Solutions the secret of successful selling

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This article appeared in the June, 2009 issue of CRN magazine.

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Solutions the secret of successful selling

What's the secret of a great sales team? 

Winning the emotional sale first and building rapport is critical, as is triangulating solutions by asking key questions.

But most importantly, the focus should be on selling what the customer is buying, not what you are selling. Product knowledge does not make sales -- the customer is not buying your product.

They're buying the result it creates. And great sales people focus on the long term. They stay in touch and develop relationships for repeat sales.        

But how does that work in recession? After all, the focus of companies and consumers now is on saving. With everyone making serious choices about how and where to spend their dollars, it's a challenging time to be in sales.

And yet, sales strategies are not that dissimilar to those in a boom market. In good times, great sales teams have to do five things: they need to know how to find clients, how to win them and how to keep them.

They also need to know how to manage themselves so that they can maximise sales, and at the same time, they need to know how to solve problems.

These are exactly the same skills required in a downturn. The only difference is that you need to work harder.

Of course, anyone can sell. All you have to do is provide a big enough discount.

But the best sales teams in this economic climate know how to attract customers when they are cutting back on purchases. Just as importantly, they know how to make sales that are profitable.

For resellers, the problem is even more acute. Most have enormous product knowledge and expertise. The trouble is customers don't buy on techno jargon.

They only buy when the sales person can show what the product can do for them. And that is a completely different proposition and requires totally different skills.

Sydney sales coach David Penglase has 10 rules for creating killer sales teams: 

  1. Work ethic: this applies to each individual sales person. Do they really want to be in sales? Are they just flogging product or do they believe in what they are doing? With the right attitude, an order taker can become a good sales person.
  2. Meaningful and achievable goals. If people don't have goals that are achievable, if they're told not to expect to hit the budget target, they won't try.
  3. A positive belief in what selling is about. This is not the same as customer service or being an order taker. Consumers need expert advice and recommendations.
  4. A belief in their own competence. This is not just technical competence. Sure sales people need to know all the product's intricacies but that's not what will get the customer. They need the competence to show the customer what the product can do for them. Product knowledge does not sell products.
  5. An open and trusting environment. Sales team members need to be able to talk freely about issues with products, or issues about delivery or terms and conditions.
  6. A commitment to do the hard yards. Selling is not soft. It's about building rapport, asking hard questions, resolving the customer's problems with issues like price or design, and showing value.
  7. Success has to be in sight and achievable.
  8. Rewards that are valued by sales people. It's not just about the money or size of the commission. A purely monetary reward is unfair when certain sales people have lucked out or are sent to work at a location where there is more demand than anywhere else. Other rewards could include encouragement and recognition.
  9. Opportunities to learn and to grow and build a career, with the sales manager working as a coach.
  10. A belief in the value they create for customers. If the consumer picks up any apathy or hint that the sales person is just going through the motions, they are more likely to walk away.

Penglase has a six-step system for sales people. He calls it BASICS:

B - Build rapport with the customer

A - Ask questions. This is not the standard question like: "what are you looking for". Instead, they should be asking questions around what sort of things the customer needs to do on the system to give the sales person an idea of what the customer values (eg, "What do you want to use the computer for? What's wrong with the one you have now? What sort of price are you looking at?")

S - Show value: Showing how the product will help meet what the customer values.

I - Identify obstacles. This comes with the questions. Obstacles include issues like price ("What sort of price range are you looking at"), delivery ("How soon do you need it?") and terms and conditions.

C - Confirm the sale

S - Stay in touch. This is best done by the sales person, not the service centre. Simply making a call to the customer after the sale and inquiring whether the system is working well makes all the difference.

Penglase says sales teams are burdened by the "service mentality myth".

"The service mentality myth is that if we serve the client, we give them as much information as we possibly can, they will make a good decision. Wrong,'' Penglase says.

"They are not the experts. The people selling the products are the experts so it's incumbent on the sales person to ask sufficient questions to be able to make a recommendation based on what the customer has told them."

For example, a recommendation for a customer to take a large screen because they do a lot of word processing is very different from telling a customer they should have a large screen because large screens are good.

The best sales people do not focus on the immediate sale but on the long term. Even if the customer does not come back, the aim should be on providing the kind of service that would have the customer recommending them to friends, colleagues and family.

Sales people need to be rewarded properly. Besides sales, other metrics could include the number of leads, the number of calls, the amount of time per call and marketing initiatives.

Great sales people know how to ask the right questions, position the product in accordance with the customer's answers and believe in the value they are creating. 

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