Salespeople may be able to convince clients to purchase one-time products or services, but if they do not invest the time to build their relationships, these clients are not likely to be repeat customers or recommend the salespeople or their companies to others. A large part of developing relationships includes understanding what is best for prospects and clients. This involves learning about them using the four FORD components:
1. Family: Learn about their families and their families’ histories. Sometimes salespeople have to share personal details from their own lives before they can get prospects and clients to open up.
2. Organization: Ask about their work histories and what types of organizations they have been involved with. This also includes their educational backgrounds and other elements of their professional journeys.
3. Recreation: Inquire about what they do in their spare time. Uncover their passions for volunteer causes and their after-work and weekend activities.
4. Dreams: Discover their dreams and aspirations. Since this is the most personal part of an individual’s life, it could take some time to build enough trust to be privy to this type of information.
Salespeople must not simply rely on their memories to record this information. After each client session, they should make clear, organized notes to help them remember what was said. These notes will also allow them to conduct personalized follow-up conversations, such as, “I remember you said your wife was going to Russia. How was her trip?” This shows prospects and clients that the salespeople are paying attention to what was said and that they care on a personal level.
It is also important for salespeople to use open probes as opposed to closed probes when asking questions. A closed probe leads to a “yes” or “no” answer, where an open probe invites conversation. For example, instead of asking individuals if they like their present jobs, salespeople can ask them exactly what they like or dislike. Salespeople should also ask questions with answers that not only reveal information about clients, but that also can assist in the development of new sales strategies. These questions include:
*Where are you from?
*What business are you in?
*If you could improve one thing about your current situation, what would it be?
*How did you get started in your business?
PART 3: THE SALES PROCESS
Many salespeople make the mistake of thinking that the entire world is their target audience–this is not the case. Their success depends on identifying the true markets for their companies’ products and services and focusing solely on those markets.
It is also essential for salespeople to know which types of processes will be successful when selling specific products or services. When selling a low-cost commodity that is readily available, such as a television, it is more appropriate to cast a wide net using TV and radio commercials, Internet pop-ups, and print ads. However, a $300,000 vehicle has a much more specific target audience and will generally require a more expensive and time-consuming marketing strategy that targets specific prospects. In addition to identifying target audiences, the sales process involves five other steps:
- Knowing the product or service very well.
- Knowing competitors and their strategic/tactical advantages and gaps.
- Understanding the math behind building long-term pipelines.
- Mapping out the components of diversified sourcing strategies.
- Leveraging data to become more efficient.
Successful salespeople do not just hope that everything will work out–they are committed to stepping away and deeply thinking about what is happening in the sales cycle. During these time-outs, they should think about what is working, what is not working, what they can control, and what they are powerless to change.
Passing the blame is not an effective sales strategy. Salespeople must evaluate whether they are giving their full effort or not. They should also compare themselves to their peers to see if others are producing more sales, and if so, how and why. They should ask themselves if they are being as efficient as possible or if they could be delegating some of their tasks in order to spend more time on critical sales matters.
Salespeople must also be committed and understand that they need to work to make things happen. They cannot sit around waiting for the phone to ring.
Salespeople who are leaders are different from salespeople who are managers. While great leaders also manage well, managers may not necessarily be leaders. Great leaders:
*Show humility in both good times and bad.
*Raise the standards for themselves and their teams.
*Seek to understand and help everyone become better people and salespeople.
*Understand the value of listening.
*Prepare for the future and try to dodge “avoidable mistakes.”
*Never forget to focus on the client.
*Maximize relationships instead of taking advantage of or abusing them.
*Build business results instead of accepting mediocre performance.
*Demonstrate accountability by not blaming others.