In today’s highly technical and fast paced world one piece of advice is very true – listen to the customer. Unfortunately, selling complex technical products or solutions (or anything else), causes most salespeople to focus on product features rather that on their benefits to the customer.
This product focused approach to sales is from the old school. It focused on specific features and benefits that would be of interest to a prospective customer. Salespeople would immediately commit to memory as many of these product features as possible.
After a dissertation on the associated benefits that went along with these product features, the prospect is suppose to sign on the dotted line because the salesperson certainly must have found a “hot-button” during this product review.
But something bizarre happens. The prospect is often overwhelmed by all the facts and technical data that has been dumped on him. When you sell only on product features, you leave yourself open to price shopping by your prospect.
The smarter method of selling that is much more effective is called customer focused selling. Simply stated customer focused selling is first finding out what the customer wants and then providing the solution for his or her situation. Sound simple, yet it is surprising how few salespeople practice this method. Perhaps it’s because they spend so much time learning about the hardware and software features they sell, that they would burst open if they couldn’t tell their prospect all they know. Another reason is that salespeople sometimes (too often) would rather talk than listen to their prospect. Here are the five critical steps to be customer focused:
- Customer focused selling means the customer does most of the talking. How does the customer do most of the talking? The salesperson must probe and ask open ended questions to determine the customer’s business needs and personal wins. Open-ended questions ask the listener for more specific information. Open ended questions begin with words like what, when, how, where, why, and when. They ask for people’s opinions, facts and feelings. They open the conversational door. Examples: “What results are looking for in a new supplier?” ” What makes that business issue so important to you?”
- To get the prospect to be more receptive to your probes and questions, try to cushion it with a softening preamble. Try, “May I ask you a question? ” or, “In your opinion, what factors do you consider most important in selecting a new supplier?” Be creative and ask a few thought-provoking questions that will provide you with information about this person as well as facts about their company. Differentiate yourself from other salespeople by asking what important challenges the prospect is facing this year and how they differentiate their company from the competition.
- Probe to understand the business issues that are most important to them. For example, a General Manager might say Improving Productivity is a top priority. Probe to see what makes that issue so important, exactly what “improving productivity” means to him or her. Once you understand the important issues facing your prospect, ask open-ended questions to uncover problems with their present system or approach and identify the benefits they need because these will become opportunities for you.
- Then – probe to find their personal win. The owner of the store on the corner dreams about the day her business will expand from 1 shop to 2. Then from 2 shops to 3, to 5, and more. Think about your dreams; where you are today and where you want to be next year? Your customers also have dreams about their businesses and their careers. Who knows? They know, and uncovering their dreams is a critical step in the customer-focused sales approach. If you can find their dream, you can identify their personal win. When you do, you can then bring together a “customer focused solution” that addresses their business issues. More importantly, your solution will help them fulfill their dreams.
- Finally, it is vitally important to listen actively, take notes, provide feedback when your prospect is responding to your questions. All too often, salespeople will ask a good question, and then not listen to the answer. This hardly builds credibility and trust with the prospect. Salespeople can significantly improve their listening and establish credibility and trust faster by providing feedback that creates an agreeable atmosphere with their prospects.
Asking material questions and then listening actively to your prospect is one of the best ways to avoid these problems and differentiate yourself from the “not-so-great” salespeople. Increasing your ability to probe and ask questions and then listening to the prospect’s answers provides you with the information you need to identify needs, goals and priorities. Armed with this information, you can create a “Customer Focused” solution that addresses your prospect’s issues. Good luck and good selling!!!
|Len D’Innocenzo and Jack Cullen are co-founders of Corporate Sales Coaches, LLC. Each has over twenty years experience as sales and customer service management executives. They are featured speakers, course developers and facilitators, and authors of two books. For more information, contact 215-493-2465 or 678-341-9051 or visit our website at http://www.corporatesalescoaches.com|