Most sales people rely on methods that they have improvised or lifted from various books or training programs. If those methods no longer meet with success, it’s time to update selling skills. Recent sales research is clear: buyers buy differently now, and old-time sales approaches won’t cut it. Here are some questions to ask your sales team to determine if their approach is out-of-date.
Do you focus on persuading prospects to buy? They shouldn’t be. Buyers feel your push to persuade and move away from you! Replace techniques of persuasion with real curiosity about what the buyer is doing now. Whose products or services are they using? Offer the buyer a powerful, provocative and short message to get the potential customer curious about what you offer.
Are you making arguments for doing business with your company? Change this behavior. Instead, begin with a sincere desire to see your buyer get what he or she wants, whether or not it involves working with your company. Then focus on what makes this buyer’s situation challenging – talk and inquire about their situation so you understand it fully, before showing how your service can lessen or remove their challenging situation.
Do you assume that if a buyer needs what your company has to offer, they’ll email or telephone you? This is a costly assumption to make. Instead assume the buyer doesn’t remember your product or service; be proactive and get in touch with them. Remind them what you have and ask for a quick meeting. Most buyers are overwhelmed with information and potential suppliers. Time spent face-to-face or phone-to-phone with buyers correlates directly with closed business; there is no data on time spent in email communication correlating with sales success.
Do you get so busy that follow-up is haphazard? Not having a systematic and methodical follow-up process is a sure-fire way to lose sales. Develop a follow-up protocol and stick to it. As a rule of thumb, follow up with every new contact in no more than four business days, and follow up a second time within no more than 30 days of the first contact. Follow up sooner if there’s an immediate need for, or interest in, what you have to sell. Even without such interest, unless they’ve disqualified themselves as a prospect, stay in touch three times during the month in which you first meet or contact them.
Are you talking more than you’re listening? Talking too much is a real sales killer. Today’s standard is “The 90-10-90 Rule.” Let the prospect speak 90% of the time. Of the 10% of the time that you, the seller, are speaking, spend 90% of that time asking questions. Most sellers do exactly the opposite, barely allowing prospects to get a word in edgewise.. The exception to the rule is that sellers may talk as long as they need to if they are answering prospects’ questions. But if prospects aren’t asking, the seller should be inquiring.
Updating sales skills requires many sales people to make difficult changes in their routines. Sales training professionals can help ease the transition. If you decide to use one, get references. Speak with the leaders with whom they have worked; ask them what measurable improvements in sales results they saw following their sales training program.
Lenann Gardner is a Vistage speaker and the author of Got Sales? The Complete Guide to Today’s Proven Methods for Selling Services, which was nominated for the Axiom Business Book Award as the best sales book. A Harvard MBA and an expert in state-of-the-art selling.