In the past I have spoken about selling, after all, it is my passion. I was at a conference last month and a member of the group got up and said he was not a natural born sales person. I would like to debunk that myth right now. There are no natural born sales people. There might be some people more social, or outgoing than others, but they are not natural born sales people. There are some people that have better listening skills, but these people are also not natural born sales people. Because, sales is a profession, just like being an attorney, a doctor, and accounting, a hair dresser, an actor, or a baker.
Even without medical training, my mother and my wife have health care training. Can they do a heart transplant, odds are not in their favor for success. They may be able to try, but it would not be on my heart. David Glover reads all the legal agreements for his company, but if there was an agreement to sell the company, even though he could read the agreement, I am certain he would bring in a professional. When my children were small, their mother cut their hair. But they would not have thought for a moment she could do that for prom, their wedding, or an important meeting. And, I am a baker, but I would never attempt a wedding cake, I would certainly miss so many of the details that make wedding cakes special. And, therein lies the difference between a “natural born” sales person and a professional. I am certain that when Boeing is competing for business with Airbus, they want a professional sales person, one that does not skip any of the six essential steps for a sale. They want someone who is setting up the right scenario that will lead to the closing moments of a sale.
If you follow along, even if you are a professional, a reminder is always in order. With these six steps I am sure you will see an increase in your closing ratio. It is logical, and uncomplicated. You will need paper and pencil along the way, because that is your reinforcer. Here we go.
Step 1- Narrowly define your target customer.
Write down a description so you can have it in front of you when you are at a show, making calls, or sending communications. (By the way, have you noticed how little “snail” mail you are getting these days. Do you think you could get noticed if you sent a real letter to a prospect?) If you are in the commercial real estate business and you have space for rent how have you determined who you are going to rent it to. Consider the size available and who fits into that size as your first cut. Next, are they in the general market but not in your specific areas could be your next cut. Or, is there a dying center you could steal a customer from, or one that is overpriced. Work it down until you have 10 specific retailers that you would like to have in your center that would benefit from being there.
Step 2- How will the customer benefit from your product or service?
For each of the ten targets write down specifically how they each will benefit from your product or service. While many of your attributes will apply to all the targets, you should have a few which benefit each individual target. Going back to real estate, it could be co-tenancy, adjacency to business out side of your center, or foot traffic just to name a few. But, be specific and put yourself into the customers shoes. I cannot tell you have many clerks simply don’t understand the importance of this step. It is what makes the difference between a professional sales person and a clerk.
Step 3- Determine a time and place you are going to make the call.
Where are you most comfortable and can focus best on calling or communicating with the customer? I hope it is not a coffee shop, because the customer will not be able to hear you. My suggestion is to find a quiet place. Plan on one hour at a time. And for that hour just pick up the phone and call. It is really that simple. You have defined the target, you know why your product will help THEM so just pick up the phone and give them a call. I promise you this; you cannot break anything. You may fail, heck, you will fail more often that you will succeed, but while not the best outcome, it is much better than not picking up the phone. When you finally get the prospect on the phone, have a CONVERSATION with the prospect. Don’t talk at them talk with them. It is the first time they are hearing you so slow down and speak clearly. (Do the same thing when you are leaving a voice message. This is not a race to say as many words as you can in 25 seconds. Slow down and leave a professional message). Learn about their business, the functions of their responsibilities, and what is giving them pain. Then slowly give them an overview of your product or service and how you think it can help them. What you are looking to do here is gain an in-person appointment. There is no sense in going into great details here, you just must share enough information to gain the appointment. Make sure you walk away with a specific point of pain they would like to have go away. Because when you do show up in person you are going to show them how you can achieve their goal.
Step 4 Follow Up and Prepare.
Ok, now you have the appointment. You have set a specific time. Make your travel arrangements. Immediately prepare your presentation. Now, and this is another key, write down as many questions as you can think of that the prospect will have. WRITE THEM DOWN! Don’t skip this part. A couple of days before your presentation send a reminder to the prospect of your up coming meeting. Practice your presentation. If you can get a friend to listen all the better. Bill S and I went to his first presentation and he was great. I asked him if he had practiced. He said he practiced so much with his wife he was sure she could give the presentation. (He earned the business). Get to the appointment at least 30 minutes early. It is OK if you must sit in your car but get there early. If you are going to give a power point, ask if you can get in the room early and set up. You are ready to go.
Step 5 The Presentation
First rule of any presentation, stand up during the presentation. It will give you much more energy. It will show your excitement. Second rule of any presentation listen more than you talk. When you start, you can set the rhythm of the presentation. Simply state you have done your homework on the company, but it is always better if you hear the state of the company from the prospect. And then actively listen. Don’t interrupt, just listen, take notes, and think about how you can best shape your presentation to what you just heard. Now during your presentation remember to tie everything you are saying to what you just spent the last 10 minutes listening to. They told you their points of pain, you now must shape your presentation to give them the medicine to make them better. Back to the real estate scenario you could demonstrate the advantages of your center being close to a hospital and all their well-paid employees which should deliver foot traffic, something they just told you they were missing. All you must do is listen and react.
Step 6- Ask For The Order.
People expect professional sales people to ask for the order. That is one of the roles of a professional sales person. It gives the customer an opportunity to explain any objections and ask for clarity in any areas that may be confusing. There are many ways of asking for the order, each situation will call for a different option, but you must ASK! It will be awkward at first, but practice makes perfect. And remember, the first no is the first step to you. The customer is simply sharing their problems in your presentation, the pricing, or the product. Here is your time to listen and respond to the customer. A professional sales person will have thought about the potential objections and be prepared to answer them, and then pose a closing question again. “What do you think of this for next steps?” “Does that answer your questions?” “When would you like to kick off the project?” All good closing questions. It is your responsibility and the client expects professionals’ sales people to AFTO.
If you think about the steps outlined above, you can see none of it is “natural born.” And the best sales people practice and then practice some more. When I started at Buxton, I took the time to observe the other sales people. There were two types of sales people. There was the slap you on the back type of folks that took all their clients out to dinner and drinks. Telling wild stores (mostly not true) about the prowess at one thing or another. And then there were the professional sales people, the ones with a plan and working the plan. I will let you determine which one you want to be.
If you want to join a great group of sales people look at www.axcelora.com because we would love to have you as part of our team.
Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.