Are you wanting to develop your selling techniques and sales strategies? You could be a salesperson, a company owner, sales assistant and so on. Whatever the reason is, this fantastic sales guide could be ideal for you.
Selling is of course a discipline, which many people can excel at with practice and determination. This guide will highlight different approaches and techniques you could use to close your next sale or part of your next campaign.
The Cold Sales Approach
For some sales professionals you will have a list of clients, meetings and pitches already scheduled and a plan worked out accordingly of how you’re going to sell the product or service you’re offering, for others you may have just started in sales, or may be ‘cold calling’ whether that’s in person, through technology or otherwise. The cold sales approach can be one of the most difficult elements of selling for anybody because the person you’re attempting to sell to, either wasn’t expecting you to call or isn’t really interested in the first place.
Even though this may be true that doesn’t mean you can’t close a tremendous amount of sales from this technique, it has been said that for cold selling you have only 30-40 seconds to impressive your potential client or customer, you’re opening question has to be planned word for word and has to practiced in front of the mirror, in the shower, on friends, family and on potential customers. With time you will learn that you’re opening question WILL adapt from its original form because elements will always need refining depending on the words you use or the industry you’re selling in.
For example, think of the words in general you may use, “Sir, your business has a problem” how does that sound to you? To me, it sounds fairly negative and very dis-respectful (even if it’s true), now flip it around, “Sir, I have an opportunity for you and your business”, sounds more appealing doesn’t it?
That’s one of the hidden tricks of speaking to any customers or clients you need to speak positively about how your ‘new’ and ‘exciting’ product can be an ‘opportunity’ for them. Instantly you will have grabbed their attention and they will be eager to listen more closely to what you have to say.
When I started out ‘cold calling’ I made several mistakes, I would open the conversation with “Hello Sir, I would like to talk to you about our new product, it’s great for X, Y and Z” they would reply with “No, No, we can’t afford it”, “I have no time to discuss the matter”, “Business is bad, sales are down”. “I don’t make the purchasing decisions”, “can you call again in six months time” and so and so forth. Obviously this was frustrating because I was trying the best I could, but nobody seemed to want to listen to anything I had to say, the approach WASN’T WORKING.
I remember I sat and I thought about what I was saying, how I was saying it and how I could improve what I was saying, I decided I needed a new approach, I was making a fundamental error of just highlighting the attributes of the product, rather than highlighting HOW the attributes of the product was great and BENEFICIAL for my customer.
The next day with a new spring in my step I walked into my next potential customer, I walked straight in and said “Sir, the economy is tough and times are hard, our latest product can help your business save up to 20% within a twelve month period, are you interested in finding out how?”
Every single person I asked responded in exactly the same manner, they said “How’s that possible?”, “Can you explain more?”, every time tour approach a potential new customer or client you remember the reasons of WHY a customer should listen to you in the first place. You should be asking yourself one simple question, would you listen to a sales professional if their product wasn’t highlighting any benefits that DIRECTLY affected you? The chances are you would send them on their way.
Prioritising Your Selling
It has been said that the house you live in, the clothes you own, the car you own and the money in you have in your bank account is the direct result of the time and effort you have put in over the last few years. If you have a lot of materialistic goods, or a lot of money in your account, some would say you have used your time wisely, if you’re currently struggling or feel you can improve on your current position then others would say you have used your time in the past irresponsible.
In general these two concepts are true, however no one can really say whether somebody’s time was ‘well spent’ or ‘not well spent’ as each individual circumstances and situations dictate to how much somebody is able to do.
For some sales professionals prioritising what they do ultimately results in how much they’re able to sell, and how much they do sell. It has been stated in the past that up to 20 to 30% of what you do can result in over 70% of your sales, this theory can be related to a football or soccer player. The striker may spend 70 of the 90 minutes running around without kicking the ball, yet in 20 of those minutes, he has scored 3 goals and hit the post twice, ultimately his success has came in a small timescale of the overall game.
The top sales professionals have realised they don’t need to waste all of their time on the 70% who won’t purchase in large enough quantities to make it worth their while, they have realised that selling to the remaining 30% actually generates more money than the remaining 70% ever could.
The same principle is applied to the economy, take the ‘rich’ and the ‘poor’ if the economy has one hundred million pounds overall, the rich will have a large proportion of this wealth. For argument sake, let’s say the rich accounted for 10% of the population but had 80% of the wealth, that means that eighty million pounds was either invested in property or bank accounts, thus it was ‘out of circulation’.
From this the remaining 90% of the ‘poor’ were competing for the remaining 20% of the wealth, thus little money was available to go around to all parties. If you had the opportunity to sell to one party over the other, it would be much more lucrative to target the ‘rich’ population who controlled 80% of the overall wealth, thus you would make far more money by prioritising to this group of people.
If you’re just starting out, then obviously you won’t know which groups, companies or people are more lucrative than others, this is something that will continually be under development and with the passing of time you will be able to pin-point your ‘top’ performing accounts and adapt your position accordingly.
The Game Plan
The top performing sales professionals are consistently reviewing every element of their selling techniques, once you reach the top it can be easy to become complacent, reviewing how you do business, can not only improve any aspects which you may have overlooked, it can improve your customers experience as well.
The best sales professionals I have witnessed always have a ‘game plan’ before they make any phone call, email or face to face pitch, they research and detail every element they feel will help them to appeal and sell more products or services to the company or business they are targeting.
They emerge themselves to fully understand how the business operates, what’s it strengths, it’s weaknesses and the places where it could be improved. Like earlier in this chapter where I touched upon a persons needs, wants and desires, the top sales professionals are attempting to exploit these same principles but on a larger scale. It can be noted that the more research they do, the more impressive, intelligent and professional they will sound to any potential client or customer.
After the initial stage of gaining as much research as possible, the top sales professionals then organise this information so they can form goals and objectives, these goals are as detailed as what type of questions they’re going to ask and what overall result they want to achieve.
For some an initial meeting could just be a professional ‘hello’ to gain a foothold into a company and expand the selling at a later date, for others their goal could be to sell right there and then, goals and objectives obviously change depending on what field or industry you’re working in.
I have witnessed sales professionals memorising exactly what questions in sequence they were going to ask BEFORE they even left their car, they knew exactly what direction THEY wanted the meeting to go, for me personally I believe having a set of basic ‘must ask’ questions is very important however I like to have the flexible to adapt if the customer says something I wasn’t expecting.
Equally the final part of any game plan should be the ‘analysis’ stage, this is where you have the opportunity to write down exactly what was said, promised or any actions that needed to happen. It’s important that you do this straight after the meeting because vital points can be forgotten if you’re not organised.
For example, you met a new potential client at a meeting and everything went great, the customer liked your product and you said you would arrange for additional literature packs to be sent via the post for him to look at. before he made a firm purchase.
Two weeks later, you ring the customer and ask if they’re interested in purchasing any products, he tells you the literature pack didn’t arrive in the post, you ask ‘what literature pack?’ and he says, ‘the one you promised to send to me, I gave up and thought you weren’t interested…. so I bought from another company’.
By writing everything down after the initial event, you can easily recall everything that was said, with time your memory will become hazy and things you thought you said, you may not have done, and things you did say, you may not remember. The best performing sales professionals are the most professional and the most organised, that’s why they’re the best.
Sometimes closing a sale can actually be just as hard as making your customer believe and trust in what you’re saying and doing, there’s been many sales that have been lost at the ‘final’ hurdle due to poor organisation, not reading the situation or not engaging correctly with your client at the correct moment.
Some of these elements can only be learned through time, however there’s a few closing principles which every top sales person should be aware of.
The Direct Close Technique
The direct close technique should be implemented when you’ve completed the groundwork and built solid foundations for the sale to progress, at this point you should be confident in the knowledge that your customer will certainly purchase from you and react in a positive manner to any suggestions or recommendations you may make.
Be aware that some people may read the situation incorrectly and the customer may not be ready at all, only you can tell when you think the customer is ready to commit, don’t appear to be another pushy sales person, always try to ‘soften’ your approach but still deliver in a directorial manner.
Here are a couple examples of a direct close sale dialog:
“Now you’re happy with everything we have discussed, can we complete the order?”
“Can I ask you to pay today?”
“Is it OK to go ahead with the purchase?”
The Pressure Close Technique
The pressure close technique can be excellent if your customer or client is needing the product or service rather urgently, this instantly gives you the upper hand to progress the conversation on in a quick and timely fashion. By creating enough pressure you can make them realise they have a need or desire to complete this sale, as it’s in their own interests to do so, rather than yours.
This technique can be used in an array of different situations, for some it can be incredible effective, while others may need to work on their delivery and implementation to get the correct balance.
Here are some example of the Pressure Close dialog:
“We have spoken about how you need your a bed because you’re daughter is coming home from university, shall we go ahead and purchase today? We can have the bed delivered as early tomorrow!”
“Your safety systems appear to be compromised, thats obviously going to put your business at risk, shall we sign the contract now, so we can replace the old systems and make sure your business is fully protected?”
The Trail Close Technique
The trail close technique gives you the ability to test your customers intent throughout the entire selling process, this is a great method to make sure you’re correctly engaging with them so you’re both on the same ‘wave length’. Generally you’re testing how much they really want the product or service you’re offering, how committed are they? Do they have the funds? Have they any objections or reservations about the deal?
Testing the water in this manner is fantastic when trying to determine how much interest the customer has, once you feel the customer is ready to make the purchase, simply close the deal!
Here are a few examples of the Trail Close dialog:
“OK, so you’re not happy with the car being white, however if we sourced a red car for you from our extensive dealer network would you complete the deal this afternoon?”
“I fully understand your concerns about the hotel being without a pool, we do have a special deal this week at a resort two miles away from your first choice hotel, if there’s still rooms available can I book you in today?”
The Choice Close Technique
The choice close is a popular and powerful closing technique, sometimes it’s know as the ‘alternative close’ because if gives your customer an option to decide which solution is best for them, if they’re feeling unsatisfied with any solutions you have already offered them.
This can be a fantastic technique if you’re dealing with a ‘fussy’ customer who never appears to be happy with anything you suggest. With this method it’s important to remember that too much choice can hamper you rather than help you!
Here are a few examples of the Choice Close dialog:
“We have these three colour options, which one is best for you? Just pick a colour and we can complete the order!”
“Do you want to sign the contract this week or next week?
The Assumptive Close Technique
The assumptive close should not be used as a general closing technique without your customers pre-arrange agreement that they want what you’re selling, it should be used to tie up any loose ends of a deal.
Just like the ‘direct close’ technique you should be fully confident that your customer is going to complete the deal with you and not a competitor. If you have mis-interpreted any part of the selling process and ultimately not satisfied their needs you may appear to be over confident and pushy and they may end up going elsewhere.
Here are some examples of the Assumptive Close dialog:
“So what date would you like deliver?
“I’ve just placed the contract in the email I have sent you, please can you click on the link and accept the deal!”
The Buyer Request Close Technique
Sometimes you can actually use a customers request to get exactly what you want, a sale or a commitment to purchase. This technique is usually used by experienced sales professionals because you need to be alert to spot any potential opportunities to use this method.
In theory the idea is to counter a buyers request by replying with an effective and compelling close to the commitment, if ultized correctly this technique can swiftly accelerate the sales process and certainly give you a major advantage. Here are a few examples of the Buyer Request close dialog:
Customer: “When can you deliver the bed?”
You: “We’ll deliver it tomorrow, if you pay right now”
The Thermometer Close Technique
The thermometer close technique can be a brilliant way to judge just how much a potential customer or client loves your product or service, it’s basically a way of rating their level of interest from zero to ten. Zero means the customer has no interest while ten means they’re ready to purchase straight away.
One of the great benefits of the thermometer close is the fact it can be used several times in one sales process, if your customer answers five or lower you need to asking them exactly how they have came to that number and what needs to be improved to get to a higher number, thus you’re able to find out exactly what they’re requiring.
Equally if they answer five or above you need to asking what do they want to get to ten, your customers response will tell you everything you need to know to close the deal.
Here is an example of the thermometer close dialog:
“So you’ve looked over the product, could you rate it out of ten for how likely you’re to currently purchasing it?”
The Summary Close Technique
This technique is based upon your closing statement where you summaries all the benefits of the product or service you’re selling, the buyer realises it’s a great deal and ultimate places the order.
This approach can be great because it’s a gentle way of finding out how close you’re customer is to purchasing, if they like what you’re telling them you know it’s only a matter of time before money exchanges hands.
Here is an example of the Summary Close dialog:
“So in summary, this car has leather seats, an on board computer system, electric seats, electric mirrors, stylish dashboard, a modern interior with his and her cup holders, electrical points for devices such as laptops, computers and tablets…”
The Take It Away Close Technique
It’s an age old theory that once you take something it makes people want it even more, it’s basic human nature, however it’s certainly an approach which you can use to your advantage. In general nobody likes to have things taken away from them and if you understand when the best time is to use this method then you can actually close a sale by taking it away. Sounds confusing right? But it does actually work!
Here is an example of how the Take It Away Close dialog:
You: “OK, well I’ve given you a discount and to be honest I can’t go any lower, are you sure you don’t want to accept the offer I have presented?”
Client: “No, it’s too expensive”
- The Next Day *
You: “Hey, just to let you know my manager has now pulled the discount I offered you, unfortunately it will be full price from now on”
Client: “Actually if you’re manager honours the deal you offered, I will accept and complete today”
As you can see this deal can be tricky to understand when the best time is to use it, for some it works incredibly effectively, for others it can end in disaster, only you can tell when the best time is to use this technique (if at all).
The Ask-For-it Close Technique
Sometimes when all else fails, it can be a good idea to just ask out right if you’re customer wants to purchase. This should only be used if all other methods have failed, for some sales professionals attempting to close a deal which never seems to happen can actually hamper them, than help them.
They’re wasting time attempting to sell to a customer who clearly doesn’t want to purchase, so don’t waste anymore of your time and simply ask the customer if they intend on making an order, if not, wish them well and move on to the next client.
Let Others Fall on Their Sword Technique
I once asked a good friend of mine what were his secrets in being a great salesman, he is arguably one of the best I know. He could have just told me it was none of my business, however he went into detail in telling me how he makes all of his customers believe everything he had to say.
Firstly, he pointed out that when a customer enters his shop they are skeptical, they’re none believers and they certainly don’t believe him, he highlighted you have to be their expert, their go-to guy, you have to plant the poison for others to falter on, he reiterated, let others fall on the sword, don’t let it be you!
I swiftly asked what he meant by that comment in which he replied, many buyers don’t truly know what they want, some come in because its cold, others are half sold on an idea, while others are completely unsure, he said he spends at least half an hour to 45 minutes asking every question possible.
He does this because it then makes the customer think about thinks they haven’t originally thought about, they leave the shop to have ‘a look around’ the competitors to see what they have to offer.
Nine times out of ten they come back, because once they visit his competitors they quickly realise they don’t have the same level of depth and understanding he has, thus he has become ‘their’ own personal expert. He has made them TRUST him without any money or pre-sale obligations exchanging or signing.
After the sale is completed he always asks for feedback about their shopping experience and why they decided to purchase from him and not from one of his rivals, the majority of the answers clearly indicate it was his knowledge and understanding of THEIR needs as customers which sealed the deal.
It isn’t as hard as you may think to become an expert in your chosen sector, you’re learning new things every single day, you’re growing and you’re progressing, the more sales you complete the more confident in your own abilities you will become. For some it takes weeks, others it takes months however if you keep working at it, you will become THE expert everybody wants to do business with.
Be In Control
As described earlier in this book, the biggest fear factor everybody experiences at some point is rejection, this can lead to major problems if not combated in the correct manner. In a study a few years ago the average time a sales person spent selling was approximately between one hour to two hours a day, as you can see out of an eight hour day this isn’t very much time actually selling a product or service, so what are the reasons for this?
Well the answer is both complex and simple at the same time, for many they simply ‘put off’ making the phone call or walking into a prospective clients shop simply because they MIGHT be rejected, equally the sales pitch may go fantastically well and they MIGHT make a sale.
For some the fear of rejection can simply be debilitating, I know of one person who would drive for hours, sit outside and then wait for the right moment to walk in and introduce himself and his services! He kept putting it off, and putting it off waiting for the right time, but guess what, there isn’t a right time, the time is now so seize the moment. I can’t help but think how many sales he could have closed and how many lucrative relationships he could have formed, all of which was wasted through fear that had no real foundations other than what his OWN mind was telling him.
Adaptive Selling Technique
Look around you what do you see? A computer? watch? clothes? Everything you have bought has been sold to you by someone else, think back what were the circumstances of your buying these products, was it an impulse buy, a product you wanted for ages or did the sales person talk you into the deal even though you had reservations? If it’s the latter then an adaptive sale has occurred.
Adaptive selling occurs when the sales person adapts to changes, they customise their own selling style to suit the behaviour and needs of the customer. If the sales person didn’t adapt and performed a ‘standard sales pitch’ their chances of closing the sale would decrease dramatically. Adaptive selling is great because you’re able to fully listen to the customer, understand their requirements and ‘adapt’ your pitch or conversation to suit their needs.
For example, if you were selling a bed to a customer is it for a medical reason they’re purchasing? or is it because they want something to compliment a new room layout?
Whatever the reason is for the purchase, the only way you’re going to know is to listen to the customers needs, ask questions and then adapt yourself to accommodate.
A great example of being adaptive is how you speak to your friends and family; do you speak to your mother differently than your best friend? There is a good chance you do, be prepared and focus on how you engage and interact with people, understand that diversifying yourself to different people is something you already do, everyday, use the skills you already posses to your advantage and adaptive selling will quickly be added to your selling arsenal.
The Emotional Sale: The Puppy Dog Technique
To be successful in selling you need to know what techniques you should ultize for each customer you’re dealing with, in general people buy on emotion and then justify it with logic.
One of the most famous examples is the ‘puppy dog technique’, this is explained below:
A customer walks into a pet store with his child who is desperate for a puppy, the parent is obviously not sure if it’s a great idea or not, he tells his son, ‘puppies take a lot of work, you need to feed it, walk it, play with it and so on’, his son replies, ‘but dad! I want one!”
At this point a salesperson who has overheard the conversation steps in, ‘Sir, you can take this puppy home for a few days, if you’re not happy, simply return it with no questions asked”. With his son looking at him, the parent accepts the proposal and they take the puppy home.
While at home, the child falls in love with the puppy and there is no possible way the parent could ever return the pet to the store, thus the sale is complete.
Sometimes ‘the puppy dog technique’ also works with furniture because the customer keeps the product as they don’t want to move everything around in their home, you may have seen techniques like this before displayed in shop windows, online or in magazines, ‘Try before you buy’.
The theory plays on the notion that once the item is in the customers possession and they experience the joy of owning it, the sale is a forgone conclusion as an emotional attachment has been built.
Depending on your industry, this can be a great way of building sales quickly (if the customer likes it) however please note if a customer doesn’t lie the product or service you’re attempting to sell, always make sure they cover any re-stocking fees and delivery costs should an item be returned.