A fundamental question in sales is not why people sell but why people buy. It is a well-known fact that people buy for their own reasons and not for those of the seller. Indeed, when clients buy, their impulse to purchase may have very little to do with the reasons imagined by the seller.
When clients decide to buy something, they do so to meet their own needs or to solve a problem they may have. Neil Rackham, author of the book ‘SPIN Selling’ – the acronym stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, Need – claims that clients decide to buy when “the pain of the problem and desire for a solution have been built to the point where they are greater than the cost of the solution”.
A good sales person may help the client make a final decision, but this does not happen as often as one might think. Despite the fact that most sellers learn the basics of conducting needs analysis, customising solutions and linking benefits of the product to the client’s problem, when they are operating with clients in real life they forget to apply the theory learned in the classroom and, somehow, confidence, calm and self-assurance go out of the window. Faced with the sale situation, many sellers mistake telling with selling.
The equal and opposite reaction
It’s like the case where cows “don’t give milk” and so “you have to take it from them”. The same is true with selling. No client will just “give you a sale”, but it is the seller who must “take it” by taking the client towards the purchase. “Taking a sale” is much less natural than it seems.The tendency of most sellers is to rush the sale, but in this way they cause the opposite reaction: the client shuts down and puts up defensive barriers.
Selling is a delicate operation. The harder the seller pushes to obtain a sale, the stronger the opposite reaction will be. Nobody likes to be told what to do or not to do.To be successful, before suggesting a purchase, the seller should listen to the client, be curious, clear up any convictions in order to better understand the client’s needs and his/her evaluation criteria. If not, the seller will come across to the client as being focused only on his/her problem (selling) and not caring for the person they are talking to.
Fighting your own stress
If the seller cannot tell prospective buyers how “good” their products and services are for them, then how can they hope to sell? A good start is to try to understand what prevents one from selling.
Most sales people hate silence. They become anxious and put every effort in filling in the void by talking incessantly about the quality of their products. They get almost too excited and drown the (poor) client with features, advantages and benefits.
Unfortunately, the more the seller talks and the farther away the sale becomes. Clients don’t want to be drowned in “chatter” and be pushed into a purchase. The ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes once said: “We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less”. But it is difficult for an enthusiastic sales person to stay quiet and listen.
Listen and learn
If telling isn’t selling, then what is? What actions can a seller take to break the vicious circle described and not generate an undesirable shutting-out on the part of the client?
Unexpectedly, the most successful sales persons are those that ask the most questions. Not just any questions, but pertinent and intelligent questions posed in a systematic way. The SPIN Selling method suggests a systematic approach to asking questions regarding the following:
- Situation: finding out basic facts and inserting them in an overall context.
- Problem: asking about the problems and difficulties and the alternatives the client is considering. People buy only when they have needs and needs almost always start with a dissatisfaction with the status quo. Follow-up questions are made to identify and clarify the buyer’s implicit needs/desires.
- Implication: understanding the consequences and impacts of the situation, so as to transform implicit needs into explicit needs. The sales person ‘builds’ on the information acquired the context and importance of the problem so that it becomes large enough to justify an action or a decision.
- Need: checking and assessing the value and usefulness of a solution proposed in a positive and constructive way. In this way the sales person stimulates the buyer’s desire for a solution and moves the discussion toward action and commitment.
You’re wrong if you think that posing questions in this manner and in this order is simple. At first one needs practice and patience. One must practice but also prepare and plan the sales meeting.
Selling requires patience
A sale must not be seen as a conquest, otherwise the fear of failure creates anxiety and makes one talk too much because it seems the best path towards persuading the prospective buyer. Instead, the seller should try to adopt, at least in part, the client’s point of view.
When the seller first tries to understand and then to be understood, he/she will be less anxious and it will be easier for him/her to pose questions and listen to the answers. In this way, armed with intuition, he/she will better understand the client’s ‘world’ and will be on the right path to proposing the right solution.