I’ve just bought a new car – a big purchase in most people’s eyes, and one which reminded me that buyer’s remorse – that awful feeling that you have just made a bad choice – can be a real issue in many markets. It wasn’t a rash decision by any means; my existing car was starting to show signs of trouble and I wanted to avoid it breaking down, and leaving me stranded, at all costs. I did all the right things to make a good choice – decided what I needed, researched the market and checked out prices. I even had a pretty good sales experience as these things go. But still I had a minor ‘wobble’ when I agreed to the purchase.
If you are involved in selling high value, low-frequency items here are a few things you can do to help your buyers feel good about their purchases:
- Simple proposition – make sure that your customers are absolutely clear about what they are getting. This can be tricky when it comes to technical or high spec products but it pays to spend the time explaining things properly.
- Understand the customers reasons for buying – and make sure that the product absolutely meets their needs. Don’t be tempted to sell extras or add-on’s for the sake of your margin, you could lose the sale altogether. If, through the sales process they raise any objections, make sure you handle them, otherwise they are likely to come back to haunt you.
- Offer a cooling off period – for some types of sale eg distance selling and selling at home, a cooling off period must be given by law. Even if you aren’t legally obliged to offer customers the chance to cancel their order it can be good practice. What it does mean though is that you need plans in place to make sure you keep the order. I received a follow-up call from the car dealer’s customer service team between signing and delivery which worked a treat.
One final note – once the sale is safely completed, remember to tell the marketing guys to remove the customers name from their ‘leads’ or ‘potential client’s database – an untimely e-shot, outlining the fabulous deals now available on the car you have just purchased, can bring back that feeling of buyer’s remorse all over again (Thank you Nissan!)
My nine-year old came home from gymnastics the other day complaining bitterly that her coach had made her practice ‘millions’ of cartwheels when she is perfectly capable of doing a round off flick tuck back (or some such complicated gymnastic tumble!) I tried to explain that even the best gymnasts have to practice the basic skills to improve on the more complex ones, just like great musicians still practice their scales.
Coincidentally I came across the same message related to the business world, and sales techniques in particular. This short video from Cranfield University explains how important it is to get your core skills to the highest possible level and to keep on practicing the fundamentals if you are to become a better sales person.
It’s well worth the 4 minutes it will take you to watch.
I had yet another telesales call this week that reminded me why some of the basic sales training I undertook in my early days is still valid today. It went something like this…
- Telesales guy : Can I speak to the business owner?
- Me: Yes, that’s me.
- Telesales guy: Oh good. Do you have an epos machine?
- Me: No
- Telesales guy: Would you like to have an epos machine if the monthly charges were lower?
- Me: No
- Telesales guy: Oh. Wouldn’t it help your business to have an epos machine?
- Me: No
- Telesales guy: Oh. OK. Bye then.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that you won’t get very far by asking a series of closed questions, yet we all fall into the trap from time to time. I watched an experienced newsreader just last night trying to interview an eight year old boy using closed questions. It was painful. The boy, who was clearly dying to tell his story, was prevented from doing so by the interviewers ineptitude.
Closed questions do have their place of course, and they are great for:
- Gaining factual information, as in: Am I speaking to the business owner?
- Clarifying that you have understood a situation, as in: So am I right in thinking that you don’t currently have a marketing plan?
- Getting a desired positive answer, as in: Would you like to generate more business?
- Seeking to close a deal or teasing out an objection, as in: Would you sign today if I were able to deliver next Tuesday?
If ultimately you are trying to sell something, you will need to use a mix of open and closed questions to really develop the conversation. The good news is that most of us do this naturally in a social situation, which is perhaps why people who are genuinely interested in others often make good sales people. With a little self awareness and preparation you can hone the questioning techniques that you are probably already using and start to turn your conversations into natural sales opportunities.
I saw an, almost perfect, advert in a local magazine the other day. So, almost perfect in fact, that I contacted the advertiser immediately and almost purchased!
This is why I think the advert worked:
- It had a great headline which promised to solve a problem for me
- The text was backed up by simple and relevant images which told me, at a glance, what the service was
- It had a strong call to action
- It was perfectly targeted; the adverts was appropriate for the publication and was extremely relevant for the target readership
- Not only was it relevant but it was also well timed.
So why did I only almost purchase off the back of a seemingly well thought through piece of marketing? You guessed it… lack of follow through.
I googled the company in question, sent them an email enquiry littered with buying signals …and then…heard nothing. A couple of days later I phoned the number in the advert and got the response ‘ what advert is that then love?’
Will I buy from this company? Unlikely. Don’t waste your money on advertsing, however good, if you can’t get the rest of the sales process right.
Recently I have had a number of conversations with business owners who are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a reasonable rate for the service they offer. They report that more and more contracts are being won or lost on price. Yet others seem to have no problem earning what they are worth.
Sure, we are in pretty tough economic times and price will always play its part in business decisions. In my experience though, price is rarely the most important factor when it comes to a clients list of requirements. If you find yourself having to discount heavily to win business here are some of the questions you should be asking yourself:
- Are you attracting the right target market? Can your particular market segment afford the service you offer or do you need to look at new segments?
- Are you providing value for money? How much value can you add to your client and what is the net benefit of using your services?
- Are you communicating the value of the service that you offer? Are you focussing too heavily on the price you charge at the expense of the benefits you are offering?
- Is price the real reason you are not winning business or is there something more fundamental, like your service level, holding you back?
- Do you discount as a matter or policy? Discounting can give a client the impression and you don’t think your services are worth the full price.
It may be worth taking a closer look at your business model before blaming the fact that you can’t charge what you would like on the economic climate.
I had a call from a bank last week and, since I was considering changing my business account, allowed the caller to launch headlong into his well prepared sales pitch. After a good three minutes of my time he had managed to miss all the buying signals and went away empty-handed. Why?
It often happens. I’ve done it myself. You have done your preparation, thought about the questions you are going to ask and outlined how you will answer any objections. You are finally in front of a great prospect…it’s all going to plan…and then they say something you weren’t expecting. Instead of listening, taking stock and changing tack, you blindly battle on with your prepared ‘script’ because you don’t want to waste all the time you spent preparing!
All too often your prospect is actually interested in what you have to say and simply wants to get to the information that they want.
Quite how my caller missed: ‘ I might be looking to change my business bank account’, as a buying signal I’m not sure, often they are more subtle. If your prospect asks specific questions about price, delivery, specifications or who else you work for, take it as a sign of interest. If they actively agree with you and are talking positively about how your product or service could help them, take note.
It’s hard enough to get in front of a real prospect; make the most of the opportunity by listening and responding to the buying signals that are probably staring you in the face.
This week I was involved in two, quite different, sales situations with two vastly different outcomes (for the sales person that is). Coming out of one meeting feeling irritated and somewhat patronised, and the other feeling excited and energised, I set to thinking about what makes a good sales person.
Here are four really very simple rules:
- Be prepared. Yep, as every boy scout will tell you, this really is fundamental. No excuses here, it’s so easy. Ask what your client wants to get out of the meeting, who will be attending and what their role will be. Google them, you may even find a mutual connection.
- Listen. Find out what your client or potential client needs and then, and only then, tell them how you can solve their problem. Avoid at all cost lengthy lectures about your wonderful, yet totally irrelevant, credentials.
- Never assume. It’s the oldest one in the book. Focus your attention equally amongst the individuals in the meeting. It’s not always easy to spot the decision makers and influencers.
- Be professional. Well that’s obvious isn’t it? Not always it would appear. Bring something to take notes with; can you really remember everything you client has told you in an hour-long meeting? Arrive on time, have a business card, dress appropriately. Small things that make a big difference to how you are perceived.
You are right, these are all easily achievable, and should come as second nature to most business people. It just takes a little forethought.