5 Surefire ways to make the sale
You've given a terrific sales presentation and have your prospect's undivided attention. He nods approvingly as you explain how your computer-consulting services will save him time, reduce his paperwork load and cost him 30 percent less than your leading competitor. You place your company's one-page contract on his desk, hand him your pen and suggest, "Sign here."
Then it comes: The big "no." "I'll think it over." "I'm just considering all my options." "I'll have to get back to you." "Let me review my budget first." "I didn't realize you were brand-new in the business."
Are you dead in the water? Not at all. More than likely, what you're hearing isn't a decisive turn-down, but a simple objection. Your prospective customer might sound like he's saying, "No deal," but chances are he wants something more: more information about your company, more proof of your technical abilities, more confidence you'll have a compatible working relationship, more assurance your product or service will meet his needs. Finding out what's blocking him from taking action is the key to turning a sales objection into a sales opportunity.
"Sales objections are not negative, but positive and necessary parts of a successful sale," writes Tim Connor, author of Soft Selling: The New Art of Selling, Self-Empowerment and Persuasion (see "Sales Resources" below for ordering information). "They are a request for more information, a stall, or even a buying signal." The next time you encounter a buyer's objection during your sales presentation, you can turn his "no" or "maybe" into a "yes" by following these five important steps:
1. Check your attitude. How you approach a buyer can be as important as what you say. If you're nervous and uncertain about your product or service, your prospect will easily pick up on your insecurity. If you appear indifferent to his needs, he might wonder why you bothered to make the sales call. But if you're enthusiastic and proud of your product or service, you'll raise its value in your prospect's eyes.
You can maintain a positive mental attitude during your sales presentation by visualizing your success before you make the call. Picture yourself giving a dynamic presentation and your customer signing a contract. Savor how the accomplishment feels. That's what star athletes do to ensure their victory when they compete.
2. Discuss benefits, not features. A customer isn't really interested in what your product or service is; he's interested in what it can do for him. Therefore, translate your product or service's features into benefits. Will your product or service make him more money, reduce his overhead, save him time, make his workplace safer, make his job easier or gain him status in the business community?
Let's say you're selling roofing materials to business owners. A factual description of your product is: 220-pound, fiberglass DuraStay shingles with a 20-year warranty on materials and installation. Those facts are important to your prospect, but don't stop there. Tell him what your product can do for him: "Because they're fiberglass, they'll stand up in any weather. And because they're DuraStay, they're guaranteed." Or, "Your DuraStay roof is guaranteed to be leakproof for 20 years. If you even suspect a leak, we'll inspect it and fix it, absolutely free."
If you're selling a service, you can also discuss customer benefits, says Denise Schoenherr, co-owner of Special D Events, a special-events planning firm in Troy, Michigan. "When we present our services to a corporation, we want them to feel comfortable and secure with our working relationship," she explains. "We tell a prospective client we'll work as part of their team, communicate with their employees, attend their meetings and represent the event as their own. This way, we answer any concerns a client has about not participating in the decision-making process about how their event will be handled."
3. Offer a solution. When your customer objects to a point you make during your presentation, don't argue with him. You're trying to help your customer solve a problem, you're not trying to persuade him to do something he doesn't want to do. Simply repeat the objection, use a deflective phrase to turn it around (such as, "Ms. Prospect, other customers have had the same concern, until I had a chance to . . ."), then offer a solution in terms of benefits to your customer: Your product will save him money, give him security, make his work easier and so on. End your answer with a question: "Have I clarified that point for you?" or "I think we've found a way to solve that problem, don't you agree?"
You can also win your prospect over by offering a solution to his needs before he decides to officially become your client. "We're a service business," explains Schoenherr. "So we show a prospective client what that means. I'll often ask, `Is there something we can help you with now?' I tell them, for example, I can call hotels to see what rates the company can get for an event they're considering. Then we keep in contact with the company, and as the time approaches for their big event, the company will be inclined to hire us because they know we're here to work on their behalf."
4. Assume you already have the order. The easiest close in the business world is when your customer says to you, "Why don't we go ahead with this?" Since this doesn't happen often, you can move your discussion toward a profitable conclusion by acting as if your customer has already said "yes."
Some entrepreneurs do this by filling in the contract as they move through their presentation--asking a customer for his company's mailing and billing address, number of employees and other pertinent information. By doing this, you're indicating to your prospect you expect to ultimately complete the transaction with his signature. Or you could take a more verbal approach: Smile, look your customer in the eye and say, "Let's see what it will take to put this transaction together."
5. Brush up on closing tactics. You'll be more at ease asking for the order if you've rehearsed a closing statement. Stephan Schiffman, author of Closing Techniques That Really Work (see "Sales Resources" on page 62 for ordering information), says the simpler the closing statement, the better.
He suggests: "Mr. Prospect, it seems to me that we could really benefit from working together. What do you think?" Can you expect your prospect to smile, shake hands and sign the contract, though? "If you've done your work properly," says Schiffman, "that will happen a good portion of the time."