Marketing and Selling Skill Development is essential! The person who is serious about his or her profession keeps pace with the times. Successful professional organizations realize the necessity of investing in marketing plans, consultative selling skill development, and ongoing reinforcement of these skills to enroll and develop new clients as well as sell add-on services. Learn to proactively eliminate eleven common mistakes that will undermine any selling strategy.
1. The Gift of Gab
Let's face it, too many professional people talk instead of listen. They monopolize the time they have in front of prospective clients, only allowing the prospect to listen. For every hour in front of a prospect, they spend five minutes selling their services and fifty-five minutes buying them back! Rule: The prospect should do approximately 70% of the talking. We only have one mouth, but we have two ears!
2. Question Your Presumption
If you want to undermine a potential sale, presume instead of ask questions. Some professional people seem to have all the solutions as soon as they walk in the door because they're presuming the problem. In recent years, the trend has been that many companies no longer offer services, but are in the business of “providing solutions". The disadvantage with this strategy is that too many professional people are trying to sell solutions without knowing what the prospect’s problems are. Questions should be asked up-front to set the ground rules insuring a complete understanding of the prospect’s perspective.
3. Frequently "Ask" Questions
Don't answer unasked questions. Example: A client makes a statement such as, “Your prices are too high.” Most professional people "knee-jerk" and retreat to a defensive mode. They often begin a rehearsed speech on quality, value, or experience of their product or service. Most often, they respond with a price concession or a fee reduction. If a client can get a discount by merely making a statement, then maybe he shouldn’t buy until he tries something more powerful to get an even greater price reduction. “Your prices are too high” is not a question! It does not require an answer. Rather, ask the prospective client, “Why do you think some companies charge higher prices than others?”
4. The Price Principle
Sad as it may be, many professional people fail to get the prospective client to reveal budgets up front. If they can't afford it, you're wasting time—yours and his. Knowing whether there is money planned for a project will help the salesperson to distinguish between the client who is ready to solve a problem from one who is not as committed with regard to money or budget. At this juncture, the professional person should evaluate if price will be the only consideration in making the sale. Rule: If you get the business on price, you will lose the business on price.
5. Follow-Up Folly
For lack of solid ground rules established by an up-front contract, there are more professional people than you think who are making too many follow-up calls when the engagement is actually dead. It could be a stubborn attitude to turn every prospect into a customer or ignorance of the fact that the process is truly dead. Far too much time is expended chasing prospects that just don’t qualify. There are methods to detect this situation far earlier in the selling process. Understanding and leveraging up-front contracts is one of them.
6. Paying By Proposing
Failing to get a commitment to buy before doing a proposal is a "paying" proposition. Sadly enough, many professional people are often very willing to jump at the opportunity to do proposals and commonly end up wasting their most precious commodity: time. The old saying might be "Time is money," but they aren't getting paid. These salespeople miss their true goal of acquiring a client and unwittingly become an unpaid consultant. Merely teaching their prospects enough to help them buy cheaper from a favorite supplier. How many dead bids and proposals has your firm sent out over the last twelve months? How much has this cost your company? How much has it cost you?
7. The Gift of Gab: The Sequel
Have you ever dealt with a sales person who chats about everything and avoids beginning the sales process? Building rapport is always necessary and desirable in establishing long-term business relationships. Too often, the professional person does not know when to stop this early step and move to the next step in the process.
8. Definite Maybe
Too many professionals prefer “maybe” rather than getting to “no”. Prospects are constantly ending the engagement with the ever prevalent “think-it-over” response. Salespeople who "buy" this do so for three major reasons. First, the salesperson's unconscious buying pattern leads him to accept this indecision, even to sympathize with the prospect. Two, it is easier to bring back the message to a sales manager or partner that the prospect might use the company’s services sometime in the future, rather than saying that this prospect is not a candidate for your services. After all, wasn’t it the professional person’s responsibility to go out and get the prospect to say “yes”? Finally, hearing “no” a lot can produce feelings of personal rejection on the part of the professional person.
9. Panhandling the Project
Salespeople see themselves as beggars rather than doctors. It's a real problem when professional people don’t view their time with a prospect as being spent conducting an interview to see if the prospect qualifies to do business with their company. All too often the “prospect” becomes “suspect;” the salesperson expects to be snubbed anyway. The relationship never gets to a more qualified level of prospective client or client. Professional people find themselves hoping, wishing, and even begging for an opportunity to show their expertise with the false hope that a sale can be consummated (remember unpaid consulting!). This is unlike the physician who examines the patient thoroughly before making a recommendation. A doctor uses various instruments to conduct an examination of the patient. A professional person doesn't panhandle the prospect, but rather views questions as the equivalent to the doctor’s tools when conducting his or her examination of the client.
10. System, No Sale
Selling without a systematic approach is simply sad. Professional people undermine themselves by ad-libbing or “going with the flow” all too often. In trying to make a sale, they allow the prospect to control the selling process. The result is the salesperson leaves the sales interview without knowing where he or she stands. They don’t know where they’ve been or what the next step is in the sales engagement. A specific systematic sequence that establishes steps to take through the selling dynamic is vital to the professional person’s success in acquiring new clients and obtaining more business from existing clients.
11. Gemini Gestures
What happens when a prospective client is faced with professional people who look, act and sound alike in a multiple selection process? How might the prospect make a decision in that situation? By whom has the lowest cost? By personality? A random process? In order to outsell the competition and avoid losing prospective and current clients, the professional person needs to develop an approach to selling the services that differentiate him or her from the competition. Don't be one of the "twins." Let your cookie-cutter competitors clutter and confuse your prospects field of vision. One effective way of doing this is by developing a questioning strategy looking for the prospect’s “pain”, not by performing the traditional “features-and-benefits” circus presentation that often ends up wasting everyone’s precious time. “Pain” is the underlying emotional reason why people buy anything. They are trying to move away from “pain” whether they are looking for a new vendor or need a new application for an assembly problem or need a better designed business form. Start by alleviating your prospects first aggravation: the identity crisis among competing salespeople.
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