Training December 2017

Woeful Sales staff

Basic errors for your staff to avoid

  • Find buyers with the greatest needs
  • Tailor your message
  • Push back against discounting

Three woeful contributions from salespeople include, “We have this widget”, “Do you want it?” and “We can discount the price”. What a mess right there. Yet, left to their own devices, this is the type of nonsense salespeople say to clients. Serving the client’s best interests is Job One for salespeople, so why aren’t they having a proper conversation with the prospective buyer?

They are untrained, unprofessional and unskilled. What should they be saying? Going through the detail of the latest release, model, new variation and so on is pointless. We don’t have anything for the buyer until we have some idea of what they need. Yet out come the brochures, detailing the specs, trying to lure buyers with glossy photos and text.

This has its place, of course, yet timing is everything. The prospective buyer wants it in pink, but we don’t know that. If we head off on a roll about the wonder of our blue range, we are going to get nowhere, glossy photos or otherwise.

Mind the gap
Ask the buyer about where they are now with their business and then where they want to be. The size of the gap tells the salesperson whether or not they are the solution to closing that gap. If the gap is not so large, better to go and find a buyer who has the opposite situation. Don’t waste more of anyone’s time.

If there is a sizeable gap, ask why they haven’t filled it in themselves. What an ace question. In the answer is a hint as to whether we have the magic remedy for their problem. By listening to them, we may discover that we don’t have what they need. No need to wrestle the prospective buyer to the ground and try to force them to buy. Get out of there and find someone who you can provide with a solution.

Know who you are talking to
The next question in this escalation is about their why. There is the unit’s why, the division’s why, the firm’s why, and then their own personal why. This last why is the key driver of buyer behaviour, just as we are driven by our own best interests. Once we know what success means for them, we have an idea of how to present the solution at a later stage.

Going through the details and then asking, “Do you want it?” is not impressive as a means of getting someone to go for the purchase. Instead, having understood what they need and having ascertained we can provide it, we now and, only now, introduce our product or service. But we need to check a couple of things off before we go into solution explanation mode.

Who are we talking to? Is this the big picture, macro-focused, vision realisation-driven firm’s chief executive officer? Or are we talking to detail-orientated people such as the chief financial officer and the technical buyer, who want three decimal places and all the microanalysis possible? Are they the user–buyer, who is thinking about ease of application, after-sales service and hand holding if needed?

Depending on where they sit in the firm, our explanation of the suitability of the solution for them will differ. Similarly, the way we deliver the solution during our explanation will vary depending on their personality. Are they a straight-down-to-business or a let’s-have-a-cup-of-tea type of buyer? Are they big picture or highly detail orientated?

Standing firm
Discounting is the cancer of sales. It is a brand killer, a symbol of low value, a slippery slide for which there is only one direction, and that is down. The salesperson is like water. They find the path of least resistance and the antidote to price preservation is discounting, because it is easy.

Salespeople are here to provide value. If there is a push for discounting, it had better be related to volume purchases. The defence of the brand is critical and price preservation is needed if the organisation is to stay in business. This is the salesperson’s job—to provide perceived value.

There are budget limits, policies, stupidities, excuses and justifications aplenty as to why the price has to go down. Salespeople need to defend the price at all costs, including by walking away. That is painful, especially with monthly targets and pressure raining down on your head like shrapnel, but stand your ground you must.

Provide a better explanation of the value and do better research on where this solution can help the customer grow their sales, so that the additional business makes the product essentially free.