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All too often, salespeople focus on the wrong elements in their attempt to increase sales. They turn their attention to the features, benefits, and value-added aspects of their product or service in an attempt to differentiate it from that of the competition and ultimately convince prospects to buy. While these elements may eventually play a part in the presentation (more on that later), it is not the place to start.

Salespeople need to first focus on the prospect. Here are five elements to pay close attention to:

Motive. Prospects buy for their reasons . . . not necessarily the salesperson’s reasons. This is the "Golden Rule" of sales. Salespeople must determine not only what aspects of their product or service prospects are interested in, but why they are interested. What are their motives for wanting, needing, or desiring the product or service?

Using this approach, you can substitute any problem or word for "money" and get your prospect to agree to discuss it first.

The salesperson must determine exactly what the prospects are trying to accomplish. What problems are they trying to solve or avoid. Is their concern short-term or long-term? Is it an immediate need or a future need? If, for instance, the prospect is concerned with the increased productivity aspects of a product or service and the salesperson is emphasizing the cost saving aspects, the salesperson may as well be speaking a different language.

Money. Regardless of how technically advanced, innovative, or revolutionary the salesperson’s product or service . . . regardless of the responsiveness, reliability or reputation of the company . . . if the prospect is not willing or able to make the necessary investment to obtain the product or service, the end result is the same—no sale; wasted time, effort, and energy; and the salesperson’s disappointment and frustration.

Salespeople must learn to deal with money issues early in the selling process. Without this information, it is unlikely that the salesperson can present a best-fit solution. More likely, stalls and objections that revolve around price issues will develop during or after a presentation. At that point, the salesperson has two options: walk away (which may be the appropriate decision, but is emotionally difficult to make after investing all the time); or arm wrestle over price (which usually means cutting the price). Dealing with money issues early in the process will help salespeople avoid these unpleasant scenarios.

Process. Prospects have a process by which they make buying decisions. It is important that salespeople uncover this process before scheduling a presentation. Most salespeople make an effort to ensure they are talking to a decision maker. But, they don’t always find out who else plays a part in the decision process, what exactly is the approach, how the decision is ultimately made, and the time frame for making it . . . until after they’ve made their presentation or submitted their proposal. Without this knowledge in advance, the salesperson risks making a presentation of the wrong information to the wrong person, at the wrong time, and/or in a manner inconsistent with the prospect’s decision making process.

Commitment. Even if the salesperson is aware of the prospect’s decision process, there is no guarantee that he or she will obtain a decision after making the presentation unless there is an agreement with the prospect that a decision will be made. Unfortunately, too few salespeople have this agreement (or perhaps, know how to develop this agreement) with prospects prior to a presentation. The result—more times than not, the salesperson finds himself or herself in chase mode, chasing the prospect for a decision after being told, "I’ll get back to you," or "We need to think this over."

Presentation. There should be one objective for a formal presentation—secure a buying decision. If the salesperson effectively qualified the opportunity—discovered what the prospect wants, why he or she wants it, the budget issues, and the decision process—the only thing left to do is close the sale. How? By demonstrating to the prospect how specific features of the product or service address the specific issues (and only those issues) uncovered earlier in the selling process.

The presentation is not the place to introduce other features or benefits of the product or service that were not previously discussed or don’t specifically address the needs and wants of the prospect. Unfortunately, too many salespeople do just that—bring up additional features and benefits, perhaps in an attempt to demonstrate "added value." What they actually do is introduce "added confusion" which leads to a think-it-over, no decision and no sale! Salespeople must learn to sell today! After the prospect becomes a client or customer, the salesperson can educate him or her on other aspects of the product or service.

By focusing on these five elements, the salesperson has criteria with which to more quickly qualify or disqualify an opportunity. The salesperson will be able to determine exactly what it will take to close the sale, and increase the chance of doing so.

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