Manage episode 373052861 series 2952524
Buyers don’t know us at first, so all they have to go on is the brand and our personality. If the brand is a powerful selling point, great, but for many smaller companies that is not something which is going to make the sale for you. A lot of Japanese salespeople rely on the brand. They never learn how to do sales as a professional and instead decide to transform themselves into glorified order-takers. If you ask them to go out and find a new client, they will recoil in fear and horror because they know they cannot do it and actually have no clue where to start. This is why salespeople need sales training and why not doing it is one of the most expensive decisions, a leader will ever make.
A senior business executive I met recently shared that when he was younger, his company’s policy in sales was to only approach buyers who they could be introduced to by a mutual acquaintance. What a tremendous waste. If they had invested in some sales training, they could have been able to target all companies in their area of the industry and make a lot more sales. Naturally, cold calling, approaching people you don’t know are all difficult, but that is the job of the salesperson. That is why you get training. An order taker is simply not a salesperson, in my view.
One of the dangers of trying to sell yourself to the buyer is we do too much talking. We are keen to show our expertise and the benefits of our solution and before you know it, we are doing all the talking. Naturally, when the buyer tells you their problem and you have a solution, you have to give them confidence that they are talking to someone who can help them. Often we are excited about the potential of our solutions to help the buyer and off we go, blah, blah, blah.
That happened to me the other day. I caught myself going blah, blah, blah and realised, “wait a minute buddy, you are doing all the talking here and you need to shut up right now and get them talking more”. It is so easy to have this happen, if we are not keeping a close leash on ourselves.
There is a difficult line to draw here around how much is enough. In the initial section of the sales meeting, there will be some small talk and this is where we can try to convince the buyer that we are the one to become their trusted partner. The trick though, is not to go on and on about ourselves, but to talk about the benefits our other clients have received from the service or product.
Talking about yourself positively without sounding arrogant and boastful is also a difficult line to tread. It is natural for the buyer to want to know if you are a serious person in this area and someone they can trust and rely on as a partner. It would be good if we were given rails to know where not to go, but the conversation is totally fluid so that is not possible. Overall, we say that the ratio should be 80% the client doing the talking and we the seller are at 20%, however that balance may be flipped at the start of the conversation. We may do most of the talking at the very initial exchange. As we get into the questioning phase, they will be doing most of the talking and we are just asking intelligent questions to draw out things, which are obvious to us, but which may not be obvious to them.
We have to be careful here too, otherwise it can sound condescending or manipulative. Talking down to buyers is pretty dumb, but that doesn’t stop salespeople from doing it, especially when the sellers are legitimate experts in an area and the client may be less so.
The questioning skill actually has a manipulative aspect to it, as we draw the buyer to a realisation about their need that we have identified. Of course, it cannot come across like that, so again the line is not clear and we have to traverse that tricky balance. Getting the client to self-discover is the best solution. Sounds straightforward, right? However, it takes a high level of communication ability to help the buyer get there without it coming across as a trap we have set for them. This is where very high-level questions come in.
The ideal reaction is the buyer is saying to themselves, “we haven’t thought of that” or “we haven’t prepared for that”. Either of those reactions are gold and will cement the seller’s place as a trusted advisor for the buyer, pointing out issues and problems, even before they arise.
We plan the sale around the questions we will use and the solution explanation we will employ. Do we do enough planning for the small talk at the start and how we will come across? Are we doing enough role play practice with our colleagues before we set off to see any clients to make sure we have the right balance? I doubt it and we could all do a lot more in this area and that includes me, too.