Back in the good old days, I remember the typical sales training programs I taught were two weeks long. As time has gone by, and based on the demands of my customers, I have shortened it to five days… then to three… then to two… sometimes to one… occasionally to a half-day… and every now and then, and hour. I’m not in the business of wasting people’s time, so I suppose the question is this: Can you really learn to sell in a quicker timeframe? The answer is…. not exactly, but you can learn some solid principles in a short period of time that can dramatically improve your ability to sell. Don’t believe me? Implement the five lessons that follow, and I can assure you, it will prove measurable results.
1. Ask Questions and Listen.
Oh, my goodness! If only I had a nickel for each time someone said to me, “that old lesson again?” I would definitely have a lot of nickels! I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life traveling the world, and I record role-plays. I rarely hear salespeople actually asking questions and listening. The old adage is true: “The more the client talks, the more they like you.” You’ll have your time to speak. This lesson is number one for a reason. It’s the most important move, and the most forgotten move.
2. Ask Open Questions Early.
It’s not an interrogation; it’s a conversation, so if you want to open up a closed client, get that client to expand on his or her responses. Simply get your client to feel more at ease in the conversation by asking open questions. All you really need to do is focus on the first word out of your mouth. Use words like, “who, what, how, tell, and describe,” and you’ll be in control of that conversation through your questions.
3. Focus on the Client’s Decision Cycle.
You may not know this, but people go through repeatable, predictable steps when they make a decision for change. Knowing this cycle, and where your prospect or client is within this cycle, allows for sound strategic decision making. Gone are the days when scripts ruled the world – thankfully! When you better understand where your client is in their decision cycle, you better understand what tactics and process moves will be most appropriate to move the client through his or her decision for change.
4. Concentrate on the Problem.
Probably the single biggest mistake made in sales is continuing to ask clients about what they may need, and burying them with longwinded explanations of the features and benefits of your product to address that vague list of needs. Our problems shape our needs, and the real selling takes place when a prospect acknowledges a problem without any commitment to fix it. Rather than ask someone what he or she might need, ask them more about the problem he or she is currently having, and go deeper. Rather than waiting for the problem to get bigger, have a conversation and allow your client to tell you the potential consequences of their problem. This not only creates urgency; it diffuses price objections down the road.
5. Use the Customer’s Language.
Too often we get caught up in listening to a client, and then transferring what we hear into our industry language. Want to see a prospect sit up and take notice? Use their words rather than your own. A good way of making this happen is to take notes, and by doing that, you will be able to capture the words of the customer in those notes. Force yourself to use those words. For extra credit, you might want to remind them that it’s their words you are using by inserting these two words of your own: “You said…” That way, you’ll be speaking the customer’s language rather than your own.
Nothing can take the place of real, honest-to-goodness sales training, but there are some basic moves that anyone can use to sell, and see significant improvement. Contrary to popular opinion, it doesn’t require a specific personality; it requires a certain level of understanding. When you ask open questions early, and generally listen to the answers you are receiving, you create trust. When you focus on the client’s decision cycle, and spend time asking multiple questions about challenges your customers are facing, you create urgency. And when you use the customer’s words, rather than your own, you create a connection. Focus on these five ideas, and you too can be a sales superstar!