“Worry about being better; bigger will take care of itself. Think one customer at a time and take care of each one the best way you can.”
Gary Comer, founder of Land’s End
Demanding customers – fierce competition – breathtaking technological innovation
These are the realities of today’s global marketplace… realities that have changed forever the way we do business, especially the way we sell. Gone are the days when salespeople could rely solely on charming small-talk and aggressive closing techniques to make sales.
Many people think selling is something the seller does TO the buyer. They sell them something. The result of this attitude to sales is that many salespeople adapt a manipulative, coercive style of selling. Some salespeople think of selling as a competition where they convince a customer to buy, and success as a victory.
It’s not surprising that many people fear salespeople and distrust them. They think of salespeople as fast-talking and slick. They are wary of being sold something they really don’t need or want.
Have you ever been sold something, and then regretted it later? How did you feel about the salesperson?
The modern view of selling is that the purpose of the salesperson is to HELP the customer make good buying decisions. Someone seen as an ally and trusted advisor. A business partner you can rely on to provide valuable help and advice as well as supply NEEDED goods and services.
The outcome of a sale is not that one person gains at the expense of the other. The best sales result is win-win, forged by two parties who both leave feeling good about the transaction and with a positive commitment to each other.
The role of the professional salesperson is largely a product of the 20th century. Before the industrial revolution, people who made things were also responsible for selling their own goods. As the availability of products and services expanded, we needed people who specialized in guiding consumer decisions. The role of the salesperson has changed dramatically over the years as a result of the changing relationship between availability and demand.
Since World War II, with accelerated growth of enabling technology, and the explosion of competition, availability has outstripped demand. Sellers started pushing their goods and services more aggressively at consumers. We began to experience the manipulative salesperson. The perception many people have today of salespeople is the smooth-talking con man so well depicted in movies such as “Used Cars”, “Tin Man”, and “GlenGarry Glen Ross”.
How do you fit your sales approach to the needs and concerns of today’s customers? Three strategies:
1. Clearly identify each customer’s unique needs and requirements.
2. Tailor your goods and services to meet those needs at a fair price.
3. Ensure a long-term relationship by pursuing customer satisfaction.
* Clearly identify each customer’s unique needs and requirements.
Manipulative salespeople try to manufacture a need where none exists. Better if you can bring existing customer needs to the surface by clarifying your customers understanding of the symptoms they are experiencing. Many people make a very good living out of helping people identify which particular need may be causing a symptom, then advising them on how to fix it. This includes medical doctors and good salespeople.
The most skilled salesperson guides a customer through a discovery process to uncover the customers’ needs and wants. The effective salesperson helps the customer understand the consequences of inaction and the value in making a change. The more clearly your customer sees the ramifications of doing nothing, plus the many positive benefits of taking action, the more likely they are to want to do something about it. This is called “tension for change”. The customer who has decided that they truly have a need AND that they really wish to do something about it, will be receptive to your solutions.
* Tailor your goods and services to meet those needs at a fair price
For most businesses, offering generic products and services is a recipe for disaster.
With the vast array of choices available, customers want a solution that is right for them in their own special situation. Listen carefully to the needs and wants of your customers, and then package a combination of your products and services that specifically address your customer’s needs.
To do this requires the ability to:
– Understand what the customer wants, and recognize what is important to them;
– Identify the relevant features of your products and services that are appropriate for this customer;
– Communicate the specific benefits gained by using your products and services;
– Deliver the package of products and services with the emphasis on the desired results expected by this customer.
* Develop a long-term relationship through customer satisfaction
Truly effective salespeople succeed because they are genuinely interested and concerned about their customers. Their desire to understand the customer takes priority over their desire to pocket commissions from selling products and services.
The surest way to cement a long-term business relationship with your customer is to remember that no sale is complete until your customer’s expectations are met or, preferably, exceeded. Many salespeople take customers for granted. The excitement of new sales often leads to ignoring existing customers. The result is constant pressure to create new business from scratch. Meanwhile, some of your best prospects are right there under your nose, in your own customer base.
The traditional, fast-talking slick salesperson is no longer effective in today’s global marketplace. In today’s dynamic and highly competitive marketplace, well-educated, savvy consumers look to the modern salesperson for guidance in making well-informed buying decisions. If you are unwilling or unable to adapt, you face the possibility of declining sales and risk severing long-term customer relationships. The challenge is enormous and the stakes are high.
Remember, customers, buy for their reasons, not ours. When you work to form a partnership with your customers, providing them with valuable help and advice as well as supplying vital products and services, you virtually ensure sales success.
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