By TJ McCue
The life of a salesperson is changing, but not as fast as buyers are changing. It is arguable if sales techniques and methods in use at most corporations are even close to in tune with the market. Instead of Selling we need officially to call it “Selling to Buyers” just so we don’t get confused about what we’re doing.
If this sounds rudimentary, forgive me, but most sales people I know think that selling is about sharing what they know, what their product does, pitching, talking, presenting. That’s not what it is about. It is about listening and building a relationship. I’m not talking about some warm, fuzzy notion of “I know what school you went to and that your kid likes baseball and mac and cheese.” I’m talking about knowing what challenges your buyer faces in his or her work environment and looking for ways to solve that specific problem.
Not long ago, I had a conversation with best-selling author, Jill Konrath, about how she approaches sales. Her new book, Snap Selling, has helped me wrap my mind around this new world of sales: Buyers are crazy busy, Jill says, and that should change how you connect and serve them. Her core message: You have to put the buyer at the center of all you do.
How does this seem different than other advice you might have read? For one thing, you have to think faster and present faster. I don’t mean just talk faster; shorten your message to make it more digestible. Tips from my conversation with Jill:
1. Think in 90 word increments. Whether on the phone or sending email, you don’t have to share your entire message in one burst. Spread it out. Slow and steady should be your mantra. Map out your communication campaign. Plan on 10-12 messages. It is very likely you’ve already experienced Voicemail Jail. Use it smartly.
2. Build credibility as fast as possible. In your first sentence of an email or in the first few seconds of your phone or in person conversations. “In my work with VPs of Sales…” Okay, now the buyer knows you deal with a lot of Sales VPs. Obviously this would get customized to your work.
3. Don’t overwhelm your buyer prospect. Don’t send too many attachments. Think about your subject line carefully. Even though this sounds like email-only advice, it isn’t. You can apply these ideas to other areas of your sales communications.
One thing that Jill does that I haven’t seen her mention, but I’ve observed. Her email “from” field states her work phone, then her name. Brilliant.
All of the best traditional techniques are built on you doing something to position yourself and your product favorably. They don’t take the buyer into consideration, not really. Jill offers 9 questions in her Buyer’s Matrix which completely, in my opinion, answer the question about how to sell in today’s busier-than-ever market. You can download those resources from the Snap Selling site.
One thing that hasn’t changed about sales? Every business wants more of it. At the top of every survey result I have seen about sales from a small business perspective, and large ones too, is this: Increase Sales. If you follow these ideas, you’ll be on your path to greater sales.
Today’s buyers (no matter what the industry) have access to nearly perfect information over the Internet and they begin every sales interaction from a position of relative apathy or downright distrust.
How Customers Make Decisions
No matter what you’re selling, your customers are insanely busy, frazzled, and don’t have time for you. In SNAP Selling, Konrath outlines four strategies (SNAP) that you can use to get your crazy-busy prospect to stop and pay attention to what you have to offer.
Keep it Simple: Make it easy for your customer to decide to buy from you. Eliminating complexity and effort from your prospect’s decision-making will improve your chances for success.
Be invaluable: In a world of copycat products, the personal relationship becomes essential.
Always Aligned: Stay relevant to your client at all times.
Raise Priorities: You want your customer to see your product or service as an urgent need.