It is easy in the current recessionary environment to let your sales game slip. Blaming the slower economy for decreased results can be fostered deep within you, at a subconscious level, yet have very negative real-world ramifications. Here are early warning signs that members of your team may be heading down this slippery slope. You detect less urgency in the level of sales activity. Closing ratios decline, yet there is no evidence that qualified leads are willing to sit through presentations knowing they will say “no” with any increased frequency. Such signals can be harmful if not fatal to a business during recessionary times such as these.
You need to challenge yourself and your team to aim higher or, to use a sports analogy, to become sales all-stars. To get there, you need to know the rules of the game; some call them secrets, but they’re not really secret. They’re readily available to those that seek them out. Some of the more important rules of the game are listed below.
Rule No. 1:
Acknowledge that your prospect called you because he or she has a want or need for your product or service. In most instances, there are many companies that can provide that product or service, so why should he choose you and your company? If your answer is “low price,” we have some work to do. The correct answer is a bit more involved than that.
"Acknowledge that your prospect called you because he or she has a want or a need for your product or service.”
Rule No. 2:
Understand your product intimately. Know everything about it, especially how it’s similar to and different than your competitors’ offering.
Rule No. 3:
Know your company story and how to present its history. The customer needs to feel comfortable that you’ll be around to service the product you sell and to keep the promises that you make.
Rule No. 4:
Know the common questions your prospect is likely to ask. Be prepared to answer them completely and specifically.
These are the basics that will help your team be prepared mentally for an appointment. But the “game” is really just getting started. There are four requirements to a successful sales visit. Three of these comprise the presentation, or better still, the education portion, and the last is the validation stage.
- Your prospects need to be satisfied with the company supplying that product or service. Is your firm reputable? Will it be around long enough to honor its warranties?
- The prospect must be comfortable with the product or service. In other words, do you have what he or she needs?
- The sales person must engender a feeling of trust and integrity. Will that salesperson be as interested in him or her and his or her needs after the contract is signed and the check is written? Often trust comes down to the interpersonal skills of each salesperson: eye-contact, style, politeness, etc.
Validation comes after you’ve cleared those three “presentation” hurdles. After you have educated your prospects, they and you are ready to move on to the validation stage. You’ll know that your prospects are ready when he or she asks the number one customer buying question: How much?
But you’re not ready to discuss price until you’ve validated that your prospect is sold on your company, your product, and you in that order. When you’re sure that this is the case, be prepared to validate that your price is appropriate for the quality of your product. In other words, make it immediately clear to him that it’s a good deal. Remember, they’re not afraid to make a decision; they’re just afraid that they might make the wrong decision. You must alleviate their fear by showing them, not telling them, just how great your offer is. In other words, validate your price. The more you do this, the more you will successfully close sales.
"Remember, they’re not afraid to make a decision; they’re just afraid it might be the wrong decision."
Validating Your Price
The most effective way to validate your price is to use third-party references that illustrate the value received for the investment expended. You can do this in a variety of ways: using energy saving ROIs, ease of maintenance, previous customer referrals, etc. These can help your prospects convince themselves about the “greatness” of the deal.
The validation phase, in a nutshell, is this: You state your price and assume the close. He or she gives you one of the standard answers that he or she learned at “customer school.”
- I need to get other prices.
- It doesn’t fit into our budget right now.
- The price is too high.
- Etc., etc.
Notwithstanding everything you might have been taught, none of these standard answers have anything to do with price. When your prospect wants what you’ve got, price is relevant only for validation. In other words: Is this a good deal? He or she is not afraid to make a decision, they’re just afraid that they might make the wrong decision. Show them, don’t tell them, that this is a great deal, and you will close more sales. In other words, validate your price.
Tips from the All-Stars
Kim Hanke owner of Hanke Brothers in Arkansas said that he didn’t really know any sales “secrets.” He not only owns the largest home improvement company in Arkansas, he still goes on sales calls regularly with his sales-people and added that he relies on these approaches in every situation:
- Empathy. Kim says he genuinely cares more about the client than the commission he might earn, and they feel it.
- Education. He says that he is a student of the art of selling and that he learns something new every day as a result of that.
- Practice, Drill and Rehearse. This practicing and rehearsing involves role-playing sales approaches from sales trainers and books and tapes on the subject and that not only improves your comfort level and proficiency but he also notes “imitation spurs creativity.”
- A rigid system. Finally he says that he never forgets that to learn something new he must be willing to adhere to the “rigid system that comes with it.”
"Adopting new ideas can be overwhelming, but just one of these ‘secrets’ is all you need to get started."
Mike Damora, sales manager for Roeland Home Improvers in New Jersey, has his own approach. He stated that there are four not-so secret “secrets.”
- Discipline: Do every day those things that are necessary to do, even if it’s difficult.
- Good Habits: He says that he firmly believes in the old saying “make good habits and good habits will make you.”
- A “Gotta Wanta” (short for “Got to, Want to”) Attitude. You have to really want to succeed and the desire to help your prospect become your customer.
- Belief: Start the day with motivational educational messages that empower you.
Adopting these new ideas and methods can be overwhelming, but just one of these “secrets” is all you really need to get started. They typically build upon themselves. And when you’ve mastered one, you can move to another and then another until they’re a part of you.