Everything You Always Knew About Sales, And Didn't Know How to Do It
By Kevin J Ryan
The secrets to sales success are obvious. For over 50 years, anyone involved in sales has known:
· It's the relationship with the client that's most important
· Knowing the client is more important than knowing your product
· It's all about identifying their problem and providing a solution for it
· Listening is a more important sales skill than talking
Yet, when most salespeople get in front of a prospect, what do they do? They talk, and talk, and talk...about their product. Which is evidence of my theory that is based on observing thousands of salespeople: what is stopping most salespeople from achieving their potential is NOT knowledge of what they should do...it's knowledge of HOW to do it.
The Knowledge Overload Phenomenon
Clients have too much information available to them nowadays. The situation is the same as that described in the BBC satirical series of the 1980s called Yes Minister (and, later, Yes Prime Minister) where the manipulative government bureaucrat, Sir Humphrey, gave the Minister seven briefcases of papers to read every night. The important papers were always given to the Minister, but they were in amongst so much 'junk' information that Sir Humphrey knew they were unlikely to be read.
Before the internet became the primary source of information for most of the world, customers would say, "Tell me about your product." And they needed you to because they knew little apart from what was said in your advertisements. Nowadays, they have researched your product website and every other webpage that mentions your product. They have read the comments by your satisfied - and dissatisfied - clients. There's a good chance that they have read more about your product than you have. Yet, they still start with the same line: "Tell me about your product." And you do...and, in the process you exacerbate their information overload.
No matter what they say, customers mostly do not want you to tell them about your product as if they know nothing. If they do, it's probably to test your product knowledge! Often, more information makes decision-making harder for a customer - and you want the buying decision to be easier, not harder. So, when a customer asks you to tell them about your product, your response should be, "To save me wasting your time, what do you like from what you've seen so far?"
What customers want most is for you to help make sense of what they know already. Is that feature important for their proposed use? Why is that brand consistently cheaper? Will the benefits of that justify the additional cost? Doing this builds their decision-making confidence; whereas, ironically, giving them more information can often have them scurrying away to do more research.
The Listening Problem
As a society, we are poor listeners. We spend 48% of our waking communicating time listening (the rest is spent speaking, reading and writing); and where we have all had some formal or informal training in the other three, virtually nobody has ever 'learned' to listen. And one of the worst professions at listening - sales. And it's not because we don't listen - it's because of the way we listen.
All sounds that we hear go through a filtering process before they are listened to. This is why you can ignore the hum of the office air-conditioner at your desk or why people who live near a railway line don't hear the sound of the trains after a while.
With salespeople, their products become the filter. Everything a client says is scanned for a clue - a 'hook' that you can attach one of your product's features to. Now, obviously, some qualification is necessary to determine if you've got anything to offer this customer; but, if it's done too soon, it severely limits what you hear from the client. There's an old saying: "If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail". You need to forget about your product in the early part of the conversation - certainly, keep any samples or brochures out of sight - so you can really listen to what your customer is saying.
So we all know salespeople should build stronger relationships and listen better; but it's the ones who find a way to actually apply this in the field that will be successful in the future.
Kevin is an experienced conference speaker, workshop leader, facilitator and MC. He has twenty-five years experience as a corporate trainer and fifteen years experience as a professional speaker.
He runs his own business from Brisbane, Australia, speaking at conferences and seminars across Australia, New Zealand, Asia and in the UK specialising in the areas of sales, customer service, humour in business and communication skills. His clients include some of Australia's largest organisations, politicians, members of the judiciary, Olympic athletes and elite sports people.
He has co-authored nine books on communication skills and humour in business that are used extensively throughout Australia, New Zealand, Asia, the UK and South Africa. He writes regular columns on communication skills, sales & customer service and humour in business for a number of industry magazines. His articles have been printed in major daily newspapers in Australia and Asia.
Kevin is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) which is the highest possible level in professional speaking and the only one recognised internationally. He is the Immediate Past National President of the National Speakers Association of Australia.
Kevin is the creator of the TILT! Sales and Sales Leadership Programs ( http://www.tiltsell.com ).
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