By David Haxton, Sales Director, Frillo

Persuading a customer to part with their money may not be easy, but the actual process is a straightforward one. When it comes to negotiating a sale, it’s important to correctly identify and approach your targets while understanding their needs, to effectively sell the benefits of your product. Be confident in the sale, handle objections and close. Simple steps…

1. How to identify and approach your targets

As part of your marketing strategy, you have to decide who your target customers are, and how you will approach them. Find out what they do, what products they need and why/what key benefits they are looking for. It’s also essential to find out when they prefer to buy, so you can contact them at the right time. Be clear what each potential customer is worth to you. This determines the amount of time and effort you put into selling to each one.

2. Understand the customers’ needs

Understanding your customer is vital for a successful sale. This includes their needs, right down to how and when they like to be contacted. For example, if you are telephoning a customer make sure you ring at the right time. People are naturally more receptive to calls in the morning, and remember the first 30 seconds are crucial, so get your pitch right! If you fail to prepare your opening carefully, you have little chance of capturing the interest of the customer in what you have to offer.

3. Handling objections

Be prepared to be persistent, particularly if you do not have an existing relationship. If you get an immediate brush-off, try to keep the conversation going. For example, if you are asked to put something in the post, ask what in particular the customer is interested in or, if the target says they need to think about it, ask what their concerns are.

Stay focused on what you want to achieve. If you want a meeting, ask for one. Suggest a time and a place. Remember, customers prefer, and are less likely to cancel, meetings on their own premises.

Do not be put off by objections - they can be a sign that the customer is interested. Just make sure you handle them in a direct and positive way. The most common objection is price, so try to find out exactly what aspect of the price the customer is unhappy with before deciding how to respond.

4. Selling the benefits

Once you understand what customers are looking for, you must show the benefits they will get from buying your product or service. Ensure you are selling the benefits, not features - features describe what a product can do. Benefits explain what these features can do for the customer.

The same product may also be sold differently to two different customers, according to their individual priorities. For example, if you are selling a car, you might stress the benefits of its safety features when selling to parents, while focusing on style and design when selling to a non-parent. These things may seem simple, but in practise they are all too easily overlooked.

5. Closing the deal

When closing the deal, create a sense of urgency. Try to convince the customer that your product is needed now. Do not falsely state that a product will only be available for a limited time in order to get consumers to buy there and then. This is illegal under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. Instead, link a quick sale to meeting the customer's own needs and deadlines.

Take responsibility for closing the sale. Be positive and upbeat. The simplest way may be just to ask, 'Can I take your order now?'

Confirm that you have understood correctly what the customer wants and always give your customers good after-sales service, so that they will want to buy from you again.