There are a ton of blogs, courses, and resources on how to sell. There are also tons of sales techniques. However, when you break it down, selling always comes back to a variation of the 7 steps of classical sales procedure. This is the ultimate fall back for any expert and the ultimate beginning for a rookie.
In my 16 years of selling experience, I can say that every technique, variant, and scenario work with these 7 steps whether you are trying to sell a car or a consultant service.
Maybe you are just beginning in sales, or maybe you are a manager who wants to increase your sales team performance, either way, going back to the basics can be an efficient starting point.
If you have multiple sales channels (in store, on the road representation, transactional website, etc) analyzing each of these channels through the lens of the 7 steps may reveal where some have flaws.
I will also provide knowledge on how to synchronize a sales speech with your marketing effort and a few sales techniques that can really help you maximize every opportunity.
Let's begin (oh, and read until the end for 4 bonus secrets).
This is everything that happens before you actually engage in an active conversation with your customer.
It involves marketing and the brand’s reputation. It includes everything from smoking in front of the door when the client walks in (it doesn’t look good) to wearing inappropriate clothing. You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression
Also, remember that your client may already have an opinion or some knowledge of your product or how it is sold before the conversation even begins.
If search engines allow you to research everything, your client may have expectations or anticipate what is going to happen during the meeting. For instance, most car dealerships use a similar sales technique referred to as “desk” that many clients are aware of.
When a new lead is generated, before engaging the client, a salesperson should assess the following:
- What does the lead know about your business/ product?
- How can you make a good first impression?
We can agree that any greeting is better than no greeting. However, the very point of greeting someone is to engage in a conversation.
One of the greatest secrets in sales is to be engaging, whether it be with prospects or you receive clients in store, this is a do or die. If you fail to engage there is no way to effectively move the conversation to the next steps of a sales procedure.
If your sales channel is not in a store, such as online marketing, engagement is the first thing you are looking for. Even though you are not shaking hands, you may ask for a reaction on a social media post, and/or a call to action on your website.
A call to action is a form of communication that you can use at the engagement level to begin a virtual conversation with your client.
The famous “Like, Share, and Comment” on Facebook posts does exactly the same thing, it allows you to engage your lead in a virtual conversation, to then eventually make them a business proposition.
The same applies when prospecting. It's better for your prospect to postpone an appointment than to say that they “don’t have time”. You want to engage with them to get their interest and make them want to at least have a meeting.
3. Qualification, The More You Know!
One of the most important aspects of sales is the qualification. You want to gather as much information as possible about your client (budget, expectations, needs and wants). Remember: wants and needs are not the same!
Qualification is important because it’s how you determine which products & services your client is most likely to consider.
In some cases, you may want to pre-qualify a client, which means investigating without asking them directly (this is common in B2B prospecting, among other cases). In online marketing, you may want to preselect a pattern of clients (age, gender, interests, keywords), which is a form of pre-qualification.
The best way to do so is by asking open-ended questions, allowing the client to speak more in-depth about their case. This will provide you with more than enough information, allowing room for you to find even more sales opportunities.
Here are some suggestions:
- If you sell technical products or services, ask if they already have had a similar product or service and what their experience was with it. For instance, if I am selling a car, most of my questions will be about their current car and has brought them to shopping for a new one.
- Ask what the objective of the said purchase is: There is always a nice way to ask what a client wishes to accomplish with their purchase. And it will differ depending on why the client is making a purchase. For example, If a client is buying a computer, the selection will differ if they want to play games or work on excel. Instead of asking “What’s your budget?”, ask about their cost expectations. A question like “What is your budget aim?” or “Did you have a target in terms of cost?” will often open to a more accurate and more open answer.
- Adjusting your behavior to each of your clients is critical, sometimes they are shopping at your business because they had a bad experience somewhere else. This is not the time to brag about how it will be different this time, it is the time to show empathy and comprehension because you want to make them talk.
- Using the Chameleon Technique with most customers is often the best way to help them open up. If they are excited and speak loud, be on their level! Perhaps they had a bad experience, show empathy. Or, maybe your client has a very calculative mind, be analytical. You have to be a listener.
Use a CRM
Whether the sales scenario involves meeting a client once, multiple times, or even only online, using a CRM helps a lot.
A CRM allows you to archive all clients you have met and all the communications you have had. Plus, a decent CRM will allow you to quantify the importance of a lead by attributing a lead score depending on which step of the sales process you are at and the client’s reaction.
Such tools can also help you automate some communications with your client, like emails or landing pages. It can also be used as an agenda for communications and a tracker for your website.
All in all, these small pieces of information can be accumulated to increase your understanding of where your client is in their decision, What their needs are, desires and interests, their values, and their decision process, giving you an edge in your sales scenario.
4. Product Proposition
If you have done your qualifications properly, you are set! You’ll want to propose either 1, 2 or 3 solutions, depending on the situation.
In an ideal scenario, I find presenting 3 solutions to be the best: A premium, average, and basic solution, in that order.
Often times, clients seem to qualify for the average solution, but their price expectation is for the basic one. This is normal, do not panic!
The best presentation of the products should go as follows: Best, Better, Good
DO NOT present as Good, Better, Best, start from the top!
At this point, there is an overlap in steps. By listing off your solutions like this you enter a final qualification round, where your client rapidly eliminates an option, usually the premium or basic solution. This will usually tell you if your client is more concerned about value or budget. This technique also works with a single product and 3 scenarios of financing.
Any product presentation should have a reactor or a WOW factor! A reactor is usually a piece of information, be it a demonstration, statistics, or anything that brings out a reaction from your client.
This reaction should be used to either create excitement (to make later stages easier) or to set a difference between your competition and you. Be careful not to use too many reactors, as it makes your presentation seem unreliable. Using a single, effective and well-timed reactor will, however, demonstrate value.
Next is going through the rest of the specifications and the added or hidden value. Remember it is important to always add value while presenting a solution whether it be the service with a product, the fact that the product is amazing, or simply that you can turn a simple product into a complete solution.
For instance, you may be able to offer all of your accessories or time and expertise to assist in their choice. Either way, create value for your client, this is your moment to shine!
5. Rebutting Objections
This is where some salespeople have an issue, by either being ‘know-it-alls’ and trying to prove their customer wrong or by taking an obstacle for a no.
There are a few ways to minimize the burden of rebutting an objection:
- Take more time to qualify your client, you will then better navigate the client’s objections and concerns.
- Remember some people just need to be reassured in their choices. Remind your client of their objectives and that you are getting to a solution.
- Do not argue! Even if you are an expert in what you sell, your client also has their own life experience and set of knowledge, which influences their decision. Instead of proving your client wrong, use some positive reinforcement for their skepticism and reassure them that you are proposing a clever solution. Having documentation, case studies and demonstration videos on hand can be very handy in these situations.
- Remember when I told you to eliminate an option when presenting the product? If at that point your client has 2 options and it is the second round of choices, the client will feel in control of their decision and you will have some options to maneuver.
Some salespeople are natural closers, others are not (some are shy to ask for a sale). But, here is a basic notion: Your time is precious, if the client has purchased you can conclude and spend the rest of your time on the next client.
The basic idea of a closing is to get the client to commit to a purchase. Do you remember when I told you about creating engagement? (See step 2).
So, how do you close a deal without sounding aggressive?
- Often a single question like “Would you like it delivered by Monday?” or engaging the client to discuss delivery’s logistics are the best closing lines.
- In some situations, like if you are selling a car, asking the client to make you an offer will force them to commit.
- Earlier, the reason I recommended that you propose in a Best Better Good scenario is that it comes in handy here because you are now down to 2 options. One has more features and is pricier, the other less expensive with fewer options. It will then be about helping your client make a decision.
- Creating a sense of urgency, in some cases, can be a clever strategy. For instance, “I can lower the price today, but since it’s Friday I know I won’t be able to give the same offer on Monday!” or “If your purchase is processed today we can add value by offering you this extra service]” While this is an aggressive technique, I can assure you it works. However, when doing this, it is important to make your client feel like they have had a special treatment and better value for their money.
- The double confirmation technique, which is like reverse psychology, is very subtle. It involves you stating, almost apologetically, that you did your best at finding them the best solution, knowing they are ready to purchase. For instance, “Well here are the best choices I could think of according to the objectives you have expressed. I don't think I have anything more appropriate” to which the client answers “Let’s go with this one!” Be careful because this method only works when your client is absolutely ready to purchase, doing this on a still cold client will result in losing the sale completely.
Do not make a special price for your client if they didn’t ask for it, in some businesses it’s not even possible to negotiate.
when the client is asking for a better price, here is how to negotiate:
- Ask the client to commit by giving an offer. For example, in car dealerships, salespeople ask their client for their credit card and driver’s license with offers. Some even have an “offer form” they make the client fill out.
- Take some time away from the client, either in scribbling on your calculator/computer or in the manager’s office. Look at their offer because sometimes you may be able to accept it right away. If it works, I recommend you proceed to the transaction as soon as possible. However, it may not be a suitable offer for you.
- If the offer does not work on your side, return to your client and explain that you have run the numbers and that, unfortunately, you will not be able to proceed with such a small or absence of profit. Reinforce your client by complimenting them on being an intelligent shopper. Tell your client they deserve your making the extra effort to earn his business.
- Make your counter offer, ideally write it down on a piece of paper. Tell them that it is the best you can do for them, that you will not be able to reserve this price after that day and give it to your client. Lean back, sit straight, look at the client in the eyes and stay silent. This is in every textbook, it is called ‘the first talker loses.'
Either way, closing a sale is about finding a way for your client to commit to a purchase. Some will even call it the most important part of a sales procedure, others might say it’s qualification or engagement.
The most important part is recognizing when a deal is closed, and to make the client proceed to the transaction as soon as possible. Failing to do so may turn the client cold.
7. Post Sale
The difference between the trusted advisor and the shark. Your sale does not end after your client has paid the bill and checked out. A shopping experience, for any product or service, needs to be followed. Remember, your clients don’t want to hear you brag about your sale, you don't want your client to lose respect after putting money and trust in your sale.
First of all, try keeping a record of your client’s information. Once you have them, the marketing department can re-target them as studies show that lead acquisition costs are a staggering 5 times higher for new clients.
Also, building statistics can be interesting for most business owners. Get them to subscribe to your social networks, blogs, newsletters, coming sales, and events. Keep them engaged with your brand. If it applies, you can schedule their first maintenance for their new purchase.
Secondly, do a follow up on any bigger purchases. If you sold a car, call them 2 weeks later and ask if they have unanswered questions about their car. If you sold a wedding ring, note down the date of the wedding and send a congratulations card. 5 years down the road the same client may need a necklace, a brooch, or a watch. A CRM is a valuable tool here.
The whole point is to keep your brand image high. A satisfied customer is more proud that they have done business with you and will more likely refer you or come back for their next purchase. Also, this is the best moment to position your client in making their next purchase with you.
For those who have gotten this far, let me share some sales secrets.
Tip #1: Pitch Selling, The 30 Second Race
This is a controversial technique, it is all about creating value within 30 seconds. It works but is an art to be mastered. Some scenarios such as door to door prospectors will use this technique. A retail salesperson can also use it to bonify their sales numbers while taking their client to the cash register.
This works wonders to sell accessories, such as shoe wax, batteries for your electronics, etc. or even while cold calling to sell low priced goods and services. Remember, if you can’t undeniably show value within 30 seconds, then this technique isn’t appropriate.
Here is a quick rundown using the 7 steps:
- Pre-Sale: Take for granted that they have a positive opinion about your brand.
- Introduction: Be very engaging, take control of the conversation.
- Qualification: You know they need it.
- Product presentation: This is key, you need to be quick, concise, clear, usually with a well-rehearsed sales pitch, don’t get technical. Remember this is instant value!
- Rebutting objections: Do not argue, in most cases, you can’t do more than one rebuttal, remember this is awesome value for the price!
- Closing: Isn't it great value for the price? Buy now!
- Post Sale: Usually products that are sold in this way are not of huge value, use it to either add to the sale you already have or to collect data on your client and re-engage them in a better purchase.
Tip #2: Selling Through Giving Value & Content
Some marketers call it the “New Way of Selling”. This method seems different, yet overtime is very effective. For this, remember that knowledge is free! You often find this method in the world of online marketing.
Here’s the concept, always add value, show your skills, be an expert, educate people. By doing so, you are building people’s trust in your brand and product, as you do so people better understand the value of what you are selling.
Let’s break it down with our 7 steps:
- Pre-Sale: If you’re marketing and your sales work hand in hand, clients already consider you as a value, for this is reputation based.
- Engagement: The best way to engage a client in this scenario is to get them to be hands-on. Get them to do what you do. You cook? Get them to cook! Do you fix computers? Give them the best advice on fixing computers and show them how easy it is to understand.
- Qualification: Here is a funny one, as you lay out your expertise and the value of it, people will qualify themselves with your content.
- Product presentation: As you constantly show your skills, your leads will become aware of the goods & services you sell. When you identify that a client could benefit from a specific product or service, simply present it as a solution to a problem.
- Rebuttal of objections: This section remains the same, justify your evaluation.
- Closing: Sometimes in these scenarios, the client will ask to make a purchase. At other times, you will have to make the client commit. Either way, this technique makes the closing much smoother.
- Post-Sale: Keep adding value, keep showing what you do, keep giving advice. Subscribe them to your social media or your newsletter. This type of selling technique is amazing for client retention.
Tip #3: Complimenting Your Sale
I am sure that you have many accessories to complement your main products being sold. You sell a TV, so you want to sell a BluRay player, smart TV box, HDMI cables, Powerbar, and warranty. These accessories also have, more than often, much nicer margins than the product your client is buying in the first place. So what do you do?
One method is pitch selling, but you are lucky if you can supplement your client’s purchase by more than two items with this strategy.
I have also heard about another strategy, weird as it is, where you sell accessories or services before the actual product. It's a tough bargain because clients usually come in for the main product. For example, a client shopping for a laptop doesn't want to discuss wireless mouses.
My strategy has always been the following: While I always keep my “pitch” for the more technical complementary item, I try to bring in most accessories when I present the products in order to present a full-on solution, instead of just a product.
Going back to the laptop example, I present the full laptop kit, mouse, case, Microsoft Office, Antivirus, and computer setup. Not only does this allow you to present your offer in a ‘Best, Better, Good’ way, it also keeps the accessories attached to the product, so you do not have to sell them individually.
Tip #4: Bait and Switch
This one is a classic and you have probably had to deal with it in the past. Although I don’t find this method appropriate as the main strategy, it is still a multi-purpose tool fit for a salesperson’s toolset.
This strategy includes attracting your client with an awesome value on a specific product. Once your client is hooked, either because the product is not available or there is an apparent better value on another product, you can direct your client somewhere else.
This method, as I mentioned, can be deceiving. If used as the main strategy, not only can you end up with clients being offended, you may look like you are taking the easy route. However, given a situation such as a shortage in inventory, this technique can be a relief.
Let’s go for one last rundown:
- Pre-Sale: Your client has probably seen a promotion for a specific product with great a great price and value.
- Engagement: Welcome your client.
- Qualification: Your client may ask for a specific product. With the knowledge of your inventory, your task is to gather information to qualify them for another item.
- Product presentation: You can admit that the item on the client’s wishlist is not available, however, present another product and emphasize this product is much appropriate. Ideally, you should present the client with a set of 3 solutions in a ‘Best, Better, Good’ scenario.
- Rebuttal of objections: If have pulled it off so far, this step is as usual. However, if the client is still insisting that they want the item they came for, apologize and give a raincheck.
- Closing: It will vary, from easier than usual to more aggressive bargaining.
- Post Sale: Not only is it appropriate to do a follow-up, it is the perfect opportunity to offer your client a discount on their next purchase, an invitation to a private sale, or insight on an upcoming offer. Also, if your business can offer the reservation of a product, helping your client can help turn their positive experience into big-time client retention.
How to Make Your Sales Team Follow Your Marketing Strategy.
Last but not least, the nightmare of every sales manager. How do you get your sales team to follow your marketing strategy?
First of all, a salesperson is in it to do sales, trusting their flair is my first piece of advice, even if they are not always in line.
Second, communication is everything. It is the marketing team that lays down a scenario for the sales procedure and communicates it to the sales manager. One of the best things a sales manager can do is have a sales meeting with their team to educate them about the current promotions, the entitled scenario for each product, upsales, and accessories.
This is going straight down to step 1 of the whole sales procedure: The pre-sale. The salesperson should have a reasonable idea of the message that a potential client has about your brand and what to do with it. While this is true, third, it is the marketing team’s job to listen to the salesperson’s feedback.
To Sum Everything Up
Understand where your client is in their purchasing process; It's that simple.
No matter how your lead came to be, they are in a purchasing process and you are in a sales process. Your job is to guide them through it because, in the end, a true salesperson is only a guide. If you take the time to assess where you are in this relationship with your client and where they in their decision making, selling is easy. Some sales managers will draw charts to follow the client’s path, but a CRM should be able to do it for you.