WHETHER YOU’RE NEW TO selling or a seasoned veteran, you have no doubt established certain selling patterns. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is that effective selling patterns produce consistent sales results and that negative patterns impair our effectiveness and,
ultimately, our sales results.
Selling patterns sprout up in all phases of the selling process. For example, some salespeople are in the habit of trying to sell on the telephone before taking the time to build trust or discover their client’s needs. Perhaps you’ve established a pattern of immediately discounting when a client questions your price. Most of the time, salespeople are unaware that these are counter-productive patterns. They typically follow the selling model that was first introduced to them when they started out in sales.
Selling patterns are tough to break. The longer we’ve settled into them, the harder they are to change. Some people are unable or unwilling to change. They may lack the courage, desire, or knowledge to alter their patterns. I would wager that you’re different. The fact that you purchased a book about growing your sales tells me you’re eager and willing to make changes to improve your results.
Remember: There is a one-to-one relationship between your selling patterns and your effectiveness as a salesperson. If you stay entrenched in the same bad habits and patterns, you will have a tough road ahead. The good news is that patterns can be changed. If you’re willing to make an effort to change and improve, negative patterns can be altered.
How to alter selling patterns
Here’s a simple process you can use to change your selling patterns:
- Have someone assess your current selling patterns. Your boss or an associate can conduct the evaluation. Have them listen to your phone calls and/or accompany you on sales calls. You’ll be surprised how an unbiased outsider can expose negative patterns you may be unaware of possessing.
- Re-engineer your selling patterns. Take a hard look at your patterns and ask these questions:
- What patterns have we identified?
- What changes or improvements must I make to re-engineer these patterns?
- What existing resources or selling models can I access and follow?
- Practice your new selling patterns. Once you’ve re-engineered your patterns, begin practicing with a colleague. Create a real scenario and use role-playing exercises to practice the new skills.
- Put them to use in the field immediately. Try them out right away. Start with small
pattern changes and builds upon that.
Consider your selling process
When it comes to making improvements to the way you sell, consider the various steps in your selling process (or method). Most organizations have logical steps for transforming a cold lead into a paying client. Each step typically builds upon the previous one, with client acquisition (closing) and retention being the two primary goals. Several organizations build a common language around their specific system of selling and they use that language to measure activity and sales results. With the advent of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), organizations can now integrate their language and selling process directly into their CRM systems.
Shown below, as an example is a sales process used by Johnson & Johnson. The steps are numbered logically, but this doesn’t mean that you must take every step exactly in order. If, for example, a client jumps to step five and is ready to buy, you wouldn’t say, “I’m sorry, that’s step five. I haven’t had a chance to probe yet.” You would simply close the sale and call it a day.
One thing you can do, though, is to inform your client of the steps you’ll be taking. For example, you might say, “Ms. Jones, I would like to learn more about your business (step three) before I present our solution for your needs (step four).” This lets the client know where you’re headed in the selling process and gives you the opportunity to secure their buy-in. I often ask my prospective clients, “Is this process in line with your evaluation?” This usually generates an affirmative response. If your buyer decides to trump your selling process with her own buying process, however, by all means, take her lead.
Become a consultant rather than a vendor
How can you think and behave more like a consultant than a vendor? Consultant s do more than just supply a product; they supply profit improvement. A consultant offers his or her clients
- a business partnership,
- specialized expertise (knowledge), and
- valuable resources.
Vendors, on the other hand, sling their products at the wall and see what sticks. They try to win business by discounting the price, rather than adding value. They will use clever gimmicks and clichés to win business and focus on closing the deal rather than producing sustainable business improvements for their clients. Here are few other differences between vending and consultative selling:
To be more consultative, a change in your selling approach may be necessary. Your approach must be value-centered and produce a measurable ROI for your clients. If your clients can’t quantify the value of your offer, they may view it as an expense rather than an investment. We’ll look at this more in Chapter five when we tackle the subject of presenting measurable outcomes.
Making the change from vendor to consultant doesn’t happen quickly. It takes time to restructure your selling philosophy and approach. Old habits are hard to break, particularly when it means moving away from something basic and haphazard (like vending) to something more sophisticated and strategic (like consulting). To transition from a vendor to a consultant, you have to begin thinking and behaving as a consultant. You have to put away vendor-thinking altogether.
There are several specific things you can do to make the transition from vendor to consultant:
Listen intently. By listening more than you talk, you automatically distinguish yourself from 80 percent of salespeople. Most salespeople think that their ability to speak is their greatest selling skill. Nothing could be further from the truth. Great salespeople and consultants are excellent, active listeners. In fact, consultants only speak 20 percent of the time, allowing their clients to do the majority of the speaking. This is particularly true at the beginning of the selling process—during needs discovery.
Avoid selling. This may sound ludicrous, particularly since this is a book about selling. However, the less you sound and behave like a salesperson, the better. Exceptional salespeople never sound like the stereotypical salesman. They are typically low-key, relaxed, and non-pushy. Their style is conversational, interactive, and analytical, and they ask excellent, high-yield questions to assist them in making their recommendations.
Use consultative language. Consultants almost have a language of their own. They use phrases and words like the following:
- “Can I recommend…?”
- “Might I suggest…?”
- “You may want to consider…”
- “What are your thoughts on …?”
- “Something that has worked well for my other clients is…”
- “Let’s consider the outcomes we’re looking to achieve.”
- “What are the success benchmarks?”
Create value first. If the client doesn’t see the value of your offer, your price may be misconstrued as exorbitant. You must demonstrate this value throughout the selling process, but particularly on the front end of the sale. Here’s a rule of thumb: No value, no price.
Until you clearly demonstrate how your product or service will improve your client’s profits, price should have no place in the conversation. Our firm, Encore Consulting, provides the price proposal as our last step. This gives us ample opportunity to communicate our value proposition and the impact it will have on our client’s business. We spend so much time showing value in our proposal that our clients are often pleasantly surprised when they see our fees. Creating value first is your best and most powerful strategy to combat sticker shock.
Diagnose thoroughly before prescribing. Consultants always spend the majority of their time and energy on the discovery, probing, or diagnostic stage. This is where they identify the client’s needs, wants, challenges, concerns, and pains. Without a crystal clear understanding of your client’s hot buttons, you can’t prescribe a compelling, client-centered recommendation. We will spend considerable time on this in chapter four.
Many sales organizations have changed the titles of their sales team members from “sales representative” to “sales consultant.” Some may view this as simply trendy, but there are sound reasons for the change. If it accomplishes nothing else, it serves to remind to salespeople of what their role should actually be.
Employ reverse selling psychology. The final step in developing a proper mindset involves getting into your client’s head. You want to gain a clear understanding of his thinking and his point of view. Unless, and until you have this, it’s impossible to appeal to his emotional agenda or to meet him on his level Selling from your client’s perspective or reverse selling psychology (hereafter RSP) will differentiate your organization from your competitors and give you the selling advantage. RSP answers the question, “How does my client want to be sold?” rather than, “How should I sell to my client?” It is 100 percent client-focused, appeals to clients by meeting them on their level, and complements client buying processes.
Too many sales organizations focus on their selling process and protocols while ignoring the RSP principle. These organizations are out of step with their clients. This archaic, ineffective approach will thwart sales growth faster than anything else. That’s why retooling and restructuring the way you communicate your value proposition is so critical to sales success.
The empathy factor
Empathy in selling is vital. If your customers don’t believe you have their best interest in mind and that you understand their concerns, problems, and frustrations, you’ll have a tough time developing credibility and trust. Showing your customers that you genuinely care and that you’re looking for ways to help them goes a long way toward fostering loyalty and generating repeat business.
Demonstrate empathy by your words and your actions. Let your clients know that you care about and understand their current conditions. Do not be afraid to say, “I understand some of the challenges you’re facing and I’m looking for ways to add value to your bottom line.” Then, show them that you care by being an asset and delivering value to their organization. If you do this, you’ll win the hearts of your clients and they will view you as a business partner rather than a vendor.
To gain a better understanding of your client’s mindset, ask yourself these questions:
- What is keeping my client up at night
- What is causing my client to pound the desk?
- What is my client’s biggest headache and heartache?
- What is preoccupying my client’s mind?
- What solutions is he or she looking for
- How has my client’s business changed in the past twelve months?
- What changes (if any) has my firm made changes to accommodate the changes my client has experienced?
Asking your client the following questions will give you the information you need to determine your answers:
- What are your goals for the next 12 to 24 months? How can my firm complement these goals?
- Other than employee payroll, where are you looking to cut expenses?
- Where are your greatest revenue opportunities in the next 12 to 24 months?
Unleash your innovative, inventive soul
Hundreds of new, innovative products and services were created during the Great Depression. The electric razor, the supermarket, xerography, the chocolate chip cookie, and Monopoly were all developed between 1930 and 1938. Each was invented to fill a need at the time. For example:
Find ways to restructure your offer and broaden your scope. Perhaps this means retooling your services or creating new products that appeal to the challenges your clients are facing.
You don’t necessarily have to become an inventor to create an innovative, market-friendly value proposition. Use the power of your current products and services to tweak the message you’re conveying.
Guidelines for restructuring your offer
Begin with your clients in mind. Think about their needs, concerns, and pain. What appeals to them most. What needs are obvious? What needs are less obvious?
Evaluate your sales message. Does your current message appeal to your clients’ needs, concerns, and pain? Is your sales message focused exclusively on your clients’ current challenges? What needs are you currently targeting?
Repackage your sales message. What needs should be targeted? How can you best articulate your repackaged sales message? What changes do you need to make to your website and/or written material (brochures, PDFs, etc.)?
Rising above the challenges
Perspective and attitude. Succeeding in competitive markets will require the proper mindset. This may sound simple enough, but for some, it is a huge challenge. Negativity can drag salespeople down and hinder performance.
The term “mindset” connotes a combination of perspective and attitude. When sports psychologists begin working with a professional athlete, they first focus on the athlete’s outlook. Once outlook is shaped, improving the rest of his or her game becomes a lot easier.
A salesperson with a healthy mindset can endure sales slumps and produce results on a consistent basis. Your perspective and attitude will have significant influence on your actions, performance, and results.
We all know that optimism and hope are essential in selling. If your sense of optimism is poor it may hinder your ability to stay empowered, persistent and motivated – all critical to sales success. If, on the other hand, your mindset is positive, it will fuel your ambition and tenacity.
Transforming your mindset
Invest in yourself. Transforming your mindset requires making small improvements. One of the best (and easiest) ways to improve your outlook is to invest time and money in resources that introduce new skills, challenge your paradigm, and ignite your enthusiasm.
The top five percent of the sales leaders across industry sectors have one thing in common: They all have a professional development plan (PDP). A PDP is simply a written game plan for developing professional traits. A good PDP includes books, audio resources, webinars, e-learning, and seminars. I write my PDP in December for the upcoming year. It looks something like this:
- Purchase six books on communication and persuasion
- Purchase two audio resources from www.nightingale.co
- Attend “New Business Development Strategies” seminar
Pick your friends carefully. People you live and work with can have a profound influence on your attitude and perspective. If you want a good indication of where you’ll be in three years, look at the people with whom you associate now. Spend time with people who lift your spirits and encourage you. People who are positive and hopeful will rub off on you – they’ll change your mindset faster than anything else.
Take time for the three Rs (rest, renewal, and recreation). Take time to relax and renew your body, mind, and emotions. Exhaustion and fatigue are commonplace in today’s nonstop culture. Thanks to laptops, iPhones, and Blackberry’s we can stay connected 24/7. Information overload is typical and constant communication has become a narcotic. Our inability to manage technology has created a culture of junkies who are addicted to chatter.
Make time to shut down and recharge. When you get away from the noise, for even a short period of time, you’ll get more done, have greater clarity, and possess a more positive outlook. Ask yourself the following questions and use the responses to make the changes to your routine as appropriate:
- Are you spending at least 10 percent of your week with friends and family?
- Are you engaging in some sort of recreation or hobby at least once a week?
- Are you getting at least seven hours of sleep each night?
- Do you know what recharges your batteries?
- Do you have the courage to silence your cell phone in the evening, on the weekends, and particularly when you’re with friends and family?
See it half-full. Most of us are familiar with the adage “Is the glass half-full or half empty?” It suggests that our outlook, positive or negative, is a matter of perception and choice. We create our mindset; it’s not forced upon us. This simple, yet profound, idea has significant meaning and relevance. We can focus and dwell purely on the negative, or choose to focus on more positive things. One of the best ways to develop a great mindset is to choose to dwell on what is good.
Avoid a survivalist mentality. A friend of mine used to display a plaque in his office that read, “I don’t have to survive.” I could never decipher the meaning of the plaque so I decided one day to ask. He said to me, “We don’t have to settle for simply surviving. We should do more than just survive. We should thrive!”
Actions to take
- Reconsider with whom you associate.
- Invest in your professional development
- Take time for the three Rs
- Evaluate and reengineer your selling patterns
- Play the role of a consultant and a profit improvement expert.
- Use consultative language and create value before showing your price.
- Sell from your client’s perspective using RSP
Stay tuned for Part 2, “Solidifying Your Client Base”
Trushar Mody is BUSINESS STRATEGIST, SOFT SKILLS TRAINER, OUTSIDE-THE-BOX THINKER AND THOUGHT PROVOKER. He is a Warehouse of knowledge and wants to share it. His passion lies in teaching Wholestic Learning and Emotional Intelligence.
Trushar Mody is a role model who has extended himself to help others along their own journeys. He works from his passion of helping people live their lives with purpose and without fear. He is a managing partner and senior trainer at Encore Consulting Group.