Make no mistake – the sales process has an end game! However, it may not be what we've been conditioned to think it is. So how can we reimagine sales?
The old formulaic methodology...
In the past, sales people were told to follow strict processes, work with formulas, and live and breathe by their pipelines. Customer relationship management tools started to churn out state of the art reports. Data determined the next iteration of our sales cycle. Rinse and repeat.
Today’s conversational methodology...
While the latest greatest technology, tools, and processes are helpful, they are just that – tools. The bigger picture starts with conversations.
If you want to really sell something to someone, you must be sure that your “something” will actually help that someone. Your product or service must definitively fill a need, or else you will never have a happy customer and that, of course, will never result in long-term success.
It is only through a good conversation that you can uncover a need.
First step in the conversation: get to know all the stakeholders involved. Ask and learn about all the influencers who will be affected by the solution you pose (both positively and negatively). Determine which are the decision makers. Do informational interviews that are shaped like casual conversations. This is how you really learn what drives and motivates people vis-a-vis the product or service you're selling.
Use a conversational approach to take the aggressiveness out of sales.
All too often, sales people think it’s important to dive right into personal questions in order to “build rapport” but that’s usually perceived as sales-y, and way too invasive when early in the game. Your job is not to build false rapport when you walk in the door. Your job is to have a straightforward business conversation, one that is friendly but, more importantly, honest. Focus on questions that tie into your reason for being granted the conversation in the first place and position yourself as the professional you are. When you demonstrate respect for the time you’ve been given, you get respect in return, and can establish a trusted business relationship from the start.
During a sales call, only enter non-business-oriented conversations when invited.
Occasionally, the prospective customer will include some personal references within the business discussion. This is not your opportunity to inject every one of your own personal stories! Unless, of course, you are invited. Let the customer open that door. You can always acknowledge their initial personal reference and even make a minor comment like “I know what you mean.” But unless they ask, don’t offer more. It’s your job to ensure the conversation is professional first, and only grows friendlier under the direction of your new business-first connection.
Let the conversation dictate the process, not the other way around.
I’ve seen many sales reps desperately try to steer the conversation according to their memorized scripts. This means that when something goes off-track, they fumble with answers and don’t quite know where to go with their next sentence. What does an actor do when they forget their lines? Well if they’re nervous and unsure, they make the audience feel uncomfortable and then no one enjoys the show. But if they’re good, they improvise! Good conversation mixed with some self-deprecating humour can immediately put everyone at ease. The audience – your new customer – will take sincerity and laughter over BS any day!
What has worked for you in sales when you've let go of the "techniques" and focused more on sincere conversations? Please share in the comments below.