Since the 1970s, sales researchers and academicians have begun to conduct empirical researched studies and have developed many theoretical models, frameworks and concepts. Recent findings’ believes that in the new century, salespeople require new skills and knowledge in order to survive and compete in this rapid growing modernized marketplace. They also believe that old traditional ways will not work well and those who base on folklore and intuition, were mostly unsuccessful. (Johnston and Marshall, 2010, Cron and Decarlo, 2010, Jobber and Lancaster, 2009, Futrell, 2001, Darmon, 2007). Other studies emphasize on personal experiences and base proven facts. (Blades, 2006, Hopkins, 2005, Salmon, 2006, Nelson, 2006, Gschwandtner, 2007, Schiffman, 2009, Hopkins, 2010). It is therefore vital for us to understand the miracles of incentives and rewards for salespeople. (Nelson, 2005, Zoltners et al, 2006).
(2.0) Literature Review:
The word “opening” can be defined as “approaching” in the selling or sales perspectives. It is crucial for every salesperson to prepare themselves before facing their customer. There are many concerns need to be addressed before entering a sales presentation or demonstration. Sales researchers believe that image, manners, attitudes, confident and information gathered, are all important elements, as it will affect the impression of customers towards the salesperson. Salmon (2006) in his book ‘super networking for sales PROS,’ indicates that smiling, having strong eye contacts, and to extend their hand before customer; will create a positive, friendly and professional image or impression for customer. Besides, carefully plan what to say and how to say is also an important element for approaching, a salesperson should have enough “role-play” or practice with their superior, make sure it look good before actual approach (Futrell, 2008). Plan and review important question before meeting the prospect is one of the vitally important elements need to be addressed. Because it is an “unfamiliar” prospect, a well structured preparation will definitely put a salesperson in a better position. Researcher believes that three-quarters of a salesperson’s time must be invested in the work before presentation, make sure the prospect is the right person to make decision, qualify the prospect to ensure they are able to pay and make sure they are ready and desire to purchase the products/services and not in future.
Finally, let them aware that the salesperson is expecting to close the sales after a formal presentation. Do not rush for presentation if the salesperson is unprepared, a good salesperson should always verify the information they have collected/gathered, make sure it is real and accurate (Schiffman, 2005; Johnston and Marshall, 2010; Hopkins, 2010; Nelson, 2006; Futrell, 2008; Richardson, 1998).
Needs and Problems Identification:
Therefore, in order to find out the needs and identifying customers' problems, a good salesperson should learn how to be a good listener or a 'listening salesperson', by asking appropriate and related questions which will directly and/or indirectly lead to the products/services they sell. Reading the customer's mind, observing their facial reaction, body reactions and listening to them, are all-important elements towards critical skills for every salesperson to know and master. Whereas, for a 'talking' salesperson, they will not be able to know or understand much about their customers' needs and problems, and insufficient information and clues, will create unnecessary objection and/or hindrances during the next stage - Sales Presentation Process. The followings are some basic points on listening skills:
•Body language. Good salespeople are able to understand their
customers by watching their facial reaction for examples impatient,
tired, and interested or when customer feels excited about their
•Showing interest and alertness. Eye contacts, leaning forward,
taking notes, are ways to tell customers that the salesperson is
interested and listening to their problems.
•Eliminate Distractions. Good salespeople should not bring in their
personal problems into their presentation; they should clear their
mind before meeting customer.
•Delay interpretation. Too often, some salespeople without
understand much about the customers’ problems or needs; simply
jump to conclusion and try to close the sale. They should put
themselves in the customers’ shoes, how well they know about the
products/services and how they perceived it, before conclusion.
•Put aside personal opinion. Do not argue with customer on some
unrelated topic during the needs and problems finding stages.
Sharing ideas will be a good way to know customer better, most
important message is the products/services suits the customers’
needs and problems.
•Avoid Expectations. Avoid assumption that customers will be
interested on the product/services or force-fit what customer is
saying into some preconceived product/services. A good
salesperson will always find out the ‘actual’ needs and problems
from their prospect and make appropriate recommendations.
•Check your understanding. Some salespeople may misunderstand
what their customers’ needs and problems. They should reconfirm
by clarifying with their customers. Hence, listen perfectly does not
mean understand perfectly.
•Boost your memory. Take important notes during finding stage,
especially to a new salesperson. These could help them to recall
what have been identified earlier (Farber, 2006; Manning and
Reece, 2008; Darmon, 2007; Futrell, 2008).
Before entering into sales presentation, a salesperson should qualify their prospect by determining whether the customer has a ‘need’ on the product or service he/she sell, and well understanding on who is the competitors and where is the marketplace (Johnston and Marshall, 2010; Cron and Decarlo, 2010).
Another ways to identifying the needs and problems are to ask questions: what is the problem customers encountered, why customer needs the products/services, in what areas and why? Basing on their answers, immediately develop a solution with the salesperson’s expertise. Salespeople can think of the value of their company’s products/services; the resources, facilities, advantages, strengths…etc, which are possible to solve their
problems/needs. Do a ‘self-analysis’ fast to response their needs/problems and make sure it stands out from their competitors (Salmon, 2006).According to Hopkins, a good salesperson has a strong believe in the product/service he sells and possess strong passion, feel proud about his profession as it is a ‘helping profession.’ He believes that sales job is in fact, helping people acquire products/services that meet their needs (Hopkins, 2010).
In order to strengthen the demonstration, salesperson need to make use of communication tools, such as word pictures, stories, humor, charts, models, samples, gifts, catalogs, brochures, ads, maps, visual and audio aids and illustrations; testimonials; make use of IT to give a powerful demonstration; how to create good handouts; how to write effective proposals; and develop solutions for all the issues (Weitz et al, 2004; Futrell, 2008; Marks, 1997; Jobber and Lancaster, 2009; Farber, 2006; Schiffman, 2009; Richardson, 1990; Hopkins; 2005; Gitomer, 2003; Dugdale and Lambert, 2007; Smolen, 2000; Soldow and Thomas, 1991; ). According to Johnston and Marshall (2010), there are five common mistakes salesperson always encounter: salespeople like to run down their competitors; they tend to be too aggressive and abrasive; insufficient knowledge of its competitors’ products and services; insufficient knowledge of the client’s business or organization and delivering poor presentations. Researchers proposed a ‘pre-demonstration,’ which will prepare salesperson before the actual demonstration: the process must be as brief and simple as possible; role play or rehearse the presentation/demonstration with colleagues; know and emphasize the product’s selling points; predict what will go wrong, or develop a back-up solution as contingency (Schiffman, 2009; Jobber and Lancaster, 2009; Still et al. 1983). While conducting the demonstration, make sure it is concise and interesting, and demonstrate how the product or service able to satisfy the needs of customer. Do not leave the customer until they are fully understand and satisfied with the demonstration. Summarize the main points by re-emphasizing the ‘purchasing benefits’ rather than sales benefits (Jobber and Lancaster, 2009; Futrell, 2008; Cron and Decarlo, 2010; Darmon, 2007).
Trial Closing and Objection Solving
Some researchers believe that a good salesperson should ‘plan for objections,’ it should consider not only the reasons customer should buy, but also why they should not buy. These have to be done with a role play or rehearsal, and develop solutions towards the objections. It is better to discuss and answered the objections before arise during the actual demonstration. Be a good listener, by listening to the prospect’s view, even it is mistake or negative information. Do not cut or interrupt their conversation, as this may cause irritation and unprofessionalism. Salesperson need to understand the reasons of objection, whether it is to request for more information, a condition, a genuine or false reasoning. There are six major categories of objections most salesperson will encounter: the hidden objection, the stalling objection, the no-need objection, the money objection, the product objection and the source objection (Futrell, 2008; Hopkins, 2005; Marks, 1997; Jobber and Lancaster, 2009; Weitz et al, 2004; Futrell, 2001; Farber, 2006; Schiffman, 2009; Tracy, 2007; Richardson, 1990; Smolen, 2000; Futrell, 2008).
Closing the Sales
After the salesperson has finished the presentation/demonstration, the prospect’s response to the trial close indicates that all objections have been solved, and then the next step is to close the sales. Oppositely, if the salesperson cannot overcome an objection, then it is advisable to move back to the presentation, identify their objection and solve their objection (Futrell, 2008; Richardson, 1990). Schiffman (2009) believes by using “closing tricks” on the closing stage will work for some people, such as leaving the product to the prospect for a week to try out, and expecting the sales later. Tracy (2007) mentioned that the best closing techniques are “The Ascending Close,” which asks questions that lead to a “Yes” answers. These must be done at the beginning, and through the presentation that incorporate the benefits of the product or services. The prospect will often be completely convinced of the goodness and value of it. He also proposes “The Invitational Close,” by offering the prospect to ‘give it a try,’ and this usually sounds an easier decision to make, than to buy (Jobber and Lancaster, 2009; Futrell, 2008; Johnston and Marshall, 2010; Nelson, 2006; Schiffman, 2009).