Tag: Sales

4 steps into a relationship

4 steps into a relationship

Follow four steps to obtain commitment. (photo courtesy of stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net)

“I tried to sell myself to you, but I couldn’t close the deal.” -Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail (1988)

Articles in women’s magazines, conversations between best friends and discussions in internet forums are filled with questions about how to find an ideal companion. Dating services are flourishing over the internet. Tips&tricks are served in blogs, books and courses. Dating industry is flourishing to help people to find love and warmth next to them.

To understand better your way into a relationship we can simply have a look at the different stages of the sales process. Come again? Why would slimy sales have anything to do with romantic and exciting occasion as dating and meeting new people?

Acknowledging stages of sales process, derived from a nearly 30 years old book of Neil Rackham, is crucial. In business it’s easy to diminish trust and deteriorate the relationship by rushed actions. I have seen many unsuccessful sales calls where the pivotal mistake has been a rushed jump over a step or even two.It’s easy to fall into that same trap when pursuing to get a girl for a coffee.

The skills involved with sales are essential in every aspect of organizational and customer relationships. The skills are about persuasion, interaction and understanding the counter part through listening. The most important coming as last. Even if you weren’t working in sales you need sales skills to move others.

It does not matter whether you are selling internally or externally the key to success is effective questioning. Unfortunately theories and concepts behind these skills are rarely taught in business schools, where learning often revolves around fashionable buzzwords.

So how do you successfully establish a relationship? What are the steps into a date or an order?

1st step: Preliminary questions

To be able to understand the sales better we need to know how a traditional sales process is constructed and how does it advance. First, to bond with the customer typical sales call starts with preliminary questions. You can imagine those as classic “Do you come here often?” questions. The purpose of the preliminary questions is to bond with the buyer, preferably touching some personal interest or topic.

Dealing with professionals does not require that much preliminaries. I mean professional buyers and purchase managers. They are often busy handling dozens of supplier accounts and aiming to hold stock levels low and its turnover high. With professional buyer business relationship is more often commercial than social.

2nd step: Investigating stage

After preliminaries sales call proceeds to investigating stage where the seller’s purpose is to drill into customer’s needs and expectations. By a correct order and pattern of questions – investigation – a subtle salesman develops needs of the customer further. By questions sales person identifies customer’s pain points, challenges and hindrances.

Today, it’s essential that sales person is capable of identifying the root causes of the customer problems. If the customer is very well aware of the problem and economical and practical solution to it, he would have already bought it from someone! By clever questions sales person lets the customer to express explicitly his or hers challenges. By doing this customer will be later more prone to accept the solutions provided.

3rd step: Demonstrating capability

Then the sales process can advance to demonstrating capability. It means showing how your product or service solves customer’s problems or meets his or hers needs. The greatest challenge is to convince customer to accept the solution and move forward by obtaining commitment.

In the best case scenario that means an order or either advance to a next step of the negotiations. In the worst case scenario you get rejected and that’s what the best salespeople are hardened to last.

4th step: Obtaining commitment

Typically sales call ends at obtaining commitment in a way or another. In simple and small sized sales situations purchase decision can be considered as a successful outcome for the seller. In complicated and large sized sales situations advancements are also a way towards a payoff.

Best performing sales people don’t visit a customer to gather background information or to make an introduction. They set goals and move the sales forward by committing the prospective buyer into action after covering the main concerns of the buyer.

What else is needed?

After goal-orientation second, perhaps even more important, attribute of best performing sales people is the amount and quality of questions they make. This is about being attuned and showing interest into customer’s business.

Based on one of the most extensive research on sales Neil Rackham (SPIN selling, 1988) states that especially in complicated and large sized sales it is crucial to equip the buyer with correct reasoning that will be communicated to the other influencers in the buyer’s organization. Questions will help the customer to express why the seller’s product or service is right for the customer’s organization.

This can be very well understood by looking at relationships and entering one. Often, you get introduced by a friend to a prospective spouse candidate. Would you think that he or she does not know anything about you? Chances are that the person has already heard about you and your background. You can only wish that your reputation has preceded you positively.

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New ABC for sales and dating

New sales ABC

Customer behavior has changed since the internet and has lead to transformation of sales work. So has landscape of dating changed too. (Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / freedigitalphotos.net)

 

“You can lose a lot of money when chasing women but you never lose women when chasing money.” -I think I love my wife, movie (2007)

Do you consider yourself working in sales? Not that long time ago I used to. Even if I worked as a manager of sales people I was closely involved with the day-to-day activities.

Outside workplace I used to answer question of “What do you do?” by saying “I sell {replace what your company produces}”. Often the face of the questioner was fairly confused as most of them knew my educational background. They probably thought I should have achieved more than being a regular sales guy.

Looking at their faces was part of the fun. Knowing that sales work and salespeople are not that well perceived. When you graduate from the business school, marketing, investing and consulting are often the most desired fields  of employment. Still, large amount of graduates end up to sales despite of the title that is printed on your business card. That’s most likely because sales is everywhere.

Sales is actually everywhere

Daniel H. Pink elaborates into the importance of sales skills in his book called To sell is human. In the United States alone one out of nine people in the workforce are directly involved in sales. The same goes for Europe and basically for all the countries where agriculture is not a dominant way of making a living.

Beside actual sales more and more people in various occupations influence and persuade other people to do things. Self-employed entrepreneurs, teachers, consultants, craftsmen and many others are required to do sales work for a large proportion of their daily activities.

Internet has enabled buyers to have much more information about the purchase they are making (see David Meerman Scott for a great presentation). Recently I have often heard b2b salespeople admitting that customers usually know about novelties and new products before they do.

In the era of nearly unlimited information Pink goes and questions the legendary Always be closing mantra. He reformulates ABC as attunement, buoyancy and clarity. As I’m not a native speaker I had to go for Merriam Webster to check the meaning of these words. Nevertheless they do make sense. How?

Always be attuned

In the terms of relationships and sales attunement is the first step. Simply said it’s about looking at the situation from the perspective of the other party. To perform well in the attunement part there are several tips and tricks available.

Position of power often determines how and to what extent will you take into account emotions and motives of the other party. Therefore it’s recommended to consciously think that you are in a weaker position than the counterpart.

Other trick is to chameleon, as Pink calls it, the other person you are pursuing to bond with. That’s what you do on a first date. You seek for resemblances and imitate to create common interests and topics. And that’s what you can do also in a sales situation or connecting with new colleagues.

Pink declares also that sales skills can be learned. Actually, he points out that extraverts aren’t the best sales people on earth when measured by sales performance and volume. The people situated in between extraverts and introverts by their social behavior, ambiverts, have in fact the best results in sales.

If you think about it that’s very natural. To be able to close a deal, sell something or get a phone number of a representative of opposite sex, one needs to balance the amount of listening (introversion) and amount of outgoingness (extraversion). If you talk all the way through, you might appear to be just a jerk.

Don’t be always closing

The A was attunement. The B in the new ABC of sales is about your attitude and mental preparation for sales situations. Often salespeople are characterized of bumping up self confidence by motivational self talk.

Instead, Pink suggests a new approach. When you desire a little bit of nice time between the bed sheets, don’t encourage yourself only by telling yourself “Now I’ll take him or her”. Rather use method of interrogative self talk. “Can I take him or her?” This kind of questions makes you to think what is required to accomplish the goal and therefore more mentally prepared for the pivotal points in the sales situation.

As Neil Rackham did couple of decades earlier in Spin Selling also Daniel Pink denies importance of closing in sales. In his book, synthesizing from many recent studies, Pink replaces closing with clarity. When reaching for a deal one needs to be able to make clever questions to identify the problem and make it clear.

Earlier, before the time of internet and vast source of information, salesmen were required to answer questions and solve problems. Today, thanks to internet, solutions are often closer than the diagnosis. The same goes for women. They don’t expect you to solve their problems. With questions you show empathy and interest and that’s enough.

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