Sales is everywhere around us, and not necessarily in the conventional most obvious way. Whenever you have you introduce yourself to someone, you’ll be selling yourself to that person. We sell ourselves all the time in both physical and digitals worlds. Meetings, conferences, parties, dates, social networks, blogs… All that can be a bit much. But then again what’s wrong with highlighting the best features of ourselves? I don’t see anything wrong with it… Should it be any different when it comes to products and services? I suppose not as long as the promised features are actually true.
We’ve been running the business for a while now, and since it would be a sin not to talk about sales I decided to write a blog post about it. Sales is absolutely crucial to any business. Traditionally I wouldn’t be a fan of sales because all most of the salespeople want is to sell you things whether you need it or not. However, recently I had an opportunity to reconsider my views.
In February, we had guest lecturer come in whose expertise lies in sales (professional selling to be exact). We need to be able to identify needs and wants of customers, then crystallise them: double-check whether we [salespeople] really understand what they [customers\clients] truly want and need. How do we identify those needs and wants? Active listening, and generally interpersonal skills are very important. Using open-ended questions as oppose to close-ended questions will tremendously benefit understanding the consumer. These are the questions that can’t be answered by ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. We can really get an adequate insight into a consumer’s mind by asking ‘open’ questions. Nonetheless, ‘closed’ questions are important too. These can be used later down the ‘funnel’. After having a ‘conversation’ with a consumer the ‘yes or no’ questions will help to ‘hit’ the target, after finding out what the ‘target’ is (through the use of open questions). It’s noteworthy, that those needs and wants might not always be explicit or implicit; sometimes they can be dormant, or the consumer oneself might not be aware of them. Here is where the open-ended questions help – they encourage discussions which can help to bring up to the surface those hidden desires. A salesperson must be like a skilful safari driver: be focused and in control at all times to make the ‘right turns’ and yet make everything seems to natural and fun.
Now that we understand the needs and wants, we empathise with a customer and enquire whether they would like something to do about it. In other words, whether they’d like to solve the problem. (Side note: empathy is key in Design Thinking too, and is important because customer’s desires are embedded in the process of product development). If one does not want to do anything about it, one must be left alone not waste anyone’s time. Wasting time can harm all the parties involved. Hence traditionally a negative attitude towards salespeople. Mind you, it’s applicable to ANY field in both professional and personal fields. For example, during the trade fair at the Business School of Kingston University, we had a poster attached to our table asking whether people had any problems with sleep? Followed by an invitation to come talk to us (meaning they’re ready to do something about it). The poster immediately gave a message away what are we about – we aimed not to waste our nor trade fair goers time. To the people that came to talk to us, we demonstrated the features of ComfyEar and how that feature would benefit the them [customer].
The last stage of sales is closing in. Some people might disagree with me, but I’d say never close in aggressively. You can be nice and still close in. That’s why you should continue conversation with the customer and ask them whether they’re happy with the solution. They will be if we had addressed their wants and needs adequately. Then check for buying signals, the address any other objections and finally ask for a sale. Trust the process and close it. And once the sale is made say nothing else at all. Don’t ruin it.
All of this may look very theoretical but the true salesperson will take advantage of the setting and conditions. The mastery here is manoeuvring. In the first trade fair, we received an award for the best sales team. The funny thing is that we didn’t have a single product on sale. All we had was a prototype! We had set the goals for that trade fair and it wasn’t to make money. It was to grow clientele. Through talking with our potential customers, we not only involved them in the process of creation of ComfyEar but also identified ourselves as a company of providers of Comfort and Sleep. So, I suppose we were (professionally) selling by creating mutual value without wasting no one’s time.
Do it right and and everyone involved will benefit.