About six months ago I had the opportunity to sit in on a free two and half hour seminar sponsored by WINNING, Inc. The first question he asked was, “Do you TIO?” TIO is an acronym for “Think It Over”.
Kevin Hallinan, Principal of WINNING, Inc. really challenged me regarding my business sales approach. Do I think it over and really assess what I offer to my clients? For too long I had followed-up on empty promises, and hung my hopes on well-meaning responses, from well-intentioned individuals, who sincerely did not want to hurt my feelings by telling me they simply did not want my service. All while I did everything I could investing my knowledge, my time and even samplings of my work, with little to no sales results.
Our businesses are driven by the sales of our products or services we provide. However, this seminar changed the rules for me.
It was brought to my attention that we tend to sell with the same mentality we use to buy. Think about our buying practices, say, with a computer. We go into the store looking at different desktops or laptops, reading shelf-tags, tapping the keyboards, and wondering if it is the best for me. We are approached by a sales person who will ask, “May I help you?” We start to ask a lot questions, “What is the RAM? Is this machine upgradeable? What about the graphics card?” On and on we go. The sales person will then invest their time into “consulting us” on the product. By the time the discussion is said and done, we have probably taken up between fifteen minutes to one hour of that person’s time, only to ask for a business card, while assuring them we will be back in the near future. But do we go back or do we move on to the next retail store?
Now you and I may think that that is acceptable because we should be well-informed buyers, before we hand over our hard earned dollars. We should make educated decisions right? Of course!
Now think about us as the sales people? We are all busy, right? How do we distinguish ourselves from our competitors? After all, we want to convert our prospects to clients. Yet, time is valuable for you and your prospect.
What makes you different?
Our niche is that expertise, product, or service that makes us different to the potential client. Unless we have some proprietary software or technique, chances are our skills can be matched by someone else. After all, I’m sure I am not the only Virtual Assistant who has an MBA, who can provide quality services and process improvements, within a reasonable turnaround time.
When we think like that, we have reduced ourselves to a commodity. Terms such as: saves time, expertise, quality, excellence, results-driven, educated, etc. are all good and viable sales terms; however, when we use them as selling points alone, we have allowed them to devalue our service. What we can do, and how we can get it done, is really only the half of it.
As people, we should hear the need of our prospects and bring a solution. Today’s market is spread all over the internet, and competitors with equal skill sets can market themselves effectively, and be found. What will genuinely set us apart? We don’t want to be like that 1970’s sleazy car salesman, who promised everything, and delivered very little. We should want to known for our integrity.
Comfort and Trust
Pattern Interrupt is being professional, yet saying what the person does not expect you to say. For example, “John, my sense is you are not really interested in this service. Am I reading that correctly?” This works against traditional thinking. It catches people off guard, and draws out a more honest response. We can master this by implementing the 70/30 Rule of Prospect Listening -listening 70% of the time, and commenting 30% of the time. It is important to connect with your prospect by hearing their need. However, it is equally important to be upfront and honest as to why you are visiting or calling.
Communication – More Than Words
Communication is verbal, audio and kinetic. See the charts that follow:
E-mail is impersonal and doesn’t facilitate good sales communication, because it is 100% words. Tonality is completely lost. Therefore, you are not able to hear the inflection of what is meant behind a comment or statement.
Upfront Contact – Establish Ground Rules
Be honest with your purpose and be confident. This allows the prospect to consider their commitment to the process. Some examples are:
“We will need an hour to talk, and address any additional questions you may have.”
“You will want to bring the paperwork we discussed; otherwise we won’t be able to meet.”
“If we cannot work together, can I count on you to let me know?”
“If we conclude it is a good fit, I’ll need a signed agreement and one month’s retainer.”
“We only accept credit cards, I’ll need a copy of the card and an agreement signed …”
Hear Their Pain
Here is where you allow your prospect to communicate what is not working in their current situation. You will hear things such as:
“I need help.”
“I can’t keep going on like this.”
“My business is suffering because I can’t …”
Qualify, Quantify and Discovery
You heard the needs of the Prospect. You may say something like, “So we agree you need a personal assistant for the following reasons…”
Allow the prospect time to determine for his or herself how far they are willing to go to alleviate their pain. Simply by asking,
“What are you prepared to invest?”
“Because of the reasons we discussed, how much money is that costing you, in lost earnings, on an annual basis?”
This puts the responsibility on the potential client. They know best what they can do and what it would be worth to them. Remain quiet at this phase. Let them talk it out for their own sake. You will learn a lot by listening.
Only if they continue to stumble over this question, you may offer, “Suppose I told you that you need to invest $_____, given that that is our understanding. Is there any reason we should stop here?” Again, listen as they reason this through.
Decision Making Process
This is not a negotiation phase. Kevin stated, “Negotiation is sales done poorly.” You should confirm who the decision-makers are. You may approach this with:
“In additional to you, who in your organization can assist you with this decision?”
“Who needs to be available so that a good decision can be made and we can secure the paperwork.”
“My experience has been there are usually more than just one decision-maker, my belief is it is not just you.”
Again, listen. If, for any reason, the prospect suggests that the price is too high. You may pare down on the services you offer; however, never scale back on your price, as this will devalue your business.
What is Your Sales Strategy?
Make a Plan
Consciously choose daily to invest in your sales strategy. Identify and choose to:
- Tap into a specific number of networks monthly; (local Chamber or Industry Association)
- Dial-up a specific number prospects; and
- Inquire about a particular number of referrals.
Do not be afraid to ask with a negative reverse, “I know at this stage of the game, a virtual assistant does not fit your goals. However, would you be willing to brainstorm with me for a minute as to who else might need these services?” Remember it is all in how you ask.
My Take Away?
The message I got from this meeting was to stop presenting yourself like a commodity, be more personal and think it over! All of it, whatever “it” is. Think it over. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do want to present excellence. What better way to show excellence than to listen to your client’s needs, remove the desperation in your tone, and display excellent communication skills through your sales strategy.
To connect with Kevin Hallinan, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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