The Importance of Sales, How To Sell & The Sales Cycle
It's so exciting to see the rise of the female entrepreneur and watching women all around starting and building their businesses. It's one of the most beautiful things about America, anyone can participate, you just have to jump in. One thing that I keep hearing and seeing women post about on social media is of the fear of selling. The other extreme is the women going in for the hard sell. What is the right thing to do?
One thing is for certain, sales is the lifeline of any business and it is vital for the success of any organization. If you feel uncomfortable selling, you are going to have to figure out a way to get over that. I used to be someone that hated selling, I was a shy introvert growing up. Learning how to sell was something way outside my comfort zone. I pushed myself, learned from books, watching others and over time just got better. I'm even proud to say I've held the #1 salesperson title in multiple industries.
So, now that we know how important sales are to your business, let's go over a couple different types of selling techniques. There are different ways of selling and two well known types are called the "hard sell" and the "soft sell." A sales person that uses hard selling is typically pushy and aggressive. This method is commonly used for transactional sales like in retail stores, car sales or time-share vacation homes to name a few. Soft selling is a more thoughtful approach and is typically used in service industries and when the sales cycle is longer. Its focuses on relationship building.
Those that use hard selling techniques don't take the customer's needs into consideration and are only interested in pushing the agenda of the salesperson which is to make the sale and close the deal. It is designed to manipulate people using coercion tactics such as fear, preying on insecurities or creating ideas of scarcity like "this is your last chance." Car salesmen use this type of approach a lot and it's synonymous with the "slimy salesperson" persona and the technique that gives the sales profession a bad reputation. This is an old type of selling that true professionals are walking away from as it is often times based on deceitful practices including bait and switch. Consumers are also more informed now, less likely to fall for these techniques and have less respect for those using these tactics.
Soft selling focuses on learning the needs of the customer, building a genuine relationship for the goal of maintaining for the long term and selling the customer something they want. Soft selling is synonymous with another sales approach called "Integrity Selling," there's a book on this topic. Selling with integrity adds morals and ethics into the mix. That means, a person that follows integrity selling will walk away from a sale if it does not benefit the customer over closing the sale for the benefit of the sales person. This is the direction that quality sales professionals are taking.
Now that you are becoming more familiar with the types of selling, I want to introduce you to the sales cycle that every professional sales person uses. It's a multi-step method to help you close a sale.
Step 1: Prospecting
Prospecting is about finding new potential customers, leads. A lead could be anyone, even a random name out of a phone book. The more prospects you have, the more opportunity you have to sell to more people. Not everyone is going to buy, it's a numbers game so to increase your odds, have more prospects on your list.
Step 2: Set Appointment/Make Contact
Now you have to make contact by either calling the or setting a face to face appointment. You will know the appropriate option based on your industry. Face to face is always powerful way to sell. This is the opportunity that will help you qualify or vet your prospect.
Step 3: Qualify The Prospect
The goal of this step is to qualify the lead. You must ask questions to find out if they can afford to purchase your product/services, if they are even the decision maker, if this is the right product for them. Don't waste your time on the wrong prospects. Move on if it's not the right fit.
Step 4: Make Your Presentation/Pitch
This is the most important part of the sales cycle. During your presentation/pitch is when your customer will determine if they want to buy from you, or at least start thinking about if they want to buy. You are not just selling your product, you are trying to help them solve a problem.
Step 5: Address Objections
Most people will have questions or concerns and this is a good thing because they haven't said no. Having strong knowlege of your products/services, your industry and competitors is very important.
Step 6: Close The Sale
Once you've completed all the steps, you must finally ask for the sale. "What date can I schedule the carpet cleaner to come to your home?" When the customer replies, "February 5th at 9am would be good," that means you just closed the sale! So many people go through the steps and waste a lot of time and never ask for the sale because they forget or because they get nervous. Just ask, don't be afraid, just do it.
Step 7: Ask For Referrals
Referrals are a great way to grow your business and get more sales. Most people forget this step. They walk away after they close the sale. Your existing customer is a walking testimonial for you and your business. Ask them to refer friends or family they think could benefit from your service. People trust recommendations from people they trust. Referrals are easy sales.
I have over 20 years of sales experience and I wasn't always good. Becoming good takes time, practice and skill. If you really aren't good at it, because we can't be good at everything, it's best to outsource sales to someone who is good. However, if you are that solo entrepreneur or have a really small business, you have to be the salesperson, there is no way around it so start getting comfortable with the idea.
I could write a whole book about this topic, but I think this blog has plenty of information to get you started or start thinking about sales in a better and more manageable way.
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