Friday, May 17, 2013

How Much Does It Cost?

Customers want to know what it costs.  "It" is the product or service you're selling.  And since the beginning of time, people hate to part with their money.  Ideally, the customers would see the value in your product and do everything in their power to pay whatever you ask.  So how do we make the world a little more perfect?  You need to plan your work and work your plan. 

Build Value
Educating customers on the value of your product is going to make or break your sale, and it's one of the main reasons you draw a paycheck.  You need to present the features and benefits to the prospect in a specific order to build the customer's understanding of the value.  Build a foundation: present the main need the product exists to meet.  Show how the product meets it.  Make it sexy, or at least visceral.  Use words that engage people at a gut level.  If you're talking about a powerful car engine, "thrust," "power," "masters the road."  If you're talking about banking, "relax", "strength," "security", and "knowledge."  Discuss the product as if the customer already owns it.  "Now you'll have the security you deserve."

After the foundation?  Ask a probing question or two and keep the customer engaged.  Respond to their answers by working in some personalized features and benefits.  Ask how your customer is meeting their needs right now.  It's important that when the customer is focusing on price, the sales professional is directing their attention to the value instead.  Be clear in your own mind exactly what information you want your customer to have before they try to make a decision. 

People are more inclined to believe and remember information that they receive in multiple  ways, so make sure that while you're speaking you show, demonstrate or point out the aspects and details that paint the picture you want them to have.  The more the customer can picture themselves using the product or service, the more they will treat you as the expert to help build their vision.  This keeps you in control of the sales process.  Is the picture you want the customer to have complete?  If not, keep building - presenting - the features and benefits that will create a complete understanding of your product.

When it's time to present the price, stack the benefits up like pancakes.  "For the hand-built mahogany frame, the wool/linen blend upholstery, the door-to-door delivery service, and the 5 year warranty, it's only $549."  Stacking reminds the customer of all the details you've presented or discussed, and emphasizes value over price. Without waiting for the customer to interject, move directly to an assumptive closing question: "Would you like us to deliver on Friday or Saturday?"  Once again, you are controlling the conversation, and directing the customer's focus to picturing themselves owning the product.  The satisfaction of owning/using the product will outweigh their attachment to their money.  That's when they buy.  Just keep moving through the closing process as if they've already committed.  You'll be amazed how often your confidence that the customer wants the product will lead to the customer owning the product.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Building the Sale

In sales, there is only one goal: turn a prospect into a satisfied customer.  That satisfied customer pays your bills, advertises your business, and refers their friends.  They are the single largest revenue generator your company has, and they are the goal that all other activities in business must serve.  How do you do it? For today, let's use the example of a waiter in a restaurant.  The prospect is the diner seated at a table in your section.  They are not yet a customer, as they haven't paid their bill.  And you don't know if they're satisfied until you see the tip, or better yet, see them come back to dine again.

The waiter (salesperson) has the job of building the order.  If they ask, "What would you like to drink?" the check will be smaller than if they come to the table with a sparkle in their eye and tell you all about the "cool, refreshing Mojitos" that are tonight's drink special.  The more things a person orders, the more opportunities the restaurant has to delight them, and turn them into a loyal customer.  And the more things they order, the larger the check.

If the waiter recites the appetizer specials like they're reciting a grocery list, that's also an unsuccessful strategy.  If they say, "You know, asparagus is at the peak of it's season right now, so the chef has designed an amazing asparagus appetizer.  It's grilled with just a little salt and olive oil, some plum tomato slices, and served with a caramelized onion jam and goat cheese.  It's amazing.  I don't know how he does it!" with some energy, it's likely to sell pretty well.  Even if the diners weren't planning to order an appetizer, that presentation will make them consider it.  The appetizer helps build the check.
What if you, the waiter (salesperson), hate the product?  Your customer should never know.  Your job is to present each dish (product) in its most attractive light.  When you do this, people will buy it.  Bigger checks mean bigger tips, and the company stays in business to employ you tomorrow.

The biggest mistake waitstaff (salespeople) make is putting themselves in the place of the diner (customer).  You are not making a living as a diner.  You are making a living as a waiter.  When you walk into work, you are now a sales specialist.  You need to educate the diner, make sure their needs are met, and make sure that both of those things increase your check.  It's not about "fooling" them into anything.  They've come to the restaurant with the intention of enjoying food.  They want a dining experience that they couldn't replicate at home.  Assuming the waiter has done his job properly and educated the customer while selling the product, the diner may leave with an uneaten portion of food in a doggie bag because they ordered more than they could eat.  When they're enjoying their leftovers, they'll be looking forward to when they can go back!

Best of all, the waiter will know he has maximized the check.  They have ordered something from each menu category, and eaten as much as they reasonably could.  The tip is as high as you could achieve.

If the waiter is truly a professional, he will have encouraged them to come back, and planted the seed for other ways the diners can enjoy the product, like catering or private parties.  When the diner comes back in and wants to be seated in his section, he'll know they are a satisfied customer.  Now he needs to do it again!

Monday, May 6, 2013

How Does Your Sale Flow?

Sales Flow.  We know it's important.  How do you develop one?  Let's get specific.

Sales Flow is the process used with the customer to result in the sale.  It's the difference between being a sales professional and being an order-taker.  (Professionals are in control of the process, and order-takers wait to be told what is being purchased.)  Sales flow always includes the same pieces, and what varies is the order.  What never varies is the sales professional stays in control of the conversation.

Omitting any of the pieces of the flow seriously damages your chance of getting the sale.  Even if the customer is chomping at the bit, desparate to buy.  If you don't get through the entire sales process you risk a buyers-remorse cancel, or worse, an unhappy customer who doesn't cancel - they just badmouth you for the length of the relationship.

So what's the flow?  These are the necessary pieces.

Interview - Probing Questions - Qualifying - Need Recognition
These are many words for basically the same thing.  You are questioning the customer about how they're meeting the product need right now, and how they've determined that it's time to talk to you.  Let's use the car salesman as an example.  "What are you driving now?"  "Is this car your primary vehicle?"  "What has you shopping for a vehicle today?"   "What's your dream car?" "What kind of driving do you do the most?" "Do you have anything in particular in mind?" It's particularly effective to combine this step with the "Excitement" step.

Establish Relationship
The reason a salesperson is involved in this sale is the product sells best in a relationship sale.  You need to create a positive relationship with each of your prospects.  Your personality needs to be involved - no robotic conversation here.  Notice everything about the customer that you can.  If they have a bumper sticker about fishing, ask them about fishing.  Let them be the expert.  Relate the attributes of the vehicles back to fishing.  Even if you personally hate fishing (or kids, or antiquing, or whatever they love) find questions that bridge the gap between their passion and your product.

Excitement - Drive - Desire - Urgency
A prospect who is not excited is unlikely to become a customer.  If you're selling cars and saying cars are a necessary evil in today's modern world, your chances of making the sale are much lower than if you're talking about the seat-of-the-pants thrill of feeling the car accellerate with just a flick of the gas pedal.  You need to generate excitement for using the product.  This is the difference between presenting features and benefits and creating urgency for the customer to buy.

Presentation and Disclosure
Features, benefits, and disclosures need to be presented consistently throughout the interaction.  (Features are important facts about the product or service being sold, usually ones unique to your particular product or service.  Benefits are advantages the customer will receive by purchasing your product or service.  Disclosure is making the customer aware of what most of us think of as "small print."  This is any agreement or assumption of liability between the parties involved in the sale.)  Weave the features and benefits through, touching on each one several times.  Touching on the disclosures only once, or providing them in writing instead of discussing them helps to keep the focus on the positive.  If the customer asks about the details of any disclosure, handle them as directed by your

Close the Sale
This is the part we all love!  The prospect becomes a customer, and commits to the purchase. This is the time to emphasize benefits.  Ask for the customer's business.  Thank them for their business.  Discuss things past the sale, like delivery dates or what the client will feel when they are in possession of the product.  This step also works well when woven through the entire sale process.  "Trial" closes keep your finger on the pulse of your prospect's excitement level.  Checking on what delivery date would be good, or what tow hitch fits well on this vehicle in the beginning or middle of the process can appear to be simple note-taking to the customer while subtly moving your sales agenda forward.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Vending, Clerks, and Sales

When my daughter was 4, she came down with a nasty case of strep throat.  Everything she swallowed hurt her, including fluids.  It was a hot day, and she was feverish, and wouldn't even drink because it hurt.  I worried about her getting dehydrated.  As I was offering her different things for dinner, she turned down one after another. 

"Let's have ice cream for dinner tonight, Honey." I offered.  It wouldn't hurt her throat, and it would help keep her fluid intake up.

She tilted her head so her curls fell away from her face.  "Okay."  Then she sat up very straight, pushed back her hair, and said, "Wait.  We can do that?"  She had never even imagined the option!

There are three primary ways in which things are sold:

Vending - when things are displayed, and all or most of the transaction takes place without interacting with a person.  This is true of vending machines, most online sales, and grocery stores to name a few.  People are versed in the product and in their particular needs, and can/will make purchases without additional information about features and benefits.

Clerks - when a shopping experience takes place with a human assistant to the sale.  Clerks will direct you within a store to help you find the product you are seeking, and make suggestions regarding fit or ancillary products that work well together. 

Sales - the shopper is guided through the entire process because the features and benefits must be explained and understood on an individual basis.  Buying a car, or consulting a stock broker or insurance agent are excellent examples of sales.

Most of us in the sales world think of ourselves as professionals, but find ourselves behaving like clerks more often that we'd like.  We have a customer who wants to take control of a sale, or who is only motivated to shop, and not buy, and we find ourselves directing them to investigate on their own ("the sale rack is in the back, Sir.") We choose not to sell to them, but instead to deflect them because they're difficult.

How do we motivate ourselves to be a salesperson all the time?  We must decide to never give up control.  It may be taken from us from time to time, but we should never give it away.  Salespeople are hired when they are necessary for the product to meet its full market potential.  Some features and benefits are not obvious, so we need to show the  customer how the product improves their unique situation.  Take the situation above: the child didn't even know ice cream for dinner was an option.  We never know which information the client doesn't have - and we know better than to make assumptions - so we need to cover it all.

When we surrender control of a sale, we end up relying on the customer to ask the right questions to get the answers they need to sell themselves.  They won't do it.  They can't do it.  They don't know the features and benefits of the product the way you do.  You need to lead them through the process to ensure they cover all the information that will help them.  You also need to keep them motivated and excited, because without that, the sale will never close.  People love to acquire, but they hate parting with their money. 
Stick with your sales flow, and commit to answering questions in your own timetable. "I'd like to get to that in a minute."  Take notes while the customer is speaking, so they can tell that you are interested in their specific needs.  Frequently refer to their comments and situation that you took the notes about so they feel involved.  Ask primarily "yes" questions.  ("Wouldn't you love never having to clean the oven again?")  Yes questions rarely lead to the customer objecting, so you can build goodwill, and the customer will feel understood.  Control is the difference between a sale and a callback.  Make sales!

Next time, we'll review Sales Flow.