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5 Steps to Reach Your Sales Goals
by Kathy Batesel
How to Be a Rainmaker
Salesmanship is an art form, and like any art, there are masters, apprentices, and people who just plain don't do it. Salespeople are one of the two most important positions in any commercial endeavor (transportation providers being the other).
Unfortunately, sales people are under-appreciated because so many people have had bad experiences with them. My father always discouraged me from working in any kind of sales or marketing position because he had such a distaste for the idea. Eventually, I realized selling is what I do best, and once I overcame his lessons, I became one of the top three Realtors in my market within my first year in the business.
I'm going to share with you five steps that will help you reach your sales goals and master the art of salesmanship.
What happens when someone tries to pressure you to buy?
5 Steps to Making Sales
You may notice that "induce pressure," "create scarcity," and other questionable tactics are not on my list of steps. These are examples of bad salesmanship. They might get the sale in the short run, but they will not build relationships with customers. Even if you believe the buyer is someone you won't need to do business with again, remember that they tell their family members and friends about negative experiences. Enough people talking negatively about your company or product will eventually affect your ability to meet your sales quotas.
Natural conversations, much like you'd have with a friend who needs help making a big purchase, will help you complete the five steps to making sales:
1. Identify the buyer's needs.
2. Offer a solution to the buyer's problem.
3. Address objections.
4. Ask for the sale.
5. Deliver on your promises.
Identifying Buyer Needs Online and Off
"How can I help you?" is one of the most important questions a salesperson can ask. Whether you're selling face-to-face, business-to-business, or through an online medium, you cannot sell what a customer does not need or want.
"How can I help you?" is an open-ended question that requires more than a yes or no answer. This helps you hone in on your customer's precise needs, so listen carefully to the answer for hints about your customer's needs and to open up the conversation further.
Listening goes beyond simply hearing what your customer says. For tips on listening well to potential buyers, take a look at the video above.
True or false: "But I sell online. I can't find out what a potential customer's needs are!"
FALSE! Online buyers have often already done part of your work. They've identified their basic need and are seeking a solution. Consumers go to where they will find solutions in the digital world, just like they do in the physical one. You wouldn't go shoe shopping in at a hardware store, would you? Of course not! You'd drive to a place that sells shoes. In fact, if you're looking for some strappy summer sandals, you'd probably discriminate further and avoid athletic footware stores altogether. However, you might find yourself in the perfect store but not quite finding what you want in the price range you are seeking. This is where a salesperson comes in handy to meet your finer needs.
Online buyers have the same thought processes. While you may not greet them at your store's front door (heck, they probably won't even enter through the "front door" landing page!) you can certainly invite them to share more detailed information with you through widgets, e-mail feedback, surveys, and by making it easy for them to contact you by phone.
I think Vistaprint serves as an excellent example of using digital media to identify consumer needs. I've used their print services many times. When I placed my second order, I had a question and quickly got an answer by calling Vistaprint's phone number. Each time I've placed an order, the website invites me to add on to my purchase by offering half a dozen related products that are displayed with my custom design already on them. They've keyed in to something that's important enough for me to spend money on (my original order) and expand upon that need to create more sales.
No matter what or where you sell, your product or service must satisfy what the customer wants, so paying attention gives you a strong edge when it comes to making the sale.
Quiz Yourself on Identifying Customer Needs
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Whether a customer has identified their problem themselves or you've helped them discover it, the next step is to provide a good solution to them. The best solutions address all of a customer's needs and wants, but more often, they address some of their desires better than others.
This is another reason step one is so important. Researching your buyer's needs and understanding as much of their problem as possible lets you hone in on the best solution after taking all variables into account. Buyer needs are more complex than they first appear!
Let's return to the shoe buyer for a moment. She doesn't simply want shoes. She wants sandals. If you had an opportunity to talk to her in person, you might have discovered that she wants a specific color, within a certain style range, that she needs them by a certain date, and wants to limit her spending to a definite price range.
You realize that you've got the perfect pair of shoes for her, already in stock. They're the right color, the right style, the right price. All you have to do is let her reach for her wallet!
If only it was that easy every time....
More likely, you've got a solution that meets most of her needs, but fails to meet all of them. The shoes you realize are ideal for her are $40 more than she wants to spend, for instance. What now?
Because there is rarely a "perfect" solution, you'll have to help the customer understand why they are making the best choice by taking your recommendation.
Our shoe buyer's body language showed us she was not happy to learn that the sandals you've shown her were so much more pricey than she'd hoped. You must be able to confront and challenge the buyer's objections without becoming offensive.
"I thought these would be perfect for you, but you don't look happy about them. Is there something wrong?"
When she tells you the price is too high for her, you can help her see why the price is reasonable for them. They're high quality and will last many years, saving her money next summer. Or perhaps the store is running a promotion that could save her a few dollars on her purchase. If you know her needs well, you'll know immediately how to handle the objection.
Be prepared to overcome up to two objections, but if you hear a third one, stop. If you try to address a third objection, you've ventured into the pushy zone and will alienate your buyer. This isn't helpful for building a relationship with your customer. Wouldn't it be better if she came to trust you and wanted to do business with you again?
Zig Ziglar on Closing the Sale
Asking for the Sale
You've shown your customer what your product or service can do for them, and you believe they're interested in making a purchase. This is not the time to surrender control of your interaction!
Buyers may not follow through if you walk away or stop acting interested. They might believe they'll burden you with more work. They may get distracted by something else in the store or a text message they get. Help them stay on track and achieve what they came to you for in the first place.
Many sales people who do an outstanding job on the first three steps fall apart when it comes to asking the customer to make a purchase. "I don't want the buyer to think I'm pressuring them!" they think.
There is nothing pushy about making a gentle inquiry that offers to boost your service to the buyer or lets them experience what they want to sooner. "Since you agree that these adorable sandals really are a great value even if they do cost a bit more, would you like me to go ahead and ring them up while you put them on?"
You can choose from many techniques to ask for the sale. Zig Ziglar is one of the best salesmen and motivational speakers I've had the pleasure of seeing live. In the video above, he describes how shame can be used to close a sale! (For an exhaustive list of techniques, check out the book, too!)
If they say no, or tell you they're not ready, be respectful and let your customers know you'll be happy to assist them if they change their minds.
Keep Your Word
Deliver on any promises you've made. Provide all that the customer expects and more. Follow through on the sale whenever it's appropriate, such as for high-end items or ongoing contracts.
By making your customers feel like they are the most important part of any transaction they do with you, you'll develop the kind of long-term relationship that keeps them coming back to do business with you again, and again, and again.
On a related note, keep yourself out of the transaction. The surest way to not make the sale or build a great relation is making the customer feel as if they're benefiting you more than they benefit themselves. "I really need to make a sale today" is the biggest turnoff ever! The customer counts, and the sales person's needs and wants should always stay in the distant background.
By keeping your interests out of the transaction, focusing on your customer, and completing these steps, you'll hit your sales quotas easier and faster, and ensure repeat sales and customer referrals later.