International sales trainer Chris Lytle, author of “The Accidental Salesperson”, once told me, “Most people ‘wind up’ in sales. It only truly becomes a profession when they realize sales is about creating customers rather than making transactions. True selling is a series of advances. By focusing on that, a sales manager can turn a good sales team into a powerful sales force.”
Lytle often refers to a study comparing the traits of more than 2,000 of the nation’s most successful salespeople, crossing all product and service lines. Smooth talking didn’t even make the list! Here are the true traits of a successful salesperson: (1) Integrity; (2) Persistence; (3) Empathy; (4) Product Involvement; (5) Self-management; (6) Drive; (7) Imagination; (8) Patience; (9) Confidence; and (10) Enthusiasm. How would you rate yourself or your sales team members on each of those?
Larry Wilson, author of “The One-Minute Salesman” has a complimentary philosophy: “When you are truly concerned about a prospect’s problem [versus your product], you met with less resistance to your presentation and you sell with less stress. People can sense when your purpose is to help them.”
Beyond traits, Lytle has identified, in his training seminars, some processes that work better than others. Here are a few not-so-obvious [paraphrased] tips to help increase your “purposeful” sales by your “accidental” sales FORCE!
1. Use imbedded customer-focused questions rather than asking direct “sales oriented” questions. Phrasing should be as delicate as the question asked. For example, instead of abruptly asking “What is your budget for this?”, thoughtfully say, “In order for me to return with an intelligent proposal, I need to better understand your available budget.”
2. Truthful conversation always trumps confrontation: By verbally placing yourself more on the fence than on the “presumptive yes” side of a sales discussion, you become a consultant rather than salesperson. “I’d like to know your most pressing concerns, when changing vendors, so that I can consider them, too, to make sure we are the best fit.” Buyers listen to consultants and are more readily influenced by them than by salespeople.
3. “No” is actually preferable to “Maybe.” The word “no” is finite and answers a question. It also motivates you to move on. In sales, 97% of the time “maybe” is merely a polite word for “no”, yet 97% of salespeople hear “maybe yes” and so then tie up even more resources trying to sway or convince an unenthusiastic prospect. It’s better to ask what more information is needed to arrive at a decision, and/or who the presumed buyer really needs to confer with before making a purchasing decision — and then follow-up accordingly. If your prospect fails to provide that answer or guidance, put them back in your “seed” file and move on; you did get an answer at this point in time. It was “no”.
What is a retailer’s worst nightmare? You probably do it yourself: “Showrooming”. Find out next week how to turn comparison shoppers with smartphones into your customers; regardless who’s store [showroom] they are standing in to comparison shop!
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