By Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder and Chairman at BNI,
For an entrepreneur, sales and networking go hand in hand. A few weeks ago, sitting in an airport waiting for my plane to arrive, I struck up a conversation with the young man sitting next to me. He was wearing a nice suit, carrying a laptop, and appeared to be traveling on business, so I asked him if he happened to be traveling to the same business event that I was. It turned out he wasn’t headed to the same place but we ended up having a very interesting conversation about sales.
He explained that he’s somewhat new to the sales industry and that he has found it a bit difficult to achieve the level of success he had envisioned when he entered the field. I offered him some advice about what I believe is one of the most important keys to selling: understanding the buyer’s perspective.
The way I see it, selling has everything to do with finding out what the customer wants, is able to pay for, and then making the deal (assuming you can provide the product/service). If it were really that simple, however, there wouldn’t be a demand for salespeople; buyers could get all they need from a machine. But, in fact, many buyers head off to go shopping for a product or service with only a vague sense of what might satisfy their needs. Turning a buyer’s vagueness into clear solutions is the job of the salesperson. Always remember that the buyer is looking for the best solution, delivered in an effective and pleasurable manner.
Buyers are multifaceted, and when they shop, they weigh the many pros and cons of a potential purchase. Some of these they will share with the seller, while many other thoughts they will keep to themselves. Learning and adapting to the issues and whims of the buyer while moving the sale forward to a conclusion is a complex and intricate task — and it’s the responsibility of the sales professional to ensure it happens.
A friend of mine who sells computer technology told me about a great concept he calls “the sales clock.” He describes it this way:
It’s a great day. You answered a call from a new prospect, met with their team to discuss your product, and…they asked you for a proposal! Soon after delivering your proposal you started your wait for their decision. The sales clock ticks as you wait on the fate of your proposal. It may tick a long time before hearing back from the customer, and as the seller, you don’t know if you are being “stiffed” or if the customer is swamped with other pressing priorities. Whatever the reason, waiting out the sales clock can be stressful. The last thing you want is for your own stress to create a negative impact on your prospect.
My friend provides a good reminder that “it’s all about the customer,” in the sense that the customer is the ultimate buyer, but…the seller also has to earn a commission, meet monthly targets, and ensure proper work scheduling.
The sales clock reminds us to always look at both the customer’s perspective, as well as the seller’s demands with each sales scenario.
Below are some tactics for helping you, the seller, determine if the buyer is putting you off or merely attending to pressing internal demands, and also some techniques for effective communication which will help you tap into the customer’s perspective.
Learning and adapting to the issues and whims of the buyer while moving the sale forward to a conclusion is a complex and intricate task. Attentive listening can help you, the seller, determine if the buyer is putting you off or merely attending to pressing internal demands. Behaviour profiling also helps by giving you knowledge about how to craft your sales and reporting program to the style of communication most comfortable to the client. All customers like to be communicated with in a manner that is most familiar to them, and knowing their personality profiles helps the seller customize a sales approach for each unique individual.
I know a sales communication expert from the UK who states, “The prospect is really interested in the total opposite of most commonly delivered product presentations. The prospect really only cares about his or her own present and future, whereas most presentations focus on the seller’s past and product features.”
This expert provides a great reminder to talk about what the product will do for the customer — rather than just about its features. His favorite phrase is, “Customers don’t care what you do; they care about what they’re left with after you’ve done it.” He uses the word “after” to keep the product presentation focused on the customer’s needs, and recommends the following customer-oriented questions:
• “What are you looking to achieve after our work together?”
• “What would success look like to you as a result of this project?”
• “Looking back a year from now, what will need to happen for you to think things have gone brilliantly?”
Nothing works perfectly every time, and being able to read the customer’s buying signals is crucial to making necessary course corrections that meet the customer’s top-of-mind concerns. The state of the selling art allows masterful salespeople to combine a little science with human relation strategies to create a wonderful buying experience for the consumer, while still maximizing the seller’s commission.
Most of the time, timing is everything, which is why I wanted to share several concepts, strategies, and techniques to help you land the hesitant customer in front of you (whose hesitation may have nothing to do with your product).
Remember that customers will come to you when they know you can consistently do something for them that they want or need.
Called the "father of modern networking" by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI (www.BNI.com), the world's largest business networking organization. His book, Networking Like a Pro, can be viewed at www.IvanMisner.com. Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute (www.ReferralInstitue.com), an international referral training company.