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Topics Covered: <a href='/resources/search/?query=Sales personnel'>Sales personnel</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=Needs assessment'>Needs assessment</a>
Sales Strategy
Nov 5, 2010 | Stephen Schiffman lock

People talk a lot about closing in sales. Our real objective, though, should not be to "close" a sale based on what we imagine the other person needs, but to get people to use our service (forever!) because doing so makes sense to them. After all, people don’t buy because of what they think they "need"-they buy because it makes sense for them to do so, based on what they’re trying to accomplish. If they needed our product or service so badly, they would have gone out and gotten it!

So-how do we come up with a plan that makes sense? Many sales reps simply guess. They cover their eyes and hope they will come up with something that matched what the prospect is actually doing. Sometimes what they propose matches. Most of the time it doesn’t.

Can someone eventually sell something that way? Sure. In fact, our experience is that you will sell one third of all the prospects you meet with-no matter what you do-simply because you go out and see enough people. By the same token, one-third of the customers who could come your way will decide not to work with you, no matter what you do. You lose these accounts simply because the competition is there ahead of you or because of other problems you can’t overcome.

When we step back and look at those two potential segments of our customer base, we suddenly realize that one third is still up for grabs. That’s the third we have to concentrate on. That’s the third where our actions can affect the outcome.

The aim is to develop a plan that will make sense to the other person, because we want to win as many of those "top third" sales as we possibly can. But we can’t build that plan unless we understand what they’re trying to do! To do that, we have to get information about the prospect by posing queries like the following eleven questions: 

  • What’s your goal this year?
  • What’s your company’s mission?
  • What are you trying to make happen this quarter?
  • Who are your customers and how do you keep them happy?
  • What’s your plan to hit your (monthly/quarterly/yearly) target?
  • What’s your busiest time of year?
  • What’s your deadline on this project?
  • How did you end up working with ABC Company?
  • Why did you decide to do....?
  • What are the most important factors to you in evaluating issue A, B, or C?
  • Who are your key suppliers/vendors?

There are four steps to the selling process: Opening (or qualifying); Information Gathering (or interviewing); Presentation (where we share the plan based on what we’ve learned makes sense to the other person); and Closing (where the other person agrees to use our product or service). The second step-the interview step-is the make-or-break part of the relationship. That’s where we gather information that allows us to put together the right plan. Everything else in the relationship hinges on the questions we ask at that point.

The bottom line: Don’t imagine you know what the other person "needs." Instead, focus your attention gathering facts so you can build a plan that makes sense based on what he or she is doing.

About the Author:

Stephan Schiffman is a Success Strategist and author of eleven best-selling books including "Make it Your Business" and "The Forgotten Art of Making Something Happen." Mr. Schiffman, entrepreneur and self-made millionaire, has appeared as a consultant and guest on CNBC Minding Your Business, How to Succeed in Business, Doing Business on the Information Superhighway, Smart Money, TCI Arlington Business Today, and SRN Today’s Business Journal. His articles and formulas for success have appeared in many publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and INC. Magazine. Stephen can

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