In business, nothing happens until a sale takes place. Sales are the engine room of any company. No matter how good your product or service is, no sales will result in your company going out of business or stagnating as your competitors win more and more business. In sales, many questions spring to mind. How can I make my product stand out from those of my competitors? What types of questions should I ask? How do I handle objections? How should I ask for the order? The list goes on and on. For the answers to these and other sales challenges, we’ve asked five internationally known authors of sales books and audio tapes to share their top 25 secrets forsakes success.
Brian Tracy: Key Sales Principles
Brian Tracy is president of Brian Tracy International in Solana Beach, California and is the author of several books, including Advanced Selling Strategies and The Great Little Book on Successful Selling. His key sales principles are as follows:
1. Sell benefits, not features.
The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is in focusing on what their product or service is, rather than on it’s what the product does. As Tracy explains: “A health-food product contains nutrients that are good for the body.That’s what it is. What the product does is make the customer thinner, more energetic, and able to accomplish more with less sleep.” His advice: “Always concentrate on how your product will benefit your customer.”
2. Sell to the people most likely to buy.
Your best prospects have a keen interest in your product or service, and the financial resources to purchase it. They are the ones who will buy most quickly. “If you’re selling photocopy machines,don’t try to sell to people who have never bought one before,” Tracy suggests.“Sell to those who already have one, or to those you know would be interested in buying one. Show them how yours is superior.”
3. Differentiate your product.
Why should a customer buy from you and not from your competitor? Tracy suggests coming up with at least three features that will give a customer reason to buy from you. “People don’t like to go out of their comfort zone to try something new. So, give them three good reasons to try your product,” Tracy explains. “Your product or service, for example, works faster, is less expensive and has a higher-quality level of ingredients.”
4. Get face to face.
Spending huge sums of money on print-media advertising or direct mail is one of the least effective ways for entrepreneurs to build up their business. There is no short cut to the personal approach. Get one-on-one with your customer – if not in person, at least by phone.
5. Focus on the second sale.
Nearly 85 percent of all sales are produced by word of mouth. “They’re the result of someone telling a friend or associate to buy a product or service because the customer was satisfied,” says Tracy.Therefore, concentrate on developing future and referral business with each customer. “Everything you do must be aimed at the second sale. Ask yourself:will this be such a satisfactory experience that my customer will buy from me again or tell his friends?”
Shari Posey: Preparations & Guarantees
Shari Posey is president of Executive Insights, an audio-tape production company in Long Beach, California, and specialises in products for entrepreneurs. Here Posey illustrates how a sales presentation starts with careful preparation and ends with guaranteeing customer satisfaction:
1. Write out your sales presentation.
Making a sales presentation “isn’t something you do on the fly,” warns Posey. Always use a written presentation.Think about the six major selling points of your product or service. Develop leading questions to probe your customer’s reactions and needs to each selling point. “This will help you determine what objections your prospect might have so you can show how your product or service can meet their needs.”
2. Write down objections.
Show your prospect you are truly listening to what they are saying by writing down their objections. In this way, you can specifically answer their objections by showing how they will benefit from your product or service. It could be, for instance, by saving money, raising productivity, increasing employee motivation or boosting their company’s name recognition.
3. Offer a first-time incentive.
Offer your prospect something significant,so if they do like your product or service, they’ll be inclined to make a decision now, rather than wait a few days or put off the decision indefinitely.First-time incentives might include: “10 percent off with your purchase today”,or “With today’s purchase, you’ll receive one free hour of consultation.”
4. Offer a 100% guarantee.
Let your customers know their satisfaction is guaranteed. “A good return policy minimises customer objections and shows that you believe in your product or service,” says Posey. Product guarantees should be unconditional and should not include hidden clauses, like “guaranteed for only 30 days”. You can use a guarantee even if you’re selling a service:“Satisfaction guaranteed. You’ll be thrilled with our service or we’ll redo it at our expense.”
5. Close with two options.
Rather than ask, “How does this sound?”,give your prospect a choice. For example, if you’re selling educational book sto preschool owners, ask if they want to purchase the book series or the book and tape series together. When they state their choice, write the order. “Your prospect is not likely to stop you,” Posey explains, “because mentally they realise they’ve committed and they’ve said ‘yes’.“
Linda Richardson: Sales Presentation Success
Linda Richardson is president of The Richardson Company, a leadership and sales-training company in Philadelphia and is author of Stop Telling, Start Selling: Using Customer Focus Dialogue to Close Sales. She offers the following secrets for success when making your sales presentation:
1. Build rapport.
Before discussing business, build rapport with your prospect. To build rapport, do some homework. Find out if you have a colleague in common. Has the prospect’s company been in the news lately? Is he interested in sports? “Get a little insight into the company and the individual so you can make the rapport genuine,” says Richardson.
2. Ask a broad range of questions.
Ask questions that require more than a“yes” or “no” response, and that deal with more than just costs, price,procedures and the technical aspects of the prospect’s business. Most importantly, says Richardson,“ask questions that will reveal the prospect’s motivation to purchase, his problems, needs and decision-making processes.” In addition, she advises:“Don’t be afraid to ask a client why he or she feels a certain way. That’s how you will get to understand your customer’s needs.”
3. Probe deeper.
If a prospect tells you, “We’re looking for cost savings and efficiency”, will you immediately tell him how your product meets his need for cost savings and efficiency? A really smart salesperson won’t, says Richardson. He or she will ask more questions and probe deeper,saying: “I understand why that is important. Can you give me a specific example?” Richardson suggests that you “ask for more information so you can better position your product and show you understand the client’s needs”.
4. Learn to listen.
Salespeople who do all the talking during a presentation not only bore the prospect, but also generally lose the sale. You should be listening at least 50 percent of the time, notes Richardson. You can improve your listening skills by taking notes, observing your prospect’s body language, not jumping to conclusions and concentrating on what your prospect is saying.
Write thank-you notes, call the customer after the sale to make sure he or she is satisfied, and maintain a schedule of future communications. “You have to be in front of that client and always show attention and responsiveness, and follow-up is critical,” says Richardson.
Bob Bly: Sales Materials That Shine
Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant in Dumont, New Jersey and specialises in business-to-business and direct-response marketing. He is the author of more than 50 books, including The Copywriter’s Handbook. He tells us how to really impress your prospect and give him sales materials that will make him want to order now.
1. Target your material towards a specific audience.
These days, it’s not possible to understand and meet the needs of every potential customer. Show you are a specialist, Bly urges. “You have a selling advantage and come across as believable when your sales materials are tightly targeted to specific audiences,” he explains. “Say you offer ‘accounting services for advertising agencies’, not just ‘accounting services’.“
2. Use testimonials.
People might not believe your product or service can do what you say it will. You can overcome this disbelief by having a past or present customer praise you and your company. Testimonials are usually written in the customer’s own words, are surrounded by quotation marks and are attributed to the individual. They can be used in sales letters,brochures and advertisements.
3. Write from the customer’s point of view.
“Start your copy with something that engages the prospect,” Bly suggests, “and what most people are interested in is themselves.” If an insurance agency wanted to introduce its new employee health-benefit programme for small business owners, it might wish to state the obvious,using the phrase, “Introducing our Guarda-Health Employee Benefit Plan”. The agency would get better results if it wrote something that directly interests the prospect, like: “Are the skyrocketing costs of your insurance premiums threatening to put your company out of business?” As Bly explains, “That’s something business owners who provide benefits to their employees can relate to.”
4. Use questions.
A great way to engage your prospect is to pose questions in the headlines of your sales literature. “Every car-wash owner should know these seven business success secrets. Do you?” Or, “Why haven’t satellite-dish owners been told these facts?”
5. Turn a negative into a positive.
If you are new in business and haven’t sold many products or signed up many clients for your services, don’t despair. You can phrase your situation this way: “Not one widget buyer in a thousand has ever experienced the advantages of this new XYZ widget design.”
Barry Farber: Get to Know Your Customer
Barry Farber is a sales, management and motivational speaker, and the author of several books, including 12 Clichés of Selling and Why They Work. Here are five of his top sales secrets for getting to know your customer and asking for his feedback:
1. Know your customer’s business.
Customers expect you to know their business, customers and competition as well as you know your own product or service. Study your customer’s industry. Know its problems and trends. Find out who his biggest competitors are. Some research tools include the company’s annual report, trade publications, chamber of commerce directories, and the company’s own brochures, newsletters and catalogues.
2. Organise your sales presentation.
The basic structure of any sales presentation includes six key points: build rapport with your prospect,introduce the business topic, ask questions to better understand your prospect needs, summarise your key selling points, and close the sale.“Always begin the process by first visualising a successful outcome,” Farber says.
3. Take notes.
Don’t rely only on your memory to remind you about what’s important to your prospect. Ask them upfront if it’s alright for you to take notes during your sales presentation. Write down key points you can refer to later during your presentation.
4. Answer objections with “feel, felt, found”.
Don’t argue when a prospect says, “I’m not interested”, “I just bought one”, or “I don’t have time right now.” Simply say:“I understand how you feel. A lot of my present customers felt the same way.But when they found out how much time they saved by using our product, they were amazed.” Then ask for an appointment.
5. Ask for feedback.
If you want to improve your sales presentation or your relations with your customers, ask them what you need to do to maintain and increase their business. “Many customers have minor complaints but will never say anything. They just won’t buy from you again,” Farber says. “If you ask their opinion, they’ll be glad to tell you and to give you the chance to solve the problem.”