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Sales Strategy
Jan 4, 2009 | Nathan Jamail lock

"Everybody likes to buy things but no one likes to be sold" is not a new expression, but what does it really mean? Does it mean that people don't likes sales professionals or that they don't want a sales professional selling them something they cannot afford or do not want? People want to feel like they are making their own decisions, yet at the same time, people like having an expert who will help them make an educated decision rather than sell them.

So, how do you do that? The answer is not to use your grandfather's selling skills of persuasion, which uses tricky steps and questions that can make customers feel like they are being trapped. At the same time, it is not a passive "information dump" that gives a customer a lot of information but removes control from the sales professional. The key is using "influential selling skills," a well-planned strategy that allows sales professionals to truly understand the customer by creating likeability, trust and influence.

It should have the feel of a comfortable and casual conversation. This is a very simple concept in theory, but make no mistake, it's not that easy to pull off! There are three things that every sales professional must know and do to keep customers from feeling like they are being sold:

1. Ask questions to understand a customer versus sell a customer

 If a sales professional has attended any selling skills training, he or she knows to ask open-ended questions, however that's just the beginning. The reason most people feel like they are being sold has little to do with the words in a sales professionals' response, rather it is the intent of the question itself. Most sales professionals are asking questions to sell the customer something rather than to understand them - or worse, just to ask questions.

One example is when a sales professional asks, "Would it be beneficial to increase your profits or improve your ROI?" That question can be insulting to a prospective customer or makes the customer think, "Oh no, here comes the sales pitch." A sales professional may also just tell the customer about the product or service before ever understanding anything about the customer or his or her current situation, which is another red flag. This tells the customer the sales professional is selling not understanding. Just remember the old phrase, "No one cares about how much you know until they know how much you care."

Just like a book or story, there is a beginning, middle and an end to the question and understand process. This does not mean a sales professional should ask a prospect a hundred questions because that would just be annoying; it does mean that questions must be purposeful and in the correct order.

The first few questions should be about the prospect's company, who they are, what they do, how are they different than their competition. The next few questions should be about their current relationship with the person or company that provides them with the product or service you are selling.

Questions like, "Tell me what you like (or dislike) about your current provider?" "Who do you currently use?" "How long have you been with them?"

The last set of questions should be about their actual usage of the product or service. Use questions like, "Tell me how you use your current service?"

and "What does the perfect product look like?" In understanding the customer there are not any trick questions, but there should be questions based on known industry weaknesses or a company's strengths.

2. It not just what you say or how you say it, but when you say it

This is where most sales professionals lose it. Even when a sales professional knows what to do, many times he or she just can't stop it. A sales professional will ask the prospect a question and the prospect gives just the answer the sales professional was hoping for. So, the sales professional immediately explains how their company does it better, then another question is asked, and once again the sales professional offers another great solution immediately. The problem is the prospect starts to see a pattern and thinks, "Oh, I get it; every one of my answers is another reason to buy this product," When this happens, the prospect will start to put up a wall because he doesn't want to be sold. So, fight the urge to offer solutions or say anything about your company until you are completely done asking them all three sets of questions. By not giving a solution after every response, the prospect will feel more comfortable and relaxed, and will feel as if the sales professional is really trying to understand him or her. A prospect (or customer) will tell a sales professional everything they need to know if asked.

3. Selling is a skill

Make no mistake; selling is a skill and just like any skill to get better is to practice. Selling is one of the most difficult skills of any profession because you must deal with non-tangibles such as egos, attitudes, personalities, emotions, and situations you have no control over. The greatest mistake most experienced sales professionals make is thinking that just because they have been doing it for a number of years that they know it

all and have no need to practice. A sales professional is never too good

or can never have enough experience that they don't need to practice. If a professional athlete ever said he or she was not going to practice anymore because he or she has been playing the game for more than 10 years, we would think he or she was crazy or just lazy. Just like there are advances in medicine or techniques in sports, there are advances in selling skills.

4. Bonus Tip: Be proud

Being a sales professional should be something a person is proud of and should not try to disguise it with names like "consultant" or "problem solver." A consultant gets paid for their advice regardless if the customer makes a purchase, and a problem solver gets paid for solving problems regardless of whether a prospect buys anything. A sales professional may consult with a prospective customer and solve their problems, but they get paid when the prospect buys their service or product. In fact being a great sales professional is an honorable job that truly helps people. Just like a doctor is critical to a person's health, a sales person must establish a relationship built on trust and influence, and is responsible for helping people make the right decisions. My name is Nathan Jamail and I am a sales professional. Are you a sales professional?

About the Author:

Nathan Jamail, president of the Jamail Development Group and author of "The Sales Leaders Playbook," is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and corporate coach. As a former Executive Director for Sprint, and business owner of several small businesses, Nathan travels the country helping individuals and organizations achieve maximum success.

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