Selling in a global pandemic is no easy task, not least when businesses have been battling against the odds for almost a year. However skilled sales people are taking a proven approach to tackling the challenging sales climate, and – perhaps surprisingly for some - it doesn’t involve shouting about the bells and whistles of their product or service. Tony Hughes, CEO at leading specialists in sales, communications and negotiations training and pioneers of the world-famous SPIN Selling, Huthwaite International, reveals how the most successful sales people are boosting business growth by taking stock of the lessons of 2020 and teaming this with proven methodologies, to step away from feature selling and focus on adding real value for clients in 2021.
Stop talking and start listening
Last year, people were overwhelmed with content, more so than ever before. The worse thing a sales person can do is to add to the noise. If you want to stand out in a crowded market, don’t be just another business shouting their way through the pandemic - stop talking and start listening to your customer’s needs.
Forget the script about the bells and whistles, advantages and USPs of your product or service, and starting thinking about who you are talking to and what they might need so you can ask the right questions – invite them to tell you more. Find out how they’ve dealt with the crisis, how they’ve been impacted – show that you really want to help them find solutions to the actual problems they’re facing now.
As sales people we are naturally passionate about our offering, but this passion can often stand in the way of effective sales methods. Showing clients you’re passionate about them and their concerns will help you to break through the noise and provide a relevant product or service that they will really value.
Have a plan
Of course, the most effective salespeople enter a pitch already knowing what those all-important client needs are. By preparing in advance, conducting research and planning to meet the needs of your clients, you can position yourself as a problem solver and build credibility quickly.
By giving yourself the time to do your sector research and fully explore the wants and needs of the both the individuals and the organisation you are working with, you’ll ensure you consider all the factors that will impact your client and the market they're in, both today and in the future.
Be prepared to be adaptable
Despite the all-important plan, it’s also essential to try to stay ahead of the game and anticipate what might happen. By acknowledging to the customer that you’re aware their position in the Buying Cycle may change during this turbulent time, your understanding and flexibility helps them to see you as trustworthy. Offering to be patient yet keeping in touch regularly will help to build a solid relationship overtime.
Being adaptable doesn’t mean being unprepared, it’s about anticipating changes and issues before your customer highlights them to you. After almost a year of the pandemic, clients will not just be wanting adaptability they will be expecting it.
Ensure constant and consistent communications
We know how easy it is to be all consumed by your own worries and stresses during a crisis, and your customers will feel exactly the same. Increasing your communication with a client is the best way to nurture the relationship. Whether it’s internal, to customers or to third parties this communication is reassuring and helps keep spirits and motivations high.
When people don’t feel informed, they tend to panic which stops them from focusing and prioritising. Keep conversations clear and consistent. If the advice and updates are confusing and provide conflicting opinions and frequent changes in direction, confidence will be damaged or lost completely. Many businesses were so focused on their external communications in 2020 and how the pandemic had or hadn’t affected them, they forgot to communicate internally. Ensure everyone, both inside and outside your organisation understands your business and current position so all customer touch points are unified in their message.
Be confident, not bullish
Confidence is a vital skill for any sales person, that said it’s important that this isn’t confused with (the archetypal, yet false) aggressive or bullish behaviour often associated with complex sales. This can be a challenge whilst communicating virtually, so be mindful of your online behaviours.
Being a confident sales person means harnessing and building a quiet, calm but unshakable belief in yourself, your company and your offering. This is important, as committing to a sale can often be overwhelming for buyers. Don’t forget to show your emotions as this kind of verbal behaviour also reveals something personal, which is likely to encourage trust within a conversation, making the customer more likely to be honest about their thought process.
Huthwaite’s research shows that up to 30% of sales are left open due to unaddressed concerns. By remaining confident in your product, you create an open environment for questions and issues to be raised and addressed in advance, helping to build a stronger relationship.
Consider safety over price
In hard times, like those many businesses have faced over the last year, consider that people may be looking for safety over price. More often than not, businesses will not go for the cheapest option as it can ring alarm bells - particularly in a downturn.
Customers want to know that someone is going to be around and they want to believe that they can feel safe in your hands. As we go through what is hopefully the final hurdle of this pandemic, businesses are looking forward and want to ensure they’re still around to see the back of it, their confidence in you as a safe option will help them to achieve that.
As businesses prepare to secure growth in 2021, it’s important that sales people focus on the issues their offering can resolve quickly for customers. By meeting customer needs and offering tangible solutions, sales people can generate trust, demonstrate value and build stronger relationships for the future.