By Holly Mitchell
Early in my sales career, I landed a golden opportunity with a high-end customer who had already identified she needed what I had to offer. All I had to do was gain her trust and become the expert in her eyes. The only thing standing between me and sealing the deal was my ability to listen, ask the right questions, and shine with confidence. I showed up to the sales meeting with all my tricks—plus information on every product I had to sell. I told her about all the different features and what I believed were the benefits. As I went on and on, I started to notice her eyes getting glassy. I was losing her attention because I wasn’t giving her what she needed.
My “almost” customer wanted me to ask her the right questions to ensure she was getting the right product for her needs. She was counting on me to understand those needs and be expert enough to give her a recommendation. I failed miserably at asking her the right questions and listening. Not only did I lose the sale, but my customer became overwhelmed by my rambling sales approach and ran the other direction to a competitor.
In time, I started to notice that the same simple selling skills were present in every customer encounter where I ended up winning the sale. Here are four skills that I’ve found must be present in every sales call:
Listen. We’ve heard this tip over and over, yet for some reason it is the hardest thing to do, even amongst the best field sales force. Sales people are usually very outgoing and outspoken. They’re known as the life of the party and able to easily engage with others. While this is an attribute that encourages relationships between the customer and the sales person, it can also be a detriment if the sales rep is not practicing active listening instead of just doing all the talking. As human beings, we all want to be heard. And for customers, the transaction only happens after they feel that they have truly been understood.
Ask the right questions. Doing this tells the customer you know what you’re doing. If you’re not clear about the solutions your product or service provides, it’s hard to know exactly what questions would mean something to them. For instance, if you can ask questions that uncover your customer’s pain points, you can begin to offer solutions. If you come in as an expert, yet you’re asking questions that aren’t relevant, this lowers trust and tells the customer that you don’t understand or care.
Have confidence. Confidence comes with knowledge—knowing your product, your solutions, and your strengths. This ultimately makes you the expert. The marketplace is often saturated, and we have come to a place where many of us are offering the same thing, so success comes from who we are and the experience we can deliver. Confidence is something that is developed over time. It comes through in your body language and your tone. It’s something that isn’t necessarily discussed but that every customer can feel. Becoming a true expert in your line of work will lead you into confidence.
Accountability. Often times we find ourselves making inflated promises on when and how we will deliver. Our intentions are good, but we fail to anticipate obstacles or remember other timeline commitments. In our unfettered enthusiasm, we just set ourselves up for failure and can fracture customer trust when we are late in delivering on our promises. It may be a small thing, but it does send a hidden message to your customer that you may not have the competence you originally purported.
There are one million books on how to be a great salesperson, but successful sales can be simple. When you’re in the moment with a customer, remember that if they’re the one talking and you’re listening, then you’re already on the right path. Ensure you’re asking the right questions that will lead a customer to solutions. As you start to offer solutions, your confidence will naturally grow. And no matter how much success you get, keep yourself accountable.
If you’d like to talk to Holly about sales techniques, or if you have some ideas to share, email her at email@example.com.