How can we help our client ‘buy’

August 16, 2010

So how can we help our clients buy? Well, here are a few thoughts.

The first obvious point is that the conversation is focused on the client and their needs. Stop trying to make a sales pitch which is by definition focused on you and your wants and needs. Take a more analytical approach and develop a question-based dialogue with the client that uncovers their wants and needs. Take your ego out of the equation.

Second and following on, stop telling clients and start asking them. Too many salespeople and self-employed people go into sales presentations so full of information, pumped up and so full of belief in themselves and their product/service that they try to ‘convince’ the client of the virtue of what they have to offer. Actually, when I ask participants on start your own business courses their initial views on the characteristics of a professional salesperson, the word ability to ‘convince’ the client is often proffered. This I find worrying. You are not going to talk to a potential client and pound them into the ground with argument. Ask yourself the question in reverse. If someone came in to you and tried to ‘convince’ you without knowing your real needs or wants, what would you do? If it was me it would be a short meeting with the salesperson returning out the door from which he came quickly. Don’t use tactics that you would find unacceptable if you were the client. Ask yourself which salespeople you like to work with. I suggest that the salespeople you are most likely comfortable with are the ones that are interested in you, ask you questions to find out your needs and present the best solutions for your needs. I accept that there are cultural differences around the world. In Europe and America clients tend to be less impressed with ‘in your face’ salespeople whereas in many African cultures, ‘in your face’ negotiating is the norm. However, in most cases, if you ask the right questions of a client they will happily outline their position and needs. The important point is not that they are telling you their needs but in many cases they are using your questions to work through their needs themselves in their own head. In short, stop telling the client anything and start asking them questions and help them work through their buying process.

Is this new, not at all. Sales trainers have been trying to get salespeople to ask questions and listen more and talk less for years. There have been worked out systems developed, for example, SPIN selling is a techniques of asking different types of questions to move the conversation along to its culmination (see Rackham, N (1995), ‘SPIN Selling’ (Gower, Aldershot)).

How you apply this to what you do is, of course, up to you. You may want to make small changes to what you do rather than try and apply a completely new approach but consider making some changes if you feel that you are not making the most of the sales presentations you are making. One idea is to video yourself making sales presentations to colleagues and look at how much of the time you are talking and listening, could or should you be asking more questions, are you assisting the client through their buying process and how can I get over the cringe factor; ‘did I really say that?’ When I have done this myself I scare myself so I can only imagine how the client must feel. Do this in the comfort of your own office and keep the exercise real but you might surprise yourself at how you come across.

Do some reading on the psychology of buying and thinking. Before I do this I should declare that I am not on commission for any of this. I like SPIN selling but it really only works, in my opinion, if you have tried all the other ‘techniques’ and figured out that they don’t work for you. That being said, always a good reference point. Other books I would recommend are ‘Why we buy’ by Paco Underhill which looks mainly at the retail buyer (see Underhill, P (2000), ‘Why we buy: the science of shopping’ (Texere, London)), ‘Buy-ology’ by Martin Lindstrom looks at how the brain actually works in relation to buying (see Lindstrom, M (2008), ‘buy-ology: How everything we believe about why we buy is wrong’ (Random House Business Books, London)) and a final suggestion is Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘blink’ which looks at first impressions which is important in making presentations (see Gladwell, M (2005), ‘Blink: the power of thinking without thinking’ (Back Way Books, New York)).

Enjoy!

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