THE THREE GROUPS OF SALES AND THE SALES CYCLE
In my first blog I had mentioned that when I first went into business I bought and read every book and magazine that had anything to do with business and sales that I could get my hands on. I read allot of books and soon realized allot of books are designed not to be educational, but are in my humble opinion, written with the sole purpose of selling the book. One such book out there claimed to have 205 ways to “close the sale”. It had all kinds of ridicules gimmicks that when executed were suppose to lure your prospect into buying. Most of the techniques were ridiculously dumb. One of the gimmicks said that while on the sales call, take blank sheet of paper and draw a line down the center to form two columns. Then tell your prospect that you were going to play a game. On the left side you would write down all the reasons that the prospect should buy from you. On the right side was the column for the prospect to list all the reasons they had to not buy from you. Then get the prospect to agree that if you listed more reasons that they should buy, they lose the game and have to make the purchase. If they listed more reasons not to buy than you do than you would agree to leave their office and not make the sale.
Can you believe someone actually wrote that and published it in a book? Personally I don’t want to take the time to present my products if the end result is based on the skill of a game. If this were the case than a round of golf or a few rounds of high stakes poker with the prospect would be more fun.
A few years ago I was contracted to give sales training to a regional field office of a large national home security company. In the interview stage with the sales manager, I learned that his office was behind national quotas for sales. He stated that by corporate policy, in order for their sales people to “keep their job,” they each had to sell a minimum of 17 units per month. His office was not complying with corporate policy in terminating the non performing sales members because if they had, his office would not have a sales team at all, as his top producer’s best month was 14 units sold, and most on his team averaged 9 units per month.
We agreed on a course curriculum and scheduled weekly sales training to take place every Wednesday morning with two hours of group instruction.
The first week when I arrived at their office for training, the sales manager had his sales team together in the conference room giving them a motivational speech as I set up my Power Point presentation. Listening in to his speech I soon recognized their problem. They were being taught some of these ridicules gimmicks. One of his team members stated that he didn’t have a problem with scheduling appointment or presentation, but ran into price objections at closing. The sales manager’s reply was to ask the prospect how much they paid for their refrigerator. Based on the theory that the average refrigerator costs from $800 to $1500, point out to the prospect that they spent that much to protect $100 in groceries and therefore wouldn’t it make sense that they spend $1000 to protect a $150,000 home? He was a little surprised when I started my first lesson stating that if any of them came into my home with that type of closing tactic, they would surly find themselves escorted to the door in less than a polite manor.
Another gimmick I have read in more than one of the many books out there was if the prospect didn’t buy, you were to give them big puppy dog eyes and say “Mr. Prospect, if you don’t buy from me, I am going to lose my business.” That’s right, you are suppose to make the prospect believe that if you don’t make the sale then you will lose everything, and wonder the streets like a homeless beggar and your children will end up in jail rather than in college?
I am just going to go ahead and say it right here. If you are willing to use these types of gimmicks to sell your work, then you are looking at your career as a woodworker completely wrong. If you believe that the best approach is to place your relationship with your prospect based on pity rather than trust, and have your prospect make decisions based on your problems rather than what is most beneficial to them, rather than your ability to deliver a quality product as promised, then I recommend you keep woodworking as strictly a hobby.
If however; you are repulsed by the idea of using gimmicks, and treating your prospects and customers as opponents that can be manipulated, then keep reading. This blog series is written for you!!!
You are going to run into people who claim to use the stupid gimmicks like these in some variation and claim they are successful at it. Don’t pay any attention to them. Let me explain a little bit about the statistical analysis of sales.
Unless you are a complete idiot, you are going to close about one third of your sales regardless of using stupid manipulating tactic like these or not. It doesn’t really matter what your tactic is, there are some people that are going to buy, because your work sold itself and your stupid gimmick did nothing to persuade the prospect to move on your behalf. Likewise, you are going to lose about one third of all your sales regardless of what you do. Not everyone can be sold to your product and no matter how good your product is or what kind of trust value and ability that you sold yourself to your prospect; there are uncontrollable variables that keep the prospect from purchasing from you. Either the financial condition of the prospect won’t allow the purchase, the timing of your presentation to the prospects needs, or some factor is out there that you have absolutely no control over is prohibiting your prospect from moving on your behalf.
What matters is what you do with the remaining third of your sales. These are the ones that can go either way and are dependent upon your ability to gain a trusting relationship with your customer to make the sale and create a barrier preventing your competition from moving in on your customer and stealing your business away.
It is these middle third sales that separate the winners from the users. Have you ever seen this scenario? Take any town or city out there. With in this area you can have two companies in the same industry, say like a residential cabinet shop. Both shops serving the same client base. Both companies can start out with the same resources, similar capitol, size of building and equipment. They can both have the same woodworking skills and abilities and have similar construction techniques. However; as time goes on, one shop will barely squeak by while the other is extremely successful. What is the difference? How they handles those middle third sales!!
There are basically two reasons why people decide to buy. They either act on something they perceived as important before you showed up, or they act on an opportunity that you presented to them.
The first category of sale you should be able to close the majority of the time. It is similar order taking. You might run into a hurdle or two in the sales cycle like your price or delivery timing, but for the most part it is an easy hurdle to sort through and compromise on and you make the sale. This type of sales falls into the group that you are going to win.
The second category of sale takes a little more work on your part. It requires listening intently to your customer and recognizing an opportunity and presenting your product in a way that is going to benefit both you and your customer. It involves building a trusting relationship before the prospect is willing to advance themselves into being a customer and signing on the dotted line. Now when I say recognizing an opportunity and acting on it, I don’t want to convey being manipulative. Often times when we here of a person who is an Opportunist, we picture someone who is out to make a quick buck and is conniving, and ruthlessly ambitious. The type of opportunity I am talking about is where you keep a keen eye out and recognize how what you make can benefit your prospect and you tailor your presentation to build a trusting relationship with your prospect. This second category of sale falls into the middle third type of sale that can go either way.
In order to win those middle third sales, you must recognize the four areas of the sales call.
Stage one: Prospecting.
Prospecting is also referred to as Qualifying. This is where you and your prospect mutually agree there is a reason that you should discuss your product further and there is a potential for them to buy your product. It does not mean they will buy but that they are interested enough to talk to you and discuss what you have to offer. For most people this stage will take the form of a cold call.
Stage Two: Interviewing
This is a very important step in the sales cycle where your main job is to ask questions and listen to your prospect to determine if your product or service has malleability to fit their needs. All too often during this stage, people who are selling are not listening and are giving a product dump to their prospect of all the features and don’t pay attention if what they make and sell is going to benefit their customer. Let’s say you make hand crafted furniture and you are in the interview stage of the sales cycle. Wouldn’t it be tragic if you were too busy selling yourself on your ability to make cabriole legs for sofa tables and night stands when your prospect is interested in having a dresser made with dovetail drawers? During this stage of the sales cycle, your main focus is to listen. You can steer and guide the conversation by asking question but you want your prospect to do most of the talking at this stage.
Stage three: Presentation
This is the part where you get to sell yourself. And by listening and asking questions you learned that your prospect who is interested in dressers with dovetail drawers and tailor your presentation around your ability to make dovetails. At the same time you learned because you were listening that they want a new dresser because they are expecting an addition to the family in a few months and you take this opportunity to suggest also a changing table, and crib, or bassinet. If you hadn’t listened or asked questions, you might have only known that they were interested in a dresser and your sale was limited.
It is also important that during the presentation stage that you concentrate on the BENEFITS your product has to your prospect. The fact that your dresser has dovetailed drawers is a Feature. But what is the benefit of a dovetail drawer? Perhaps it is a stronger joint than other types of joints used for drawers giving the benefit of longer user life? How about the esthetically pleasing look the dovetail has over other types of joints? All too often it is easy to get caught up in the features of what you sell. When I put a presentation together I try to picture myself as my prospect and ask the question, “What is in it for me?” As in how is my prospect going to benefit from what I an offering and I try to tailor my presentation around emphasizing the benefits and letting the features of what I make back up the benefits.
An example of the difference between a feature and a benefit in my business of caskets is the head panels to my caskets. A benefit is if the funeral director is showing my casket and their customer wants a different head panel, he does not have to order a different casket. My head panels fasten into the lid of the casket with Velcro and the head panel can be changed out in a few seconds saving him time and energy. The feature is the interchangeable head panel. The benefit is it saves him time in not having to send it back to me to have the original one removed, changed out and shipped back to him.
Stage Four: Closing
If the proper ground work is laid in the prospecting, interview and presentation stage, then closing is the easiest part of the sales cycle. You simply ask for the business. Unfortunately this is the area that many professional sales people struggle in. If you don’t confidently ask for the business than you will continue to muddle along going on about all your features. Your prospect has already heard that. Closing doesn’t require any cunning or manipulating tactics. To me it is as simple as finishing my presentation and saying something like: “Mr. Prospect, this proposal makes sense to me, what do you think?” It is an honest question and deserves an honest answer. You might get some resistance like a price barrier or other objection but if you made qualifies your prospect, listened to what they do, how they do it, why they do it and who they do it for, and made a solid presentation based on the information you learned from them, you should be able to confidently ask for the business without polarizing the relationship.
-- Michael Mills, North Carolina, http://www.scicaskets.com