We have all read books, gone through training, listened to tapes or followed scripts on how to make a successful sales call. But real life isn't scripted, and you can't control how your prospect is going to respond, no matter which step or piece of advice you're trying to follow.
There are some fundamental skills, however, that can be adapted to fit any real-life sales situation. Master the following five tips, and you'll be able to proceed with confidence in your sales calls and come up with thoughtful, creative solutions for your customers.
1. If you want to know what customers want, ask them, and listen to what they say. One such question might be, "What are the criteria you use in choosing another product to distribute?" Discover the strategies that have worked for this company in the past, and let the customer take you through the process that is used to acquire new products or services. When you get inside information about how a company works, you can come up with strong solutions tailored specifically to it that will help it grow.
2. Do your homework. Before any sales call, research the business, study its website and read any published articles about it--you'll build a strong foundation that will enable you to come in poised to close. Demonstrating that you've done your homework makes prospects feel important, gives you the opportunity to learn more about their business and allows you to respond naturally to whatever obstacles come your way during the call.
3. Be flexible. The problem with step-by-step techniques is that they don't allow you to veer off course or think outside the box when opportunities or conflicts arise. Instead, approach every sales call as a unique situation that requires unique solutions based on what you've learned from your homework and what you know from your general sales experience. Once you've covered the fundamentals (such as doing your homework and asking open-ended questions), you can open your mind to questions or solutions that will lead you to a place you might not have previously explored.
4. You've got to give to get what you want. You win when the customer wins, too. The most creative thinking comes from asking, "What can I do so that we both gain the most from this situation?" Your goal is to create a beneficial relationship so that both parties are constantly rooting for each other.
5. Differentiate yourself. Every human being is unique. When you make a connection with someone by being yourself (as opposed to trying to act like a salesperson), you build relationships. Customers feel comfortable dealing with you, and when you're relaxed, they're relaxed. To differentiate your product, state three things about it that make it stand out from everything else in the marketplace. Point out the factors--such as manufacturing, distribution, packaging or product quality--that will make the customer choose to do business with you. These differentiation factors are what the customer will remember most when you walk away from the meeting.