So you’re starting a business but aren’t a master sales(wo)man? Rest assured, it’s not a death sentence: great sales skills are something you can learn!
Here are a few tips for making your conditions the best they can be:
- Know your product or service: if you don’t know your offering, you won’t sell anything.
- Convince by being convinced: if you aren’t your own ambassador, who will be?
- Have the right attitude: work on your verbal and non-verbal communication as well as your active listening skills.
- Act methodically.
This article presents a few very handy techniques for your first sales appointments.
1. Before you get started: understanding the stages of the sales cycle
Before you take action on the sales front, it’s good to have an overall view of the sales process and be familiar with its various stages:
- Targeting potential customers (your “prospects”),
- Preparing a sales pitch and anticipate objections,
- Get appointments,
- Identifying customer needs in the discovery phase,
- Presenting your solution,
- Convincing and handling objections,
- Closing the appointment and outlining subsequent actions,
- Establishing a follow-up (once the deal is closed),
- Engaging and retaining your customers.
Deals are rarely ever closed in a single appointment. The goal the first time you meet is to secure a second appointment or be put in touch with a decision-maker or other contact person. You also need to get as much information as possible about your customer, their needs, the context, the market, etc.
Always keep in mind that a good sales meeting goes through four phases we like to call the “4 C’s”: making Contact, identifying Customer needs, Convincing with the right arguments, and Closing in a structured manner.
2. The Golden Rule for a first encounter: active listening
What we’re talking about is your ability to listen fully to the person across from you, to grasp and really understand what they are telling you. A few things you should put into practice:
- Pay attention to gestures, ton of voice, reactions,
- Show that you’re listening and that you understand (reword, ask questions),
- Show empathy, your prospect should sense your interest in what they are saying,
- Maintain visual contact,
- Do not interrupt,
- Be sure to take notes.
In a first appointment, it’s important to spend more time listening to your prospect than selling your solution/product at all cost1.
3. In the discovery phase: pinpointing your prospect’s needs with 5 W’s
To make a sale, you have to make sure you’re fulfilling your prospect’s needs. This involves collecting certain information:
- What: what need, context, risks, what is the current situation, the consequences of the need?
- Who: who are the decision-makers, stakeholders, partners?
- Where: the location and geographical distance, the services, what department?
- When: how long has the need existed, what is the expected timetable, what frequency, for how long?
- How: necessary resources, procedures, what steps need to be taken, budget?
- Why: where did the need come from, what prompted the project, what reasons are behind it, what is the goal?
Pinpointing your prospect’s needs during your first talks in the discovery phase is decisive for subsequent stages. Gather with care all the information you need to understand the need, the context, etc.
4. To win over your customer: Understanding your customer’s motives and tuning your pitch with CAP-SONCAS
This will require some translation, so bear with me.
CAP (developing a pitch based on the scheme: Caractéristique, Argument, Preuve in French, or Characteristic, Argument, Proof) - SONCAS (Sécurité, Orgueil, Nouveauté, Confort, Argent, Sympathie – or Security - Pride - Novelty/Technology - Comfort - Money - Sympathy) is a sales technique that can help you adjust to your prospect and respond to their objections.
The method is based on the belief that there is a series of factors capable of influencing the decision to make a purchase. Your job is to detect them and adjust your speech accordingly.
Here is how it breaks down:
- Security: you need to make your customer feel safe with guarantees, feedback on experience, reliability, certifications, etc.
- Pride: make your prospect feel valuable, show you have consideration for them (uniqueness, rarity, quality, upmarket status, brand image of your offering).
- Novelty/Technology: innovation and the latest trends can seduce this type of customer.
- Comfort: your offering has to be pragmatic, it has to make your prospect’s life easier.
- Money: the customer will be focused on the price, their savings and the ROI.
- Sympathy: people who are sensitive to this will be mindful of your relationship with them (friendliness, sympathy, closeness).
An “ethical” aspect could be added to the list too as it is becoming increasingly important2 in purchase criterion. You need to be able to pinpoint the determining factors in your prospect’s purchase process from the first time you speak or meet!
Of course, there are lots of other interesting techniques you could use in the various phases of your sales process. To learn more, why not find a training course or read through some more of our articles on the topic of sales. There are more to come 😉
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