Authenticity in Sales

By Steve McClatchy, President, Alleer Training & Consulting

Throw It Back: The moment you have been waiting for… the client asks “So what does your company do?” or “Can you provide us with a presentation of your competencies?” or “Yes, let’s meet and discuss your products/services.” This does not give you permission to do all the talking for the next hour. What the client really wants to know are two things, what you do and that you are exceptional at it. That’s it! Communicate these two things quickly and then throw it back to the client and ask what specific issues they are trying to address and/or goals they are trying to achieve with the solution they are seeking. If you don’t throw it back you will be guessing what their needs are as you pitch your product and services and this increases the likelihood you will be off the mark. “Throw it back,” as I like to call it, is one of the best practices you will ever learn in sales. Throw it back on every sales call and consider yourself among the sales elite.

Ask One Question at a Time and Wait for an Answer: When you ask a good question wait for the answer. Nobody likes to be asked 5 questions at the same time or even worse the same question 5 different ways. If there is silence after you ask a question, congratulations you have asked a good one. You now have the client thinking. Don’t ruin it by interrupting, stay focused and attentive, and get ready to take some good notes that will help you to help them.

Ask What Rather Than Why: If you want to take your sales skills to the next level, ask more what questions rather than why. What questions get us more information and data. Without the right information and data we can’t succeed in meeting the client’s needs. Instead of asking why they want a solution, ask what issues in their business they are trying to address with the solution. Instead of asking why now is a good time for the solution, ask what has stopped them from addressing these issues before now. This nuance will guide the client into thinking constructively about their business and the issues they need to resolve. A common mistake in the sales process is to show up and do an hour presentation on your services and the whole time both you and the client are hoping you will say what they want to hear. Asking what questions will tell you what they want to hear so you can customize your presentation to their specific needs, present how your service/product can be the solution they’re looking for, and save you all a lot of time. Asking what questions can help turn your vendor relationships into partnerships.

Be Fearless and Ask Great Questions: What are great questions? Asking where they live or where they went to school is a way to break the ice but they are not great sales questions. Great questions come from putting yourself in your client’s shoes. They come to you when you are thinking about the problem or opportunity as if you were the client. Have they considered doing it internally (without a vendor)? Given their need or constraint should they be considering one of your competitors? What has stopped them from addressing these issues before now? Have they considered doing nothing at all? Have they scoped out the cost of the problem they are trying to solve? Are there metrics in the business they are trying to change as a result of the solution, if so, what are those metrics now and what do they want them to be? A great question depends on the situation and the circumstances, and is driven by a motive of wanting to provide your client with a successful solution, not just make a sale. When you ask a question that demonstrates that you are working on your client’s best interests and not your own, you have asked a great question.

Help Make Your Clients Money: There are only two reasons why we buy, to gain benefits or to prevent consequences. Sometimes it’s a mix of the two. In business gaining benefits is about making money and preventing consequences is about preventing the loss of it. If an organization fails to make money it will fail to accomplish its mission or stay in business. If you cannot demonstrate to your customer/client how your product or service will make them money or prevent the loss of it, you are going to struggle to be successful in sales. So how do you do it? When your client shares with you the specific problems they are trying to solve or the results they are trying to produce by purchasing the solution, ask the client what the impact would be to their business if these outcomes were achieved, and then listen. You are about to hear the value of your solution and how it will help them achieve their mission or impact their bottom line, in other words, how much your solution is worth to their business. Asking your client to teach you the value of the solution is much more effective than trying to tell the client what that value will be.

Know What You Don’t Do: If you want both short and long-term success in sales, know what you cannot do for your clients and let them know when they ask. Nothing builds trust faster than speaking with someone who understands his or her limitations. Trying to be everything to everybody can make you nothing to anyone really fast, and it makes you sound like you don’t know what you are good at!

Check Your Motive: If your questions have a motive of discovery and helpfulness, you will find that you may ask any question you like. If you’re there to solely to put money in your own pocket you will not ask the right questions that will add the most value, and without the right questions you will not get the right information, and without the right information your chances of succeeding are slim. Ask yourself before each meeting why you are meeting with that client and if your answer is to help them or help their business succeed you are in the right frame of mind for your meeting.

Be Authentic: In over 30 years in business I have not met a client who loves scheduling time to meet with a salesperson. When you greet your client/customer shake their hand firmly, look them in the eye, and genuinely thank them for their time and for their interest in exploring potentially working together. It’s a great way to say hello and to get the conversation and your relationship started.

All of these tips come back to authenticity in your efforts to actually provide a quality product or service to a client who would genuinely benefit from it. Who wouldn’t want to buy that?

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