John had been working for the same company and serving many of the same clients for years. He liked what he did and was good at it. While steadily bringing on new customers, the current ones were loyal and continued to buy what they always did each time they ordered. But in a coaching session with his Manager, he learned that many of his customers were only buying about a third of what he could sell them.
Why was that? John had fantastic relationships with them. He knew their buying histories. Over time he learned things about their interests and their families. He did not want to appear pushy but was baffled that they were not buying everything from him and truthfully, he really needed that increase in spend to hit his sales targets. He had to craft a plan to sell them more than they were currently buying and do it in a way that did not hurt their good business relationships.
John, like so many salespeople today, was only getting a small portion of what his customers could potentially buy from him. To successfully grow his accounts, he had to shift his mindset from simply selling to them to helping them achieve something they were trying to accomplish.
There is a difference between pitch selling, consultative selling, and what I call competitive selling. Competitive selling is focused on performance under pressure. To be a competitive seller, you must sharpen your skills and get even better at things you may already be good at. Selling skills are not something you have or don’t have.
Selling skills need to be developed and honed over time to win at the game of competitive selling, no matter if you’re a rookie or a veteran. Your competitors are constantly trying to beat you at your game.
In competitive selling you take on the role of trusted advisor. Whether you are initiating a relationship with a new customer, or upselling or cross selling an existing customer, what you’re doing is you’re trying to help them, not just sellto them. That’s the driving force behind your interactions with everyone you talk to, every single time.
Today’s buyers are more educated than ever. With a wealth of information at their fingertips, they are no longer dependent on salespeople to educate them about products and services. Just as they are doing their own research, you need to do your research before talking to or meeting a prospect or customer to figure out what value you can offer them.
Stop selling without enhancing the value. Start helping. If you can master that concept, and I know you can, I am absolutely certain you will have no problem adapting to the skills to gain the competitive edge.
Below are a few strategies to help you focus on helping versus selling using a solid sales call plan:
- Show up prepared and put yourself in their shoes. Know the facts — what they are and are not buying.
- Earn the right to ask questions by opening with a clear purpose and reason for your call or visit.
- Start with a rapport question first before diving right into what the prospect is or is not buying from you. “How was your vacation?” or “The last time we met/spoke you mentioned your daughter had a soccer game. How did the team do?”
- Avoid assumptions! This can result in lost sales, especially with longtime customers. You assume they don’t need something…don’t want something…won’t buy something…because they didn’t want it or need it in the past. You shouldn’t assume nothing has changed in a year, or three years, or more. Avoid assumptions and just ask!
- Know your first three questions cold! You can’t script a conversation, nor would you want to. But you can have a plan for the first three questions to ask as you transition into business conversations.
In many cases, you are faced with doing things you really don’t like to do or wish you could avoid. As a professional salesperson, you cannot just go out there and expect to be the best. Just like a professional athlete, musician, or artist, you need to have the drive, determination, skill and competitive instinct to be the best at your game.
As for John, one thing he needs to remember is that his #1 customer is someone else’s #1 prospect. Building on those great relationships and planning key questions to ask on his (and your) next visit, will make a world of difference in gaining a competitive edge.
As they say: “Amateurs wing it…professionals plan it.” None of us can afford to wing it in today’s competitive market. Having a plan, executing that plan and having a plan to measure the results can be edge you need in 2019.
Good selling out there!