If you were to ask 100 salespeople you know whether their approach was customer-centered or product-centered, what would they say? Few, if any, would boast about selling 襛 box.*
Most salespeople believe that they know their customers* needs. They believe they are positioning solutions, not products. They believe they are customer-focused. These beliefs are the biggest obstacles keeping them from making the changes they need to make in their Sales talk.
Selling styles run the gamut. There is a sales style continuum. At one end of the continuum is generic product selling, basically a monologue, a 襭roduct dump.* At
the other end is consultative selling, an interactive dialogue that focuses on the specific needs of the customer. 100% on either end is impossible. All salespeople are somewhere in between.
Some salespeople are charismatic sellers who rely on their interpersonal skills and charm. Others are technical experts, substantive in content but weak in customer focus. There are the 襨illers,* always rushing to the close, often at the expense of the relationship. These characterizations of sales types are extreme, but they set the context for thinking about how salespeople approach sales.
The majority of salespeople today use a combination of approaches. They want to be liked, they want to be credible, they want to close, and they want to meet the needs of their customers. But for most salespeople, this amalgamation has resulted in a quasi-consultative approach at best. While quasi-consultative salespeople identify customer needs and are productive, they fall short of what they could accomplish. Salespeople who are at the consultative end of the continuum create efficient but robust dialogues with their customers that enable them to connect and learn more with each conversation. The dialogues are active, with balanced exchanges between the salesperson and the customer. What they do looks easy and sounds like common sense, but it is far from simple and it is not common practice.
The line between quasi-consultative selling and consultative selling is fine, but if all other factors are basically equal, the line means the difference between winning business or losing to a competitor. It can be the difference between being viewed as a technical specialist and being a trusted advisor. With relatively equal competitors, it is the sales talk of the salesperson or sales team that makes the differ-ence between winning and losing business.
Here are ways you can create a robust dialogue:
Assess your sales talk: How interactive are your sales dialogues? What is your give/get ratio?
Commit to do something different: Ask more probing questions.
Stop thinking in terms of educating customers: Think more about educating yourself about your customers.
Top performers treat preparation differently. They are always preparing—before and
after each customer meeting.
How do you prepare? Do you think to yourself—what does my customer need, what can
I position that will make it easy for my customer to say yes? Do you let ideas percolate
in your mind so you can be creative and proactive?
Having a preparation strategy will shorten your preparation time and increase the impact. As you prepare, follow these three steps:
* Begin with strategic preparation. Think about your longer-term relationship objectives and then set your short-term immediate objective for the call. Make sure your objective is measurable, is achievable, and has a time frame so you can maintain momentum, assess the outcome of your call, and accelerate your close. Visualize the flow of your call and build in time for the customer to talk.
* Next, do customer preparation. Think about your customer誷 objectives, situation,
needs, and decision criteria.
* Finally, focus on your product/technical preparation. Use your range of products and capabilities to meet your customer誷 needs. Plan the questions you will ask,
anticipate objections, and customize your materials.
Most salespeople prepare backwards. They start with product/technical preparation. Beginning with strategic preparation will help you save time by letting you target your efforts and remain customer-focused.
To help you in your preparation, stay up to date on industry and company news. Leverage your team for ideas. Review your customer files so that you can build on any information you already have and avoid unnecessary repetition. Prepare the materials you think you will need and tailor whatever you plan to give to the customer to make sure it applies to the customer.
As you visualize your agenda for the call, make sure you remain customer-focused. Prior to the call, whenever possible, get customer input on your agenda. But even when you get input, always check your agenda to get the feedback you need to get buy-in, make adjust-ments, and go forward.
Here are tips to help you prepare:
Prepare for all customer calls: Set a measurable objective with a time frame for each call to help you maintain momentum and accelerate your close.
Tailor all material: Show your customer your focus is on his or her needs. Visualize your call: Plan the flow of your call and build in time for the customer to talk.
Top performers often say that their sales dialogues feel more like brainstorming with their customers than 襰elling.* These are the six critical skills that are
fundamental to making their dialogues so fluid and productive:
* Presence—communicating energy, conviction, and interest when speaking and listening
* Relating—building rapport, using acknowledg- ment, and expressing empathy to connect with customers
* Questioning—creating a logical questioning strategy and effectively using probing skills to uncover needs
* Listening—understanding what the customer communicates in words, tone, and body language
* Positioning—persuasively demonstrating value and application to the customer by customizing your product knowledge to the needs of the customer
* Checking—eliciting feedback on what you have said to gauge customer understanding and agreement
These skills are the tools of selling. The sharper the skills, the more effective the salesperson. A weakness in any one of the skills puts a cap on effectiveness. For example, if the salesperson can誸 establish rapport with the customer, it is
unlikely the customer will open up in answering questions. If the salesperson is a poor listener, answers lose their value. And without an understanding of customer needs, it誷 almost impossible to connect capabilities to customer needs. Dialogue selling requires product knowledge and technical expertise, but equal to these is customer knowledge and skill. In dialogue selling, the salesperson becomes a resource person who, because he or she fully understands that particular customer誷 specific needs, can meet the needs that relate to his or her product and also cross-sell and meet the customer誷 broader spectrum of needs. To succeed in dialogue selling, you must master the six critical skills.
Here are ways you can sharpen these skills:
Assess your six critical skills: presence, relating, questioning, listening, positioning, checking. Force-rank the skills. Identify your strengths and areas for improvement. Work on one skill at a time to get it to the next level. Commit to self-critique: At the end of each call, critique your skills as well as the content of the meeting.
Ask for feedback: Elicit feedback from your customers and colleagues.
The opening of the call sets the tone. There are four important things to accomplish as you open: establish rapport with the customer, clarify the purpose of the meeting, set the focus on the customer, and bridge to needs. Where you are in the sales cycle determines the emphasis on each. But even in the quickest follow-up telephone call, the best salespeople fully leverage their openings.
Don誸 skimp on building rapport. Take the time as you prepare to plan your rapport while staying alert to cues for spontaneous rapport, such as photos or other, more personal signals. Be sensitive to customers who are not open to rapport at that moment. After you have established rapport, state the purpose of your call from your customer誷 perspective. Briefly bullet the key items of your agenda and check with the customer that the agenda meets his or her expectations.
While your objective is the measurable action step you want to achieve, your purpose answers the all-important question, 襑hat誷 in it for the customer?* Aim for your
objective, but position your purpose as you open to engage and gain the interest of the customer. Consider the following two openings:
Opening 1: You state your objective: 褺ill, John said you might be interested in
the new things we are doing in research with ..., so I誱 here to talk with you about
our ....* The spotlight is on you and you are moving to discuss product. Opening 2: You state your purpose: 褺ill, thanks for taking the time to meet with
me ... (rapport). I know how busy you are and I appreciate the time. John said you are doing some interesting things in .... I誺e given thought to that and looked at
your new Web site, which looks great. I誨 like to learn more about what you are doing
in ... and then explore how we might ... (briefly bullet your agenda). How does that sound?* The spotlight is on the customer and you are positioned to identify needs. Opening 1 is headed toward a generic product discussion, while Opening 2 is leading to an interactive dialogue to understand the customer誷 objective and needs before
you cover your capabilities or ideas.
During the meeting, get credit for your preparation. Leverage that you are prepared by positioning the homework you have done to increase your credibility (as in Opening 2).
Many salespeople are self-focused as they open, which actually hurts not only rapport but also the relationship. The customer-focused salesperson realizes the importance of an opening that builds common ground and a shared understanding of the customer誷 needs.
Here are some tips for optimizing your opening:
Prepare for rapport: Take the time to plan how you will build rapport. Fully leverage your opening: Plan your opening from what you want to accomplish— your greeting, rapport, purpose/agenda, and checking of the agenda. Define your purpose: Translate your measurable objective into your customer-focused purpose to gain the interest of the customer.
The critical skills of questioning, listening, positioning, and checking are the know-how skills. But the skill of relating—which includes rapport, acknowledgment,
and empathy—is the feel-how skill. Building rapport is often connected to the opening of a call. But there are also other powerful ways and times to relate throughout the call.
Many salespeople get into sales because they 襩ike people.* As critically important
as rapport is, it is only one part of relating to cus-tomers. Rapport is the 襩
ike people,* chitchat part of relating. Many salespeople who are good at rapport limit their ability to connect with customers to that part of relating. They don誸 reap
the benefits of using acknowledgment and empathy throughout the dialogue. In a training session, a group of salespeople were confronted with an objection exercise in which an irate senior-level customer said, 襓our people are always
spouting formulas as if we know what to do with them!* They were asked to respond with empathy.
They said, 襑hat is it you don誸 understand?* and 襂誰l go over the process again*
and so on. No one initially came up with an empathy statement. It took a while to arrive at 襑e certainly don誸 mean to do that. I誱 sorry we have not been clear.
What specifically ...?*
Acknowledgment and empathy are powerful skills. Although questions can be empathetic in tone, questions don誸 replace empathy or acknowledgment. For example, if a
customer mentions a problem, a good salesperson might ask, 襀ow did you handle that?*
A superb salesperson is likely to introduce the question with empathy to convey concern and, most important, encourage a more complete response—for example, 襂
誱 sorry to hear that that happened,* followed by the question. Both acknowledgment and empathy are very important to an active dialogue. Empathy goes a step beyond acknowledgment in showing concern for the customer and, when used effectively, it can help form personal bonds.
Empathy is not easy for some salespeople to express. They may feel empathy, but are not comfortable communicating it. Verbally expressing concern and caring can help you reduce customer defenses and make you more persuasive. Especially when a customer is emotional or the topic is sensitive, it is very helpful to respond first with an expression of genuine empathy, to make the customer more receptive to your response. Empathy needs to be genuine, because phony empathy is usually transparent to today誷 savvy customers.
Many salespeople are more comfortable using acknowledgment because it is more neutral. Using acknowledgment is also an effective way to connect with customers. Here誷 how to broaden your relating skills:
Acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge: Verbally indicate you heard what the customer has said.
Empathize: Express genuine empathy when your customer is disturbed, excited, or emotional.
Rapport: Develop your rapport skills by preparing how you will build rapport. Rapport is the first step in building a relationship.
Many salespeople think that after their opening they are ready to start 襰elling.*
While their goal may be to understand customer needs, too many go straight to talking product—true to a traditional feature-and-benefit formula. Even when salespeople move to asking questions, they can do so in a way that does not inspire customer buy-in. By asking questions without any setup, they can limit the level of cooperation they get.
Instead, as you wrap up your opening, bridge to customer needs by setting the expectation that you will be asking questions and check to get the customer誷
agreement. The reason to do this is that when people are made a part of the decision, it is more likely they will participate actively and enthusiastically. If you preface the reason you誨 like to ask questions with a customer benefit, you will increase the cooperation you get. For example, 襂誺e looked at ... in preparation for our
meeting .... To help me focus on your interests, may I ask ...?* It is also important to preface your preparation to show the effort you have made to make the meeting meaningful.
Even with customers who say, 襎ell me about X product* or 襑hat do you have for me
today?* don誸 succumb to the temptation of product before needs. Say, 襓es. I誺
e put together some material on .... So I can focus the discussion on what is important to you, may I ask a few questions? What ...? Can you tell me ...?* If it is later in the sales cycle and you have already identified needs, recap those needs and ask
a question to identify additional needs or concerns and to learn if anything has changed so that you can incorporate that into the dialogue. Knowing when you are exiting your opening and creating a bridge to needs will help you move into a robust need dialogue. It will also help you avoid getting to product
Here are a few ideas to help you create a bridge to needs as you exit your opening:
Reference your homework: Build credibility by reinforcing that you are prepared but that you also would like to ask questions.
Bridge to customer needs: Begin by sharing your reason for asking questions, to encourage the customer to participate in the dialogue.
Focus on a customer benefit: Let the customer know how he or she will benefit by participating in the dialogue.
襂ncrease your sales dialogue to increase your sales results.*
* 首先；以策略性思考作为准备的起点。先思考长期目标；也就是你希望与顾客建立的关系；然后再针对即将进行的拜访；制定立即可行的短期目标。请确认你的目标是可度量的、可实现的；并且制定明确的时间进度。具体可行的目标将帮助你维持动力；评估拜访成果；同时也能达到加速成交的效果。事先在头脑中演练整个拜访的过程；并让顾客有发言的时间。 * 接下来；你要从顾客的角度来作准备。思考顾客的目标、处境、需求以及判断标准。 * 最后；再将重点放到产品或技术上。从你的产品中找出符合顾客需求的产品。计划你可以向顾客提出的问题、期望实现的目标；并且为顾客量身定做符合需求的材料或产品。 大多数销售人员都本末倒置；从产品或技术的准备开始进行；这是错误的。从策略性的准备开始；将使你准确地把精力投注在正确的目标上；节省交易时间；并让你保持以顾客为中心。 为了做好准备；你要持续更新产业以及公司的最新消息；并让你的工作团队发挥作用、提出想法。此外；你还必须不断地回顾、查阅顾客的资料档案；这样一来；你可以随时了解顾客的最新消息；避免不必要的重复搜集。准备所有未来可能需要的素材、资料；并且为客户制定适合他们的资料或素材。
襂n preparing put first things first. Start with your objective.*
顶尖销售人员常常表示；他们和顾客的销售对话与其说是在销售；不如说更像是一场合力攻关。以下介绍六个关键性的基本技巧；可以帮助你和顾客间对话更加流畅、富有成效。 * 风采：说话以及聆听时；要传达出具有活力、说服力与关注的形象。
* 提问：制定符合逻辑的问题策略；并且有效运用探索技巧发现顾客的需求。 * 聆听：从语言、声调以及肢体语言了解顾客所要传达的意思。
* 检验：请顾客针对你说过的话表示意见；以判断顾客的理解程度及认可度。 以上技巧都属于销售工具；这些关键技巧越强；销售人员战斗力就越强。一旦其中任何一项技巧稍微薄弱；都会影响销售结果。举例来说；假如销售人员无法和顾客建立亲密和谐的关系；顾客就未必会敞开心扉回答你的问题。若销售人员是个差劲的聆听者；那么顾客所回应的答案将失去价值；而不了解顾客的需求；就无法将你的能力和顾客需求紧密结合。 虽然产品知识和专业技术是支持对谈式销售的基础；但是对顾客的了解和销售技巧一样重要。销售人员若能对顾客独特的需求有整体的了解；在对话式销售过程中则能扮演信息提供者的角色；除了可以针对顾客需求提供相关产品外；销售人员也可以交叉销售以满足顾客更多的需求卖出更多产品。为了达到成功的对话式销售；你必须要掌握这六项关键技巧。 以下提供几种方法提升你的技巧：
评估你的六项关键能力：风采、相处、提问、聆听、适当建议以及检验。将你的能力优劣程度依次排序；确认你的优势以及需要改进的部分；并自我要求在一定时间内将能力升级。 要求自我评价：每结束一次拜访；主动评价你的技巧以及会议谈话内容。 要求回馈：向顾客或同事寻求回馈。
襍alespeople are made, not born. For most salespeople, sales excellence does not
just come naturally.*
襎here are three rules for a good opening: rapport, rapport, and rapport.*
褹cknowledgment is the oxygen of sales.*
襊ave the way for the need dialogue.*