Sales is a journey. If the customer does not understand where you are headed and why she should come along, she won't.
Making a sale should be easy, especially when you have the right product. But lots of people make it more complicated than it needs to be, and lose the prospective client in the process.
Here are my five "make it happen" steps to get the green light rather than put on the brakes:
Cut to the chase.
A good sales person doesn't waste time with filler words. He starts talking about the product right away. Here's an example. A website developer calls your company and starts by saying, "I am glad I finally got a hold of you. It took me more than 10 minutes to find your contact information on your website. My company does web development, and we could help you quickly fix that. Your customers would then be less frustrated and more easily able to contact you. Can I go over the site with you and find out what else you might like it to be able to do?" As the person being pitched, I am now fully engaged in the web developer's product--because he showed me he did his homework, and can solve a problem I did not know I had.
Skip the jargon.
Whether your product is technical in nature or you just tend to be on the know-it-all side of the spectrum, find a simple way to explain your product that anyone can follow. Customers don't want to need an explanation--they want to understand right away. My husband and I recently looked to buy a new mattress, and were confronted with all kinds of features to choose from. Rather than use empty pseudo-technical terms like moisture-wick and memory foam, a salesperson carefully went over why his mattress would last longer, how its structure would keep us from waking each other with our movements, and why the two different materials on its faces would help us be comfortable in any weather.
Paint a picture.
You will not always have the luxury of meeting with your customer face to face. Learn how to describe your product in a way that even someone who has never seen it can imagine what it is. At my company, we sell products over the phone. We have several items that are made of wood, and often lesser-known wood species, so they can be hard for the customer to envision. We received a new product last week, and I had not yet seen it, but I heard one of our sales reps describing it to a customer as looking like the inside of a tree when it is freshly cut. I was pleased; I knew immediately that it was lighter in color, had a ring pattern, and a visible grain.
When you speak to a customer, concentrate on finding out about the customer instead of making your pitch. Asking open-ended questions, and then carefully listening to the answers will always get you further than delivering a monologue. A bank I never would have considered recently landed a meeting with me because the sales rep--after hearing I was not interested in changing credit card processors--asked me if there was anything I was frustrated with at my current bank. I was mad enough to want to talk about it, and he was astute enough to carefully connect my discontent to how his bank is different.
Make it matter.
Your product may have a ton of benefits, but they are worthless if the customer you sell to doesn't need them. Be able to constantly reframe those product benefits so that the particular customer with whom you are speaking understands the direct impact the product could have on his world. Our current health insurance broker won my business not because he explained to me how he was going to save me money (that was not a priority for me), but because his product offered a web portal that was able to help my employees clearly understand their health care options, and made my job as the administrator less burdensome. Those were the high priorities on my list.
A good way to think of selling is like a journey on which you are leading your customer. If the customer does not understand where you are headed and why she should come along, she will either choose not to take the trip, or wander off in a different direction midway through. All you have to do is get her excited about the destination, tell her all the beautiful things she will see along the way, and answer any questions she has so she feels safe and can enjoy the route.
Read more recent articles by Vanessa Merit Nornberg:
Vanessa Merit Nornberg: In 2004, Vanessa opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009. @vanessanornberg