By Biff Matthews
Optimal sales performance requires a system. Numerous sales systems are available - no need to elaborate here. If you, as a merchant level salesperson (MLS), have not received a sales system from your up-line, scout for a system that reflects your personal and professional presentation style.
As of this writing, Google had 23.4 million matches for the phrase "sales system" and nearly three times that many for "selling system." Something on the first or second page of results from such a search will likely fit your needs.
A sales system begins with a numbers game (fill in your own number for each X): targeting X dollars and X closes by making X presentations as a result of X appointments, which requires X phone calls from X number of leads.
If your up-line is doing its job, it should be providing you with sufficient leads to allow you to reach your target.
Of course, not everyone you meet is a prospect. And not all prospects can become good customers. Sometimes there's just not a good fit in terms of your solutions and a given prospect's situation. That's where proper qualification comes in. It should be the first step in your sales process.
Qualification means determining whether you want to do business with a particular company or individual. A good system leads to sound decisions about whether your products and services are the right fit for a given prospect.
A good sales process also always contains well-defined benchmarks. It could have five, seven or nine steps, each of which requires a pause, a quick synopsis of where everyone is in the discussion and a determination about whether all parties want to advance to the next step.
Each benchmark produces, in essence, a yes or no conclusion about whether you and your prospect are aligned. If no is the answer, the merchant likely already has updated or new equipment, excellent service and a competitive rate. The idea is to uncover pain and problems, but not everyone is beleaguered at any given moment.
The frequency with which you end up with prospects who are delighted with the status quo depends on how your appointments are made. If you encounter this situation often, greater emphasis on prequalification is clearly in order.
An effective MLS is as much detective as salesperson, tasked with uncovering problems prospects don't even realize they have. Probative questions should lead to revelations, including, for example:
This approach demonstrates pain through education, and it's a potential gold mine for creative MLSs.
So, follow the process; get those yeses; make the sales. But never forget to embrace no, because it uncovers hidden agendas and, more importantly, true pain. No is a word to be loved; it's a calibrator. Both yes and no are qualifiers that provide valuable intelligence about your prospects.
The key is to be a good interviewer, one who asks the questions that lead to logical conclusions through a prospect's own answers. If this is beginning to sound a little like Dale Carnegie Training, so be it. I believe there is much to be learned from that organization (which Dale Carnegie founded in 1912).
Carnegie's speaking class is of particular value because it explores tonal qualities and body language. People absorb new information differently.
Some do it visually, others learn by hearing or reading - or a combination. Tuning in to the nuances of prospects' responses will help you speak your customers' language - in more ways than one.
A widely distributed cartoon (and the inspiration for a paperback book, I discovered recently) says the sale begins when the customer says no. I agree, though with qualification. There are fine lines between, "No, I do not agree with that," "No, you have not made your point" and "No, I need to end this conversation." Understanding the differences is critical, but three noes of any variety mean you are out.
At the third no, understand that it's over. The fat lady is singing. Ask for a referral, and do the wrap. That is the conventional wisdom, and it is valid.
The leading sales systems in place today have been honed for decades and, in some cases, centuries. For you to prosper, it's imperative that you follow the process to the letter. Don't embellish or attempt to improve it.
This may seem too rigid for your taste, and the idea of answering objection No. 47 with response B-95 may seem extreme. But there are only so many objections and obstacles - and a limited cadre of potential responses. Learn them all, and rehearse them until each response becomes second nature to you.
Practice in front of a mirror, or videotape yourself. You will be amazed at how your natural facial expressions appear to people conversing with you. Develop the craft of a polished actor who engages the audience. To do otherwise is to mimic an intrusive dinnertime telemarketer.
Once you have established a rhythm for your presentation, its verbiage may become stale and repetitive to your ears. Remember, though, it will always be new to your prospects. And satisfying their needs is what's important.
If you follow designed steps and overcome some objections, noes will often morph into yeses that result in sales. And, at the very least, addressing noes when you encounter them will save you time. Ignoring a prospect's negative signals means you just raise the barrier - the second no is often more emphatic than its predecessor.
In this field, yes makes you money; no saves you money. The only way to lose is if your prospect is apathetic - a very unlikely outcome indeed if you use a good sales system.
Biff Matthews is President of Thirteen Inc., the parent company of CardWare International, based in Heath, Ohio. He is one of 12 founding members of the Electronic Transactions Association, serving on its board, advisory board and committees. Call him at 740-522-2150 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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