This may sound counter-intuitive but if you want to improve your sales, you need to stop selling and start to solve problems – known and un-known.
The following process has really worked well for me:
- Listen to your prospect or customers.
- Ask them some probing questions around what is troubling them now or could trouble them in the near future
- Listen to what they tell you. In my experience, customers usually start by telling you that everything is great and there is nothing troubling them. Once this is finisher and still you do not interrupt them, then they will come along and tell you their troubles. This could be their cash situation or a supplier situation they are facing or some internal employee situation.
- Think how you can help the prospect overcome this issue/problem. Even if it does not end in a sale for you. The sale can come later. If your product or service can solve their problem, show how it can do so.
- Do not start talking about all the features/functionalities/specialties of your product or service. Only show them how you can solve their problem. There have been numerous occasions when I have been able to close a deal just by offering a different payment term than the standard terms we offer to all customers.
- Get out of the way. I have always been a fanatic when it comes to the actual transaction with a customer. It has to be COMPLETELY hassle-free. No un-necessary steps for the customers.
- Make it easier for your customers to do business with you. This is most often ignored resulting in lots of lost opportunity for repeat business.
- Never talk about your internal policies or processes to your customers. It is none of their problem.
- NO long drawn contract negotiations (definitely not between legal teams)
- Do not ask for information that you do not intend to use right away for this transaction. You can go back to the customer post the deal to request for more information, if you need some. Collect this only if you can use the information to make it easier for the customer to do business with you again. This also gives you an opportunity to re-initiate a dialogue with your customer.
- Do not ask your customers to fill-in a feedback form. Instead encourage & make it easy for the customers to give their feedback to you directly. It is very rare that someone provides an honest feedback in a survey and even harder to know which feedback needs to be acted on.
- NEVER lie to your customer about your product or services. They will find out and then you have lost them forever and also any references from them at all in the future.
- ALWAYS thank your customer for his/her business and ask for references and introductions to other prospects that they know. Reach out to these prospects and start the process all over again.
I have made my share of mistakes in life and learnt from them. I think it is really difficult to follow this approach as it is difficult to unlearn the habit of selling. If you see in the entire process, there is no selling done.