Posted 4th December 2007.
Selling is simple.
Just like golf is simple and sculpture is simple. You just put the ball in the hole, or chip away all the stone that isn’t your subject.
Selling is simple in concept – but difficult in practice. And often, under pressure to deliver our numbers this quarter or in the heat of the moment trying to close that deal we’ve been chasing for months, we forget the simple things that actually lie at the core of sales excellence.
In my work with clients I often find that returning to the basics – the simple core of excellent sales – can often lead to a great leap in performance.
And in my experience, the basics of selling can be simplified into two essentials – what I call “Twin Track Selling”. In essence, these are to establish with potential customers:
- That they have a need for the benefits your product or service can deliver – a need big enough to justify paying the price you’re charging for the product.
- That they trust that your product, service or people can really deliver the benefits you claim – and do so better than your competitors.
That’s all you need really. Establish the need, and build the trust. Simple in concept, but immensely difficult in practice.
When we work to establish needs, typically we jump too fast at the first hint of a need and try to close immediately.
Sure, the customer said he wanted a more reliable car, or a more usable sales management system. But is that initial, surface need going to be enough when you start pitching how great your £20,000 car or £100,000 CRM system is? Probably not.
Most likely the customer hasn’t fully thought through their needs and doesn’t realise just how much that unreliable car or the unusable sales management system is really costing them. They haven’t considered the risk of their wife being left stranded at the side of a motorway if the car breaks down, or the impact of the system on sales-force productivity and morale – and hence on sales.
As a result, your product looks awfully expensive compared to their perception of a relatively minor problem. So they’re uncertain when you push for the sale – and despite your attempts to steamroller their “objections”, you usually end up in the nightmare “I’m not really ready to buy yet – but I promise to keep you in mind in future” scenario.
Or perhaps the customer does understand the value of what you’re offering to them – but the sale just seems to be drifting away over time. You keep telling the customer about the benefits of your product – but even thought they agree with your business case projections they just seem unwilling to commit.
While it’s tempting to write them off as tyre-kickers; often the problem goes much deeper. Often the issue is that you just haven’t proven to them that your product really can deliver the wonderful benefits you’re claiming.
In this increasingly sceptical world, they won’t just take your word for it. And all your competitors have equally glowing testimonials in their literature. Building a high degree of trust with your customer is crucial – not just personal trust, but trust that your product, your services and your people really can deliver.
It takes time – and thoughtful planning to build up a sufficient level of trust to allow the customer to buy with confidence that the benefits they’re looking fo really are going to be delivered by your product.
Often when you’re in a rut or you have a sales pursuit you’re really struggling with, it’s tempting to turn to a flavour of the month solution – a new closing technique, a clever elevator pitch or other techniques.
But in reality, you’re far better off investing your time going back to basics and really thinking through, for this situation – how can I help my customer understand their real needs? And how can I prove that my product really does meet those needs?
It’s only by doing this, and tailoring it uniquely for each sales situation, that you can put yourself firmly on the track of Sales Excellence.