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Sales Strategy
Feb 15, 2010 | Lisa Leitch lock

Are you still trying to talk your way through each one?

If you're like most salespeople, you conduct sales presentations and meetings.   You begin by building rapport with your prospect, and hope to end with selling your stuff. And in between? You wing it.

You pitch as many of your products at your clients as you can, in the hope that something sticks or their eyes begin to glaze over. You're armed with the hottest samples, brochures and an agenda.  You may even print this agenda on letterhead and hand it out, so the client knows that you're organized, professional and really know your stuff.

This is exactly how I used to sell.

The problem is, clients don't want to be pitched to anymore. They have changed the way they buy – and in turn, we need to change the way we sell.  By the time they're ready to talk to you, they've already researched the products on the internet or flipped through the catalogues that are mailed to them. They come to you with a need, a challenge or a purpose in mind – and they're shopping for the best price.  So no matter how carefully planned your presentation is, if it's not in sync with the client's agenda, it's not going to work.

To sell effectively in today's market, you need to stop thinking, telling and selling, and start thinking consultative and purposeful conversations, which will lead to relevant and valuable solutions for your clients, who are looking to increase their business.

The Purposeful Sales Conversation

But, you say, I'm already having sales conversations with my clients. That's great! But if you're having trouble keeping them interested or their only interested in wrapping up the meeting as quickly as possible, chances are your conversations aren't hitting your target. It's time to turn the conversation around and focus on the client. How? With a Purposeful Sales Conversation, one that leads to collaborative problem-solving, and a buyer who wants to buy your solution – not just your promotional products!

A Purposeful Sales Conversation is an interactive dialogue.  Rather than a one-way presentation, this process lets you explore, collaborate and co-create solutions with your client based on their current challenges and goals. Instead of pitching products to your client, you're coaching them towards a solution.  And instead of making feature/benefit statements, you're asking thought provoking questions that get to the heart of your client's situation and goals, so you can lead them towards the products that are relevant to and customized for them. 

The result? Your client stops thinking of you as a salesperson, and starts thinking of you as a valued advisor they can trust. You understand their business, and you're there to help them succeed.  And they're happy to invest their time and their money with you, because you're providing more than just products – you're providing value.  It’s all about presenting a solution that overcomes their current challenge and then taking it the next step by showing them how it will achieve their goals.  For example, client is interested in purchasing t-shirts for an upcoming walk/run fundraiser.  Their goal is to raise $25,000 in pledges.  You offer a solution of three different promotional products for raising higher levels of pledges.  i.e. waterbottle for $100 in pledges, cap & t-shirt for $250 in pledges and a hoodie for $500 in pledges.

This is the way I facilitate my sales conversations with prospects and clients – and it closes more business with a higher sales dollar volume.  When I coach salespeople through this process, they can’t believe that such a simple approach makes such a powerful difference.  They tell me that although they talk less, they feel much more in control of the meeting and can easily navigate the conversation towards the best solution for the client.  They love and enjoy the approach – as one person put it, it puts the fun back in the sales process!

The 7 Step Consultative & Purposeful Selling Approach

This simple step-by-step approach allows the sales conversation to build naturally. Each step creates a stronger business case for your promotional products, without any hard selling, and leads to a more powerful, stress-free close. And even though it is a structured process, it allows for an intuitive, natural conversational flow.

Step 1: Open & Build Rapport

Your goal here is to establish and build trust by connecting with your client. Ask them about their holiday plans, hobbies, anything that can help you break the ice and find common ground.  These days, a powerful question to test the landscape of your client’s business is simply: how’s business?

Step 2: Introduce yourself & your business

This is where most of us launch into a description of all of your products/services and you’ve been in business for over ten years.  Coincidentally, this is also where most clients tune out. They already know who you are, what you do, and what you've got – otherwise, you wouldn't be there in the first place. Your goal here is to build credibility, not by talking about yourself and what you offer, but by demonstrating your selling approach. Let them know that you know they're busy, and that you're here to learn about their business and see if together, you can find a solution that meets their goals.

Step 3: Get commitment to participate

Get permission to get personal with their business. Let them know that you're going to ask them questions about their business so you can better understand their situation and what solution will be most relevant to them.

Step 4: Ask questions – and listen

Here's where most of us miss the mark. We're so concerned about taking up our client's (and our own) precious time that we either don't ask enough questions, or don't dig deep enough. When you ask intelligent and purposeful questions, you quickly jump from salesperson to consultative sales expert in the client's eyes. They understand that you know what you're doing, and you're here to listen to and help them. One of the most important questions is to ask them the goals they would like to achieve with this project or event – it will give you great insight on how you present your products/services as solutions to achieve their goals.  You're providing them with value – and value is worth spending time on.

Step 5: Summarize & prioritize

It only takes about 30 seconds, but it quickly ensures that you and your client are both moving in the same direction. Clients love it when you paraphrase what they've said to you, because it proves to them that you were engaged and listening to them. Use their exact words and language. This step further increases your credibility and value, and gets the client geared up to talk about solutions.

Step 6: Co-create & collaborate solutions

Instead of launching into sell mode, here's your chance to test a few of your products/services before you provide an official presentation or proposal. Instead of suggesting lots of ideas, ask them questions so you can hone in and build a solution together. Toss ideas around. Brainstorm. This engages the client, and allows them to discover what it is they really need – and that you're just the person to provide it. It moves you away from answering objections (especially price objections), and towards discovering possibilities that will help your client grow their business. When you present your solution, link it back to overcoming their challenges and achieving their goals. It provides the rationale for them to seamlessly move forward with you.

Step 7: Get the go-ahead – next step commitment

Secure the next meeting or call with a specific time and date.  Get them looking at their calendar and confirming your next meeting or call, so you avoid the dreaded telephone tag.  If you've followed all of these steps, your client will be eager to oblige!

No, this isn't rocket science – it's the art and science of sales. These are simple, natural steps that allow you to keep the conversation dynamic and fluid, while still maintaining control over the direction.

Steps #3 through #6 in particular will transform your sales approach from transactional selling, to positioning yourself as a confident, strategic Sales Expert. 

These days, winging it just doesn't work, anymore. Follow these steps with your next client conversation, and you'll be amazed at how much easier it is to get to a successful close.

About the Author:

Lisa Leitch began her sales career, buying promotional products and developing incentive programs as a National Advertising Manager.  She then moved to the other side of the desk, selling promotional products to clients like: IBM, Daimler Chrysler, Hershey, Cadbury Beverages and YTV.  Today, as President of Teneo, Lisa helps sales teams accelerate their sales performance with a customized blend of sales resources, training and tools.

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