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Become A Star Salesman Overnight
Many business owners and professionals don’t want to think of themselves in a sales role. But how will you get business, sell your products, earn fees if you don’t sell?

Any one in a small business, a professional firm and especially sole traders need to master the skills and processes involved in being an effective salesman or woman.

Luckily it’s actually very simple.

There are many misconceptions about sales. A sale is about deception. Sales means being pushy. A sale is manipulation. And if you believe these the first thing you need to do is rethink.

Ask yourself when you’ve been persuaded by a good salesman and think about what happened. Were they honest? Did they talk at you or listen to what your requirements were? Were they helpful in explaining things to you and offering alternatives? I’d like to bet they were all of these things – and that’s what being a good salesman is all about.

Skills
So lets get down to basics and think about the skills a good salesman possesses. Actually there are probably only a few. The most important however is the skill of listening. Listening to what people say and don’t say, and listening to what they want and what they need, sometimes two different things. Linked to this is the skill of asking the right questions to find out more.

Then process starts to kick in – if you’ve listened carefully and asked searching questions you are in a better position to present solutions in terms of both features and benefits. And you are better equipped to handle objections and present logical arguments.

So if you can master the skills of listening, questioning, presenting and objection handling you are well on the way. And as with any skill practice makes perfect.

If you’ve managed to master these skills you’re likely to be far more confident to go on to the final stage, which is to ask for the business.

There’s a simple way to give yourself more confidence and that’s to have a tried and tested sales process that you can follow.

Sales Process
You should map out your sales process for approaching a particular client before you start anything else.

A simple process might look something like this:

Pre-qualification – You take a call from a prospect. You should gather information about them, to establish if and how you might be able to help them, and give them some information about your business. This stage should be biased towards listening.

Information – Send them or direct them to relevant information as a follow up to your initial conversation. You might send them an email with a link to an article on your website, send them a targeted brochure or a couple of case studies. Remember less is more – they won’t sit and read pages and pages so keep it brief and relevant.

Appointment Setting – If you believe you can help them ask to see them. You need dedicated time with them to find out more about their business. You might offer an initial consultation free of charge if this is appropriate.

Preparation – the meeting should primarily be an information gathering exercise. So make sure you do your own initial research so that you know the basics about them and can ask more searching questions to expose their real needs and explore how you might be able to help.

Meeting – have an agenda and make sure you are clear on the questions you want to explore. I always think there’s no harm in taking charge of the meeting and declaring your agenda up front. That way you both know what to expect.

People love to talk about themselves and their own business but you might need to ask appropriate questions to keep things on track.

Proposal – Unless really pushed don’t propose the solution in the meeting itself. You will have gathered a lot of information and need time to think things through and match your solutions to the client needs. Do however get a proposal to them quickly after the meeting. Obviously the actual length of time will depend on the complexity of the work – but anything more than a week after the meeting starts to look disinterested.

Follow Up – When you send the proposal you should let them know you’ll follow up. Prepare carefully for your follow up call. Identify potential objections and have answers and ideas ready to counter these objections. And don’t forget to listen and ask the right questions – if they say it’s not what they expected dig deep to find out why. If they claim circumstances have changed ask in what way and don’t be afraid to ask if price is an issue, having decided in advance whether you can negotiate on this element.

Sign up – this is your goal. Make sure you cover all the bases – do you need them to sign a contract, have you explained your terms and conditions. Don’t shy away from the discussion about invoicing dates etc. You want to get the relationship off to a good start, which means both parties know where they stand.

So if you want to become a star salesman overnight perhaps an evening spent documenting and understanding your own sales process, and where it could be improved, would be an evening well spent. 

Useful links

Institute of Sales and Marketing  
Chartered Institute of Marketing

Article written by Teresa Harris, Second Opinion Marketing. Teresa is an independent marketing consultant and coach specialising in working with business owners and professionals. To contact Second Opinion Marketing call 01789 740396 or email tah@secondopinionmarketing.co.uk.  

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