Wheels Coming Off the Sales Vehicle? Be Patient and Structured!
Back in the mists of time, someone in the UK had a brilliant idea: Let’s manufacture a three-wheel car so that it can be classified as a motorcycle and consumers won’t have to pay full road tax for a car.
The Reliant Robin thereafter earned a prominent, eternal and special place in British popular culture, in particular as the butt of many jokes due in part to its propensity to roll over at the most inopportune moments. But let’s face it, when were three wheels ever better than four? And if you have four wheels, you certainly don’t want one falling off.
Wheel One: Impatience and Giving Up
Salespeople are often guilty of not being persistent or patient enough when moving through the sales cycle and they may even give up if they don’t think it’s going well. This is often when the first wheel falls off.
When you look at the typical buying process for the majority of products and services, it can be broken down into five categories:
- Active Interest
If we then consider some of the main reasons why a deal doesn't close, they often include the salesperson not listening, talking too much, interrupting with answers, giving up at the first refusal, not establishing who makes the buying decisions, not giving reasons to buy, talking features not benefits, not getting agreement on points while moving through the presentation, not understanding how the customer proposed to use the product, making the presentation too complicated, not realizing some objections were smokescreens, not isolating the real objection to deal with it, spending too much time in general conversation and not business, and the cardinal sin of not asking for the order.
Wheel Two: The Sales Meeting
The initial breakdown in the process, when the ultimately fatal second wheel can come off, is the sales meeting itself. Consider for a moment exactly how your usual client sales meetings and presentations go. Then consider what they should or could be. A sales presentation is basically a conversation between you and the customer/buyer that should have:
- A clear objective — such as a sales call/opportunity to quote, fact-find, product trial
- A beginning— be prepared
- A middle — How many ... ? Have you ever ... ? How do you feel about ... ?
- An end — with the sales person in control
Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and think about what they want to know. What are you offering me? How will it work? How will it help me? Is it as good as you say? Who says so? What evidence can you offer? Is it worth the price? Will it help me accomplish what I want to accomplish?
So you have the meeting with the client, you know why you are there and you want to stop another wheel from falling off — what’s next? Structure. Keep to a format where you aim to:
- Have a clear opening (beginning) where you exchange information on what is going to be covered or accomplished. There is no substitute for preparation.
- Probe, gather information from the customer and provide supporting information on how you can satisfy their requirements (middle).
- Have an end in mind. Depending on the objective of the meeting, is it to define what the next steps may be or to ask for an order?
Don’t forget, it’s vital that you keep control of the meeting. Your time in front of a buyer is limited, you have to use it effectively. Seize the first opportunity to take control of the meeting as it demonstrates that you are organized, you're prepared and you have a clear objective. You also communicate confidence and professionalism. The buyer is more likely to respect you and listen.