No client or prospect likes to be pressured. The days of a ‘canned’ sales pitch are well gone. The clients and the prospects that we serve are well placed and very experienced to make choices. In fact I would go so far as to say that they expect choices to be provided as well as your recommendations as part of any professional service.
All of us have seen the ‘push’ approach in sales; customers today are inclined to back away from any ‘pushy’ salesperson unless ‘desperation’ is part of the buying equation.
Choices give a client or a prospect the respect that they deserve; they also have a feeling of trust when the choice process is implemented.
Here are some rules to help you with this ‘golden rule of selling’. See if you can improve the approach that you make in client contact and with your business presentations:
- Choices help you close the sale. In fact, the client will ‘close’ themselves with the choices you provide if you plan them well.
- Show the client just what is available today and how easily they can purchase.
- Show the client how the various options that you offer can be implemented. Make it easy for them to move ahead.
- Make clear recommendations based on 3 or so options that you put forward.
- Tell some stories about other clients and prospects that had similar challenges and just how they solved their problem in a positive way.
- Have plenty of pictures and graphs to support your marketing material. Facts and figures should always be supported by graphs and pictures. Clients tend to believe what they ‘see’, rather than what they read.
- Key questions will help the client handle challenges. Questions will help them move through an issue and look at a method of resolve.
- Big negotiation problems can be handled by the use of a ‘Freudian Slip’ process. You simply ask the client lots of questions around and about their problem. Soon they will be giving you the answer that they need to make a purchase.
- Provide some testimonials to give the client or prospect some comfort as they move towards an agreement or final decision.
All of this is based on common sense. There is no need to ‘push’ your products and services through to a sale. Offer alternatives to your clients and prospects and show them how easy the choices are. Give them the ‘logic’ to move ahead. Allow real trust to develop as part of the client contact process.
In selling or marketing anything you really do need a strategic marketing plan to help you stay on track. A plan of this nature is set for a period of time and usually that is 3 years to 5 years. It is a critical part of business growth for any new business or for individuals as they strive to establish market presence.
A plan of this nature can be incorporated into your personal business plan. The actions that you take should be matched to the marketing plan. Be prepared to make adjustments where necessary when the market or your client base changes. A process of tracking and measuring is quite important.
Here are some tips to help you with the establishment of a marketing plan to grow your business in a competitive market:
- Given that the plan is for a lengthy period of time, the prevailing market and the business conditions will change over that time. For that reason you need to be prepared for a reassessment and or repositioning of the marketing plan as required.
- Understand your position in the market today when it comes to market share, product or service offering, and specialisation.
- Given the previous point, your competitors will also have a ranking to be watched and tracked. Understand how your competitors attract market share and check out their policies regards pricing, and supply. If discounting is evident in your industry then you will need to determine if you want to compete at that level or provide a different point of difference that will be of real value to your clients.
- It is important to understand your competitive advantage if any. A new competitive advantage can be created if you currently do not have any.
- Determine your objectives in marketing. Do you need more clients or better business? Perhaps you need both. Be quite clear in the objectives that you set.
- You will need some resources to get your marketing efforts underway. Money will be part of that process, and some tools and specific brochures or systems will need to be designed. Put them into your plan with set timelines for implementation.
A good marketing plan will help you with building your business. Take action based on the objectives and targets of your plan.
When you first approach a prospective client you never really know where the conversation will head, or if they have a need or an interest in your offering. This is particularly the case when it comes to cold calling and basic drop in canvassing.
For this very reason you need to be very flexible and conversational in getting the connection going. If you sell a service as opposed to a product, it is better to be biased towards building trust before you get to the real point of the approach. In a few words I can summarise this as ‘reducing the pressure’.
In business today, most clients and prospects do not like to be ‘sold or closed’. The days of manipulative selling are well gone. Information and trust are the keys to moving the conversation forward. Today, it could be called ‘relationship’ selling. As to how long the relationship should be, really depends on the product and the service that you offer; the relationship required can be from a few minutes to months or even years.
Get to the Facts
To qualify a client or prospect you need to know the right things relative to their business or personal situation. Here are a few tips to do that:
- Check to see if you are talking with the decision maker. There is no point talking with a person that has no relevance to your product or service. Asking questions will help you here.
- Find out what the prospect has now or if they have used similar products or services over the years. Do they actually understand what you are about to talk about? This is really important in a complex product or service offering.
- If the prospect has used that product or service before, was it helpful in their business or personal life? Working from a base of previous experience will help you connect with the situation for them today. Be aware that the situation may have changed for them; there is no point selling a concept, product or service if they have a changed business situation or circumstances.
- Could the prospect see the same solution occurring again or will it be helpful for them today or in the future? Previous experiences that the client may have had with your product or service help you relating to the situation today.
These questions will lead you to information that can help you proceed with moving the conversation forward. From all of these concepts, take the time to really listen to the facts and responses from the other person.
When you work as a salesperson one of the best ways to rise to the top of your industry or to get a hold on your market is to target the bigger clients. Here are a few facts for you:
- The larger clients buy more products and services
- These bigger clients buy more frequently and seasonally
- The large customers give you credibility as a top salesperson in your market
- You can value add your services and spread your offering more easily in a top clients account
- These bigger clients want productive and problem solving solutions.
- These clients want to streamline their activities so they can improve the bottom line.
It is notable that many top prospective clients are already serviced by your competitors, so they are easy to find. That being said, it may take some time to convert these prospects to clients so a systemised contact process is required. Set up a good database in your business to help the sales team coordinate their efforts in contacting the right prospective customers.
In today’s business environment where productivity and the bottom line means just so much, it is a very wise strategy to look at your client base and refine it to higher quality clients in this way. Your smaller clients may stay with you but they should not get the same focus as a Key Account or big client.
These large prospective clients can be defined in a number of ways, depending on your business type and location. Here are some ideas to help with that:
- The locational factors will drive better business for you. To some degree, the convenience of the client to your business location will allow better supply and demand of product and services. For this reason you should define your territory for both primary and secondary business.
- A top client or top prospective client can also be defined by the type of product or service that they buy from you. That may be by volume or by sales total.
- A good client is one that can take you into other locations as part of their business model, or take alternative products, and add on services from you.
Look around the current market and see who your competitors are servicing. Those relationships are ready to be tested. You can open the door through any of the following:
- Alternative supply solutions
- Better customer service
- Discounted prices and bulk discounts
- Value add products and services
Building your business with better quality clients is a wise strategy for an established business that is looking for market dominance.