“No one ever succeeded by selling just a product. They succeeded by selling the need to own the product.”
— Paul Gravette
Sales Techniques for Closing the Deal.
I’ve sat across the table from thousands of potential customers, offering them products and services I knew were can’t-miss. And you know what? At first, I missed. My ideas were great, and eventually turned into billion-dollar companies, but my execution was poor. What was I doing wrong?
Simply put, I was trying to sell a product when I should have been selling an idea. I was offering something I knew was great, but should have been communicating to the buyer why he/she should agree that it’s great. It didn’t take long for me to realize I had room to improve my techniques so it would be easier to close the deal. Here’s a bit of advice I learned early that may help you close your own deals.
1. Know who the decision maker is.
Not knowing this is the worst mistake you can make. If your prospect is a business that employs a large number of people, there’s always someone who is empowered to act – and a lot of people who are not. Do you know who that decision maker is? Because that’s the person you MUST sit down with.
Did you get an appointment with the Assistant Buyer? Did you spend days preparing a presentation and spend two hours with that person selling your heart out? And at the end, did the Assistant Buyer tell you how wonderful your product or service is, “…but only the Head Purchasing Agent can make this decision.” You’ve just wasted all that time, and now selling your product or service depends on someone who has no vested interest to convince his/her boss to buy.
It’s not impolite to ask who makes the final decisions. Once you know, pursue that person for a face-to-face. Remember, no matter how good your sales techniques are, they won’t work on a person who doesn’t have the authority to buy.
2. Know your customer.
Very few businesses are unique. An auto dealership is an auto dealership. A bank is a bank. However each dealership or bank may have one unique need or niche.
Learn a few things before committing to trying to sell. Is it a small or large operation? Domestic or international? Publicly owned or private? Get the answers before you meet. After all, if your product is the greatest internal business communications software in the world, but when you get in front of the owner you discover it’s a three-person operation that could never afford it, you’re sunk.
3. Be the solution to a problem.
The Internet can give you a lot of useful information about a business. I like to find reviews that customers have written about a business’s products or services.
Let’s say I have a packaging process for manufacturers to ship and/or display their goods. I would go online and look at a number of manufacturers and read some of the reviews. If I find one whose customers like their products but complain about damaged deliveries, wasteful packaging, or inadequate packaging I know that’s my entry point for a conversation – and a sale.
I would bring those reviews to the attention of the buyer, ask whether their packaging problems have cost them money (and how much), and have the solution for them, all prepared in advance because I took the time to do some basic research. You have packaging? They already have a supplier. You can solve a problem, save money, and improve their reviews? Sold! You’re their new supplier!
4. Prepare for objections before the meeting.
“We can’t afford it right now.”
“I’ve never had good luck with your type of service.”
“We’ve done fine without you all these years.”
It doesn’t take much imagination to think of how a prospect might object to a purchase. Excuses come naturally. It’s your job to prepare for those objections and have a way to overcome them right then and there – immediately.
Once you have an idea of why a prospect might resist purchasing, devise reasonable, well thought out answers that you can use to show that you know what you’re talking about. The surest way to lose a sale is to be unable to counter objections or seem like you don’t know what you’re talking about. So prepare!
5. Know your competition.
Unless you’re the only one offering a product or service, there’s going to be others you’re competing with. Find out about them. Know their strengths so you can avoid competing on that level. Know their weaknesses so you can concentrate your strengths against them.
Is your price cheaper or more expensive? If more expensive, instead of talking price speak about how much more you have to offer. Is your lead time longer or shorter? If longer, concentrate on how quality takes time. But always remember you’re not the only game in town, so be sure you know how to be the game your prospect believes is the best.
6. Ask for the sale.
This is one of the most obvious things you should be doing, but it’s probably the most overlooked technique. I don’t know how many of my competitors will prepare for hours, days, weeks to present their products to a buyer, and when finished just sit there hoping for a positive answer.
No. Don’t. ALWAYS ASK FOR THE SALE! There are many ways to do it.
“Thanks for giving me your time, Jane. Now, how about finalizing the deal and writing up your order.”
“Tell me, Bob. Does my product solve any of your problems? Then we shouldn’t wait to get started. When would you like delivery?”
“Now that you know what we can do for you, what quantity would be good to start with?”
Why ask? When your presentation is finished, the buyer may believe that’s the end of it, and that your job was just to give him/her some information that can be reviewed later. Well, often that review never comes and the information is forgotten. The time to close the sale is at the meeting. Act like it’s a foregone conclusion, and if there’s enough interest, if you’ve followed the other techniques, the sale will be yours.