What are we selling? Regardless of what the product or service may be, when selling we are going through a series of events. There are 5 phases of selling that each negotiated transaction will go through. I want to cover what we are selling in each of these phases.
1. Salesperson. We can agree that during any cold call or first contact meeting, the first thing we are selling is the salesperson themselves. What we do or say during the first 5 minutes can often lead to very predictable results. If we say something relevant, we keep the client’s attention. If we say something irrelevant, we lose the client’s attention. In relationship selling, this first step (selling the salesperson) can take many visits over a long period of time. It can take as long as 6 months or more, with some instances taking years. As organizations have become more complex, so has the sales process. Gone are the days of earning relationships with a single champion. Salespeople must perform the selling process to many individuals that make up the buying group of the organization. There are also some key milestones that take place during the first stage. People skills are evaluated, discovery questions are asked, and usually there is some agreement on what the client needs are. Both the client and the salesperson must ask the best questions of each other. The salesperson learns what the clients needs may be and the client makes decision on how credible the salesperson is. Once both sides have their answers (Client decides they want to know more, and Salesperson decides they have uncovered a need) the selling process can move to the next stage.
2. Company. The salesperson needs to be ready to address three main questions: What do we do? What are we known for? And do we fit their culture? Selling the company involves selling the whole company. Our reputation, our client base, our core beliefs, and most importantly our culture. Clients want to buy from people and organizations that are most like them and their values. We have our salespeople, our project teams, our service teams, all representing the same core values and it will be evident to the client. Our recent efforts as a sales team now include sharing best practices of when we’ve helped other clients improve. Working with the CAS teams and passing along the success stories of their customer care visits will show clients we not only understand their needs, but we have also been able to help others with similar needs.
3. Product. Products include physical devices we install and services we provide. Selling products should be easier if the first two steps have been completed. Steps one and two should uncover customer expected outcomes. We would then tailor our presentation or product/services pitch around addressing those expected outcomes or concerns. Gone are the days of shotgun blasting a presentation on everything the product can do and then keying in on client reactions for what they find interesting. Instead, we know going into the presentation what to focus on and with measured evidence case studies we can show how we solved the same problem in various other facilities. Always know your audience. Some audiences will insist on a product heavy message and that is okay. Just be sure you tie the products to one of the expected outcomes or measured evidence case studies.
4. Price. Now that we have presented and all questions have been answered, it is time to ask for the sale. Here we will again remind the client of their stated needs, confirm agreement on the expected outcomes, and reaffirm any key features revealed during the presentation. If no objections remain, then pricing should be delivered to the client. If there are objections or uncertainty, every effort should be made to resolve those prior to presenting pricing. The pricing phase is also when objections or stalls tend to occur. Stalls meaning they are not quite sold, but can’t really tell you why, and an objection being very specific point(s) against the sale. Stalls should be addressed by reiterating the benefits and expected outcomes of moving forward. Objections require more questions as it is likely something that was not brought up in earlier phases.
5. Time To Buy. The last phase is where we confirm the sale by showing the client we appreciate them doing business with us and assure them of their decisions. Most importantly, we need to explain what the next steps are. This is often more successful when there are tasks or to do items assigned to both the salesperson and the client. Essentially, locking in their agreement to move forward. Perhaps it's something as simple as trading a list of contacts for the project from our team and their team. Leaving the buying meeting with a very specific time and date for the next step is very important to setting expectations.
- Marquis Woodard, Director of Sales, Houston