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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.

Don’t Make Every Day YOUR Groundhog’s Day!

Well…what if there wasn’t a tomorrow?  There wasn’t one today!”  Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray)

In the movie 1993 “Groundhog’s Day,” a weatherman, played by  Bill Murray, gets stranded in Gobbler’s Knob (home of the famous groundhog, Punxatawney Phil) and has to re-live the same day over and over and over again.  Every day, he sees the same people, saying and doing the same thing, living the same lives.  For a while, he is confused.  Then, he gets scared and tries to change it—even END it by killing himself and the groundhog!  Eventually, as the movie continues, he learns that the day will continue to be the same unless he changes.  So he increases his awareness of his surroundings, learns from his mistakes of days gone by, starts to adapt, makes adjustments to his behavior, and gets out of the nightmare that his life has become in Gobbler’s Knob!

I think that this movie storyline is an interesting metaphor for BAD salespeople.  Day after day, most of them head into the marketplace re-living their Groundhogs Day.  They knock on the same doors, start conversations the same way, do presentations just like they did yesterday, try the same old tired negotiation tactics and closing lines and all too often, get the same results.  What a life!  Don’t they learn?  Can’t they adapt?  Why don’t they make adjustments?

What about their Sales Managers/Leaders?  Why do they continue to observe the same behavior day in and day out, week in and week out, year after year with no suggestions or coaching to a new approach?   Instead they PUSH you to “do it more,” do it faster,” “do it to MORE people!” STOP IT!  Many times, we need to step back and reassess what it is that we are doing and make proper adjustments.  Salespeople and Sales Managers need to THINK!

  • If that did not work the last 6 times we did it, should we make a change?
  • If that salesperson hasn’t grown his/her business in the last 6 months, should we make a change?
  • If my sales meetings are making no IMPACT on my people, should I make a change?
  • If my prospecting efforts have been getting little to no results, should I make a change?
  • If my conversion rates have dropped over the past 6 months, what do I need to change?
  • If I do the same things this year that I did last year, what can I expect to change?
  • WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?
  • What do I need to START doing that I may have never done?
  • What do I need to ACCELERATE (do more of) that I have stalled or slowed down doing?
  • What do I need to KEEP my focus on and never lose sight of?
  • What do I need to STOP doing that is keeping me in this nightmare?

This morning, the groundhog saw his shadow.  This means, apparently, that there will be six more weeks of the same old stuff you have been experiencing for the past several months.  What if that applied to all areas of your life, just as it did in the movie?  What if that extended over the past few years?  What if YOU did not adapt to your surroundings, your environment, and your opportunities?

One thing that differs in this life from the movies; the marketplace offers a new twist every day.  Your competition tries new approaches and desperate moves at every turn.  Prospects and customers are bombarded with new information, more data, and higher output expectations each hour!  Political environments change.  Buying decisions change.  Everything changes and there is very little you can do about most of it unless….you DO something!

The only thing that you can control is how you adapt, how you change, and how you work to get out of your nightmare and get into your dream situation and your dream results daily. So…what do you need to do today to make Punxatawney Phil a liar?  What will you do today to take control and get the hell out of Gobbler’s Knob?

Have an outstanding Groundhog’s Day!

Customers don’t stop buying

As a sales professional, part of your job is to take an active role in customer service.

Why?

When you manage your customer’s expectations up front, you empower your organization to fulfill those expectations throughout.

When you take an active role in maintaining the satisfaction and the loyalty of your customers, you can make it so they don’t even think of going anywhere else.

Because customers don’t stop buying, do they?

They just stop buying from you.

Photo: Hamed Parham via Creative Commons 2.0

Your six best friends in the sales process

Here’s an important question: When your customers call in with a problem, who handles that?

Actually, let’s expand that to:
•    Who
•    What
•    Why
•    When
•    Where
•    How

Take an inquisitive perspective for a moment,  and you can begin to see what your sales and customer service functions look and feel like from the point of view of the client. This is a very valuable exercise because it can yield action items that will improve your sales process.

First let’s look at “who,” beginning with who is your customer.
•    Who is their main point of contact, who do they go to when they have to solve a problem?
•    Who do they deal with if you’re not available?
•    Who the most important person for them to be dealing with on a regular basis, who is inside of your organization

OK, let’s consider the “when”: Read more

Why the buying process is just as important as the product

Are your customers satisfied (really) with the buying process?

Customer service levels are constantly changing.

If yours are, find out if something happened, either on your end or your customers’ to change their expectations and perceptions.

If satisfaction is rising, find out what you’re doing right so you can keep doing it.

If it’s slithering downward, figure out how to reverse the situation before it falls off the charts.

That’s once they’re a customer. But remember, we’re talking about managing those expectations in advance.

You’ve got to think about two things: products and process. Now we go out and we sell the products. We go out and sell the widget. We go out and sell the transactions.

Read more

Convert your customers into clients. Here’s why.

The smartest sales people manage a little basket called their clientele.

The customer buys from us once or once in a while. A client buys from us all the time. A customer is a transaction. A client is a relationship. A customer is focused on what they pay. A client is focused on what they get for what they pay. Because with the customer it’s about cost and price. With the client, it’s about value and return on the investment they made.

Let’s put it this way: The customer is a one night stand, and the client is a marriage.

Think about all the work you go through to land a customer. All that prospecting. You identify all the suspects, and narrow it down to the prospects through profiling.

You say to yourself, “This is going to be an ideal prospect for me.”

Then you go to personal branding campaign. Because we hear it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Here’s what it really is: It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. So we brand ourselves in a certain way and we market ourselves out there.

We present our brand to the marketplace in the interest of getting an appointment with our prospect. We get an appointment, then we go out and engage in the short course on selling. We ask questions and listen. We open our customers and engage with them. We get involved in a discovery process of finding out who they are and what’s important to them.

Because the product doesn’t sell, the problem sells. So we look for the:
•    Pain
•    Fear
•    Challenge
•    Issue

We’re looking for what we can potentially create a solution for. So we respond accordingly and put our presentation together. After we deliver our presentation, of course the customer has questions or concerns. Or what you might call objections. We learn to address those objections. We build an objection guide so that we can overcome the most common objections. We do this so we can smoothly transition into that closing section of the sales presentation where we ask for the business.

Read more

How to keep your customers from leaving

For years I’ve been working with companies on how to acquire new business. I help them develop their prospecting plans, marketing plans and pipeline management plans. Just as importantly, I help them figure out how to keep their customers from leaving.

Because things have changed. Customers today buy differently than they did a few years ago – and it’s all about expectations. You are getting Googled before you walk in the door. Meanwhile, your competition is knocking at the door, saying, “We can do it better we can do it faster we can do it cheaper.”

There are a few things at work here: Customers have access to more information. They know that they have more options. Therefore their expectations might be a little bit higher.

The expectations of the customer are truly a major component to their satisfaction, so you want to manage them as well as you can. It’s been said that there two components to customer satisfaction:
•    Your product or service performance
•    And the customer’s expectation

You can have the best-quality product in the world, but if it doesn’t live up to the customer’s expectations, they’re not satisfied.

Read more