When you are are “cold” selling or feeling out prospects prior to meeting, making a sale can be difficult. Often, the difference between whether you make a sale or not comes down to the rapport you establish with the potential customer.
To help establish that rapport, you need to start collecting as much information about them as you possibly can to understand their needs and goals.
The important message here is to find out as much as you can prior to your first meeting.
Here are some guidelines to help you.
- The company: How long has it been in existence? Who started it? Most companies have an interesting rags-to-riches story about their growth. Find out whether the founders are still around. Investigate any idiosyncrasies or pet peeves the company may have. Maybe it has a certain dress code that you can determine before showing up looking too casual or overdressed. What about charities the company supports? Making a kind remark about its contribution to the community shows you pay attention to detail.
- The interview: What does the person who is interviewing you do in the company. Be curious about his or her work, and mention some information about his or her contributions to the company during the interview. This person may not be making the final decision about your product or service, but he or she more than likely has some input.
- The need for your product or service: Is this the first time the company has used your product or service? What specifically attracted the buyers to you? Have they used something similar? Who are your competitors? Why is the company changing supplier?
- Mutual friends: Is this a lead from a mutual friend? This is an excellent rapport builder during the approach, especially if that friend or company has credibility in this customer’s eyes.
- Price, price range and budgets: Is cost a factor? Try to find this out beforehand. You must know what you are working with so you don’t scare people off when you come back with your quotes.
- The tempo and style of the customer: Do you know whether the buyers are formal or casual? What sort of tastes do they have?
Part of the process of analysing your customers’ needs and goals is to conduct a needs analysis of each prospect. What guides their purchasing decisions? Most people consider a number of factors, such as price, quality, service, performance, and convenience. Each of these factors has a different value to different people. Discovering the value a particular prospect places on each of these factors is one of the goals of a needs analysis.
Aside from these economic factors, other motivational elements include individual needs such as basic living requirements, ego, lifestyle, personal goals, and safety-related necessities.
As you can see, there are a variety of needs that affect the purchasing decision. The goal of a salesperson is to identify the needs and goals of each prospect so they can develop a strategy to meet those needs. And remember – one well prepared visit with the customer is probably not going to close the sale. If the timing isn’t quite right for the company to buy, it will be your ability to hang in there through diligent follow-up calls that will determine your ultimate success.
A case study
Whenever possible, successful salespeople research and investigate their prospects prior to the initial meeting with them.
If you aim to sell computers to a company, research its technology needs before the first meeting. Gather information on what the company does, and how your product can help.
Then, at your first appointment, you can insert “scripts” you have prepared. These scripts, which you formulate after gathering information about the company, serve as solutions to some of the company’s buying concerns.
“I understand the costs of mailing lists and file storage have added thousands of dollars to your company’s yearly expenses. This computer can easily store more names and addresses than your current system. Also, with this newer, faster computer, you won’t spend unnecessary time waiting at a computer screen.”
You derived the specific information about the computers during an informational interview two days before. You called the company and explained to the receptionist that you were scheduled to come in for a presentation with a certain department head. Then you asked the name of that person’s assistant, and were put through to her.
Then you tried this script:
“Hi Mary. We don’t know each other yet, but I’m due in for an appointment with Mr. Smith this week. I’m preparing some things for this presentation, and your input would save your boss unnecessary time with me. Knowing you are right in the middle of all the action, can you please tell me why your department is shopping for certain types of computers. Where do you think you are losing time in your operation right now?”
Two things work in your favour when you have mastered appropriate “pre-approach” behaviour:
1. You have now recruited a cooperative member to your team. The cooperation of the assistant is critical if you want to get anywhere with her boss.
2. You are getting very smart, very fast regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the company’s current product (you might want to ask the assistant what she likes about the current system too).
Closing the deal
Once you have made your sales pitch and determined your potential client’s interest, you will usually need to make at least one more call to close the deal.
In addition to listening and speaking skills, preparation for closing the sale is essential to successful phone negotiations. Experienced salespeople agree that preparation for closing is usually what gives you the edge. This preparation period can be more time-consuming than the phone session itself.
Before you make a call, you should make a list of the viewpoints, goals, concerns, and needs of both your company and the other party’s company.
In addition, you should add any concessions you will be willing to make, as well as those the other party may make.
When making the call, you can increase effectiveness by focusing on the long run. Remember that a repeat customer is much more profitable to you than a one-time buyer.
For this reason, you may want to make some concessions regarding price or delivery dates in order to ensure that the customer will come back to you.
Thinking in short-term dollars may get you more money on this one deal, but it can also discourage the buyer from becoming a repeat customer or entering a long-term relationship with your company.
Other ways to make your phone-sales calls successful include assessing calls after you make them and following up once you have reached an agreement with your prospect.
Calling simply to say that it is a pleasure to do business with your client is a nice touch that doesn’t go unnoticed.
Let the client know that they can always reach you by phone when they have a question or problem. This technique ensures customer satisfaction and increases repeat sales.
The telephone is changing the way people conduct business. New technology has enabled the telephone to take over traditional marketing functions with great success.
You can use the telephone to enhance your promotional, sales, and advertising activities, and to maintain a high degree of customer satisfaction.