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What Your Customers Really Want!

During the sales cycle, it is the goal (the desired outcome) of the sales professional and the company for which he/she works to close the sale and complete the transaction.  When this occurs, there is typically a transfer of funds that occurs which generates revenue resulting, hopefully, in a profit for the company.

Here is the interesting (painful) part:  The customer is not focused on nor do they care about this transaction.  They do not want the SALE!  They do not care about your profits!  What the customer wants are the things that occur for them based upon what the product or service does!  They want the benefits of ownership—not the ownership!

Here are 5 easy steps to discover what the customer wants:

1-Do your homework (pre-call planning)

2-Ask the right questions (relevance is key)

3-LISTEN with the intent to understand and add value

4-Restate what you heard to gain clarity and agreement

5-Provide a solution and speak to ONLY the solution

 

Let’s look at each step a little closer:

1-Do your homework

Invest your valuable time into the appropriate pre-call strategizing.  Do your best to not only research the company and the person on whom you will be calling, but to also “get in the prospect’s head.”  Ask yourself the following 3 questions:

A-What do we know? (about the person, the company, the decision-making process, etc.)

B-What do we need to know? (to move the sale forward)

C-What do we want to “get out on the table?” (what motivations will drive the sale?)

2-Ask the right questions

If you have done the right things in your pre-call preparation, you will have a clear purpose to your call as well as some relevant questions prepared.  Thinking through all of this in advance will help you ask (with confidence) the right questions which will make the prospect think in a different way about their situation. These questions will also position you as more of an expert and thus, will get better information from the customer.

3-LISTEN with the intent to understand and add value

The answers that come from your customer to the questions that you ask are the keys to your successful sale.  You see, as I said before, the customer does not want to own your product or service!  They don’t even want what it does!  They simply want the benefit of what it does for them.  If you are listening for what it is that they want, the secret to making the sale will come out.  Understand your customer’s motivations and you will understand their motives to take action.  Only then, can you add value and thus, make the sale!

4-Restate what you heard to gain clarity and agreement

The fact that you listened and thought that you understood the customer and their needs is not as important as the fact that the customers knew you were listening and understand them and their needs.  In order to make sure that they understand you were listening, use “re-cap sentence starters” as you feed back what you heard them say before you begin to offer a solution.  Example:  “OK Ms. Customer, let me make sure I understand your main areas of concern.  You…….  or  “OK Paul, let me make sure I’ve got this straight.  You…..  or  “Mary, let me make sure I heard you correctly. You…..”

Prove that you listened—show that you care!  Clarity creates consensus.  Consensus creates trust!

5-Provide a solution and speak only to the solution!

Many times, I see salespeople go through the discovery process (asking questions and listening) where the highest value needs (HVNs) of the customer become evident.  Rather than speak only to those needs, the salesperson breaks into the “presentation” part of the sales call and proceeds to puke all of the FAB (Feature, Advantage, Benefit) points about his product or service.  The Smart Selling suggestions above are designed to discover what your offer should be and what it should NOT be.  In other words, if you do a good job on the 4 points listed above, the customer will tell you which benefit to discuss.  Do that—nothing more!! Leave the other FABs out for now.

The Secret of Smart Selling

“If I put in front of the customer what they want more than anything else, they will, in turn, move heaven and Earth to get it AND pay a premium.”

Stop selling WHAT you want to sell, HOW you want to sell it, WHEN you want to sell it, and WHY you want to sell it!  They are most likely not the reasons your customers want to buy.  After all, aren’t they the boss?

Please Take My Call…

For many people in the profession of sales today, the job of prospecting to set up a meeting is about as exciting as a trip to the dentist.  (And more painful too!)  Although the art of prospecting into accounts is imperative to the success of so many salespeople, it is the number three skill that most say that they need help with right behind closing and time management!  As salespeople, we face a myriad of screens and gatekeepers that make our jobs much more difficult than we would like.

In fact, because of all of the non-professionals out there trying to make a living doing a horrible job on the phone, the prospective buyers of their service need to be hiding.  There are few of us who work the phones for sales or for appointments regularly that have ever received appropriate training in these areas.  The companies that hire us work by the philosophy of “Hire ‘em in masses-and kick ‘em in the asses!” We deserve what we get when our prospects hide behind voice mail, e-mail, and other gatekeepers.

As a matter of fact, as consumers, we have become so accustomed to the phone selling (or appointment setting) process being a bad one, we do the very things to those who call us after work that we loathe about those to whom we call during work.  Think about it!  A telemarketer calls you on a Saturday morning and starts to immediately go into a canned pitch for their product or service.  How long before you cut them off to tell them you are not interested?  How many of these calls do you take before you start simply hanging up on them mid-sentence or avoiding the interactions altogether by letting them go to voice mail?  And why do you do this?  The number one reason:  You’re afraid that they are going to waste your time.

Even though the caller on the other end of the line may have had a very valuable offering for you, it was the approach of several others before them that sabotaged their chances.  Do you ever feel this way when you are calling on your prospective customers?  Although you may have an incredible offer for them and their company, one that could save them time, make them money, put peace of mind to their fears, and/or make their lives easier, you don’t get a chance to talk about it because they won’t take your call!  Why?  Because they are afraid they you are going to waste their time!

When you are calling on prospective buyers of your products and services, be aware that they have become conditioned to the same fears that you have.  Knowing this, make sure that you either address these fears in your opening words or the voice mail that you leave.  State clearly the purpose for your call and keep concise the information about YOU and YOUR COMPANY.  Instead focus on them and their issues.

When leaving a voice mail, imagine that the person that you are calling will receive thirty or more calls from a salesperson like yourself today.  However, she will only return ONE of those calls?  Why should it be yours?  Keep the focus to only these three areas:

1-The Main Benefit of owning your product/service

2-How Your Product/Service will cure their pain, put peace of mind to their fear

help them reach a desired goal.

3-How easy it will be to accomplish all of this.

These things need to be communicated in a way that it grabs the attention of the prospect quickly and communicates that you will not waste their time, either on the phone or in a meeting.  It is very important that you are armed with examples stating that you have done these things for and with others (assuming that you have) but equally important that you do not go into exactly how you have done these things.  You need to leave some of the mystery on for the meeting itself and not allow the prospective buyer to make decisions based upon partial information form a phone conversation.

How do I say this in a simple manner?  The purpose of a sales prospecting call is to make a sale.  However, that sale is often that of getting an appointment and nothing else.  In order to get that appointment, (or whatever the next step might be) you need to speak primarily to the main motivators of the prospective customer.

They are only tuned into one radio station and that is WII-FM-What’s In It For Me?  It’s about Return on Investment. (ROI) Speak to them about what RETURN they will receive from the INVESTMENT in time that they make in listening to you on the phone and seeing you in person.  Focus on them and not on you and you will have a better shot of getting through.

Show your best clients that they are special

Think about how the airlines treat you a little bit special if you fly with them all the time. It’s good for business, right?

So how do you show your best customers that you’d like to move them into the client bucket? How can you show them that they deserve a little special treatment?

Not that all the rest of your customers, the ones that aren’t in your client basket, should be treated like crap. It just means we move that up a notch. When they’re better customers, they move to clients.

So identify your top-tier clients. Identify them by profitability, or frequency of purchase, or after-sales service required, revenue, whatever it might be. And do some things to spend a little bit more time with them. Support some advisory councils, offer some incentive programs. Show some additional incentives, love trips or dinners or events.

Don’t worry about dropping prices for these people. If they buy more it tends to mean they’re getting more value from you.  Keep the margins where they are. Don’t drop price, add value instead.

Have some value-add training events. Go in and work with their staff, their people. Spend a few additional days with no strings attached. Have a client appreciation dinner. Give them a feeling of importance. That feeling of importance breeds a feeling of loyalty. The best way to get loyalty is to give it.

We’re looking to move people from customer to client so that our relationship with them is stronger, based on the value that we provide. And it really is about the way that they look at us in the end. But it starts with two things. It starts with the way that we look at ourselves and the moves we make.

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What does Valentine’s Day have to do with selling?

What’s the difference between a customer and a client? It’s all about the relationship.

Think about Valentine’s Day: Husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, even little kids at school are making an effort to let that significant other know that they are special. So what if you looked to one of your customers in the next few days, next few weeks, next few months and, in effect, said: “Be my Valentine? I want a better relationship with you.”

Why? Because the best sales people don’t necessarily find more customers all the time. They look to penetrate existing relationships. They look to go deeper and wider into the accounts where people are already “raising their hands.”

They look for instances when their customers are saying or indicating things like:

•    Yes, I like you.
•    I like your products.
•    I like your services.
•    I like your prices.
•    I like your process.
•    I like who you are.
•    I trust you.
•    I value you.

When your customers are saying these things, you can leverage that relationship to go deeper and provide more value. And to get new introductions to other people inside or outside of that organization who also value what you deliver. So you get more referrals —  and more ideal prospects.

Photo: Dave Parker, via Creative Commons 2.0

Leading your inside team

Your inside team – whether they are called ‘customer service’ or ‘inside sales’ — enables you to grease the wheels of your progress inside your organization.

You just get more done, so it makes sense to build your team. How? By building relationships inside, and making sure that positive customer interactions are the norm.

Here’s what you do: Make an itinerary and agenda of every single thing you need to do to get deeper into these relationships. Get to know your inside team better. Know their names. Know their families. Spend some time. Have lunch with them.

You have to be the captain of the team, the quarterback who is going to lead the quality of interactions with your customers. And to do that you have to take care of your team.

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Good enough is not good enough to keep customers coming back

A common misconception about customer service is that if you’ve got a good-enough product or good-enough service, that’s going to keep them coming back.

Wrong. Today your customers are seeking more. They’ve got options. They can go to the Internet and can find 20 places to get a good product and a good service. In fact, most companies are in the position of selling a commodity — basically the same product or service as the competition.

You can’t believe that, however. You’ve got to be passionate that your product is unique and the best. And it’s only unique and the best if it is in the eyes of the customer.

And you have the ability, the right, and the absolute mandate to create that perception. The experience and the relationship you create makes your product or service stronger. It’s what keeps them coming back. And it doesn’t just happen when you sell it. It happens over and over throughout the life of the relationship.

The first principle is that we are driving consumers to become clients – and there is a substantial difference between those two. Customers are one-time buyers. Clients are lifetime buyers. A customer is a transaction, a client is a relationship. If a customer is liked, then a client is loved. If a customer is a handshake, a client is a hug and a kiss.

Smart salespeople get that trust towards an organization begins with you. Selling is a transfer of trust. Today people are more aware of their options, so that trust has to be communicated on a regular basis.

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Customer service starts with you

A lot of us sales people don’t look at it as our job as customer service. We look at that as somebody else’s job.
It’s funny, we can say whatever we want to say just to get the deal done. And today’s customer has their expectations at an all-time low. But, they also have their guards at an all-time high.

In fact, today’s customer expects to be let down. On the phone, they expect to be on hold for long periods, if it’s ever even answered by a live human. They expect indifference from most companies.

In a word, they expect us to suck. And too often, we’re not letting them down. This needs to change. In the sales profession we need to take the full responsibility for the customer’s experience.

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