?”
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