Phases of Selling Process
There are different phases of selling process. A salesperson must know some of the personal selling strategies to make a sale. Moving step by step from preparation to presentation can help a salesperson to close a sale early and quickly.
Preparation enhances confidence and performance when the salesperson comes face to face with the customer. Many customers face similar situations and certain questions and objections will be raised repeatedly. Preparation helps here. Salespeople will benefit from gaining knowledge of their products and those of the competition, setting call objectives and understanding buyer behavior.
Initial impressions affect later perceptions. Following factors can positively shape perceptions:
Be business-like in appearance and behavior: Even in companies where informal dressing and demeanor is permitted among employees, a casually dressed salesperson back slapping prospective customers would not be welcomed. The salesperson showcases the company he represents and his appearance and behavior should reflect the values of his company.
Be friendly but not over-familiar: Even when the salesperson is very friendly with the person he is visiting, the interaction should be business-like and formal when the salesperson is on a business call. A salesperson should start meeting with the appropriate pleasantries even when the customer has allocated a very short lime for the meeting.
Be attentive to details: Holding a briefcase in hand which is used for hand shaking will make the salesperson look clumsy. It is important that the salesperson anticipates the sequence of events that is likely to be followed in the meeting and arranges his accessories and equipment to facilitate his handling each event as it unfolds.
Observe common courtesies: Common courtesies like waiting to be asked to sit down, exchanging pleasantries and gifts, etc. have a different emphasis in different cultures. A salesperson should know the courtesies that he is expected to demonstrate in the cultural milieu of the customer.
Do not take sales interview for granted: It is important to realize that the customer has his own priorities and the customer may not be able to accommodate the salesperson on a particular day. The salesperson should not take the customer’s refusal to meet as a personal affront and let it affect his behavior when he finally manages an audience with the customer.
Express gratitude: The salesperson should thank the customer for spending time and stress that he believes that it will be worthwhile. It is important to take leave of the customer on a pleasant note even when nothing beneficial for the salesperson has come out of the meeting. The salesperson should always remember that there is always that next meeting that may take place with the customer, so there should be nothing unpleasant between them.
Need and Problem Identification
People buy products because they have problems that give rise to needs. The first task is to identify the needs and problems of each customer. By doing so, salespeople can connect with each customer’s situation and can select the product that best fits the customer’s needs. It also helps in emphasizing the appropriate benefits of the product.
Benefits link customer needs to product features. Customer needs ‘benefits’ product features. If a customer wants to replace an unreliable machine, it is essential to convince the customer that the salesperson’s machine possesses features that guarantees machine reliability. Knowledge of competitor’s products allows salespersons to show how their machine possesses features that give added reliability.
The salesperson should convince customers of his product’s differential advantage. Factual evidence of a product superiority should be shown to customers. This is more convincing than mere claims.
Effective need and problem identification requires the development of questioning and listening skills. People are more used to making statements than asking questions. Inexperienced salespeople do all the talking. Successful salespeople get the customer to do most of the talking. In that way they gain information to make a sale.
Presentation and Demonstration
Presentations and demonstrations are used to convince customers that the salesperson can supply a solution to their problem. It should focus on customer benefits rather than product features. These can be linked by using the following phrases: (i) which means that.., (ii) which results in.., (iii) which enables you…Evidence should be provided to support the sales argument i.e. scientific tests, satisfied customers’ testimonials, visits to a satisfied customer etc. should be provided. The salesperson should continue asking questions during the presentation to ensure that the customer has understood what the salesperson has said and to check that what the salesperson has mentioned is of importance to the customer.
A demonstration allows the customer to see the product in operation. Some of the claims made for the product can be verified. A demonstration gets the customer involved in the selling process through participation. It can reduce the perceived risk of a purchase and move the customer towards purchase.
Dealing with Objections
Objections should not be regarded negatively since they highlight issues that are important to the buyer. Effectively dealing with objections is to handle both the substantive and emotional aspects. The substantive part is to do with the objection itself. If the customer objects to price, salespeople need to use convincing arguments to show that the price is not too high. But argument that is supported by greater weight of evidence does not always win since people resent being proven wrong.
It is important to recognize the emotional aspects of objection handling. The buyer should not lose face or be antagonized during this process. The salesperson should be very subtle in emphasizing that customers do not really have to worry about that particular aspect of the product.
Two ways of minimizing this risk are to listen to the objection without interruption, and by agreeing to the customer’s viewpoint, but also presenting an alternative viewpoint.
The salesperson should listen to the objections of the customer and should not interrupt even when he does not agree with what the customer is saying. The impression given to buyers by salespeople who interrupt buyers when they are raising an objection, is that salespeople believe that the objection is obviously wrong, it is trivial, or it is not worth the salesperson’s time to let the buyer finish.
The customer can feel offended and shut out the deal from his mind. Interruption denies buyers the respect they are entitled to, and may lead to a misunderstanding of the real substance behind objections. The salesperson should listen carefully, attentively and respectfully. The buyer will appreciate that the salesperson is taking the problem seriously and the salesperson will gain a clear and full understanding of what the problem really is.
After listening to customer objections and viewpoints, the salesperson should agree with the buyer’s viewpoint before putting forward an alternative point of view. It is the responsibility of the salesperson to create a climate of agreement rather than conflict and show that he respects the buyer’s opinion, thus avoiding loss of face.
Closing the Sale
Effective presentation followed by convincing objection handling may not result in customer order. The salesperson needs to close the sale. It may be necessary for sales people to take the initiative. Buyers may still have doubts and may delay the decision to purchase.
The key to closing a sale is to look for buying signals. These are statements by buyers that indicate that they are interested in buying. They all indicate a positive intention to buy without actually asking for the order. They provide excellent opportunities for salespeople to ask the buyer to make a decision without appearing pushy.
It is not inappropriate or impolite to ask the customer to place an order. Most customers have lingering apprehensions about a product or whether they should buy the product at all, or whether they should buy the product now, or at some later date. Most customers feel relieved that they have been prodded by the salesperson to take a decision.
Customers resent being pushed into taking a decision when they want more time to analyze the suitability of the salesperson’s offer. So when a customer gives cues or explicitly says that he needs more time to take a decision, the salesperson should withdraw by politely asking when he can call next.
Simply ask for the order- Would you like that one?
Summarize and then ask for the order– Salesperson reminds the buyer of the main points of sales discussion in a manner which implies that the time for decision making has arrived and that buying is a natural next step.
Concession close– By keeping back a concession to use in close, a salesperson may convince an·indecisive buyer to place an order by offering the concession.
Action agreement in some situations- A sale may not be in hands of one person but a decision making unit, or a salesperson may be talking to a specifier like a doctor or architect, who does not buy directly.
In action agreements, the seller or buyer agree to do something, like sending brochures, talking to clients, before the next meeting. This technique has the effect of maintaining the relationship between the parties and can be used a starting point of discussion when they meet next.
The salesperson ensures that the order is executed well by checking that there are no problems with delivery, installation, product use, training of customer’s employees, etc. The follow-up can show that sales-people really care about the customer. Follow-ups can be used to provide reassurance that purchasing the salesperson’s product was the right thing to do. It reduces cognitive dissonance of the customer.
Photo by: Widener University
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