Sales – the Fundamental Skill of the Future
Sales is one of the most important life skills. Without it a father can’t convince his child to do his or her homework independently. Without it a teacher won’t encourage a student to pursue knowledge outside of school. Without it a manager can’t motivate his team to achieve bigger goals together. Without it a young man won’t convince a girl to go out with him, and a sales rep won’t get the client to buy the product.
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling knowledge as a lecturer, or services as a consultant, image as a celebrity, vision as a leader, a business idea as a start-up looking for investors. Sales is a useful skill in many different areas of life.
You can’t learn sales in school. It’s entirely practical. It’s based on many soft skill areas—emotional and social intelligence, cognitive psychology, marketing, entrepreneurship. It’s made up of many different skills—persuasion, storytelling, time management, emotional control, self and product presentation, public speaking, motivation, rhetoric and eristic. It’s useful in life because, if we define it as the general ability to get others to agree with you, then it applies to everyone. If we narrow its scope then, besides marketing and management, it’s the essential element of successful business. Sales can be learned. This article will help you learn it by explaining how to prepare for a sales meeting.
First of all, figure out who you’re dealing with.
Identifying the psychological makeup and demographic allows you to select the right sales arguments for your client. Key factors to measure are their age, the stage of their life, income, profession, problems, the level of their ambition and their values. Age and stage of life give you their actual needs—a teenager is probably going through some type of conflict with parents and is looking for acceptance from his peers; a college student can’t decide, “what should I do with my life”; a new parent is probably sleep deprived and has lost sexual passion in his or her relationship; a forty-year-old could be going through a midlife crisis, professional burn out, and could be struggling with his maturing children. Identifying your client’s income will allow you to employ the best price strategy, while their profession will help you calibrate the types of problems they’re dealing with (e.g. a creative director complains about lack of funding and a rejection of his or her ideas, while a sales manager is pressured by results). The level of their ambition will answer the question of who they want to be and what they want to have. Their values define what’s most important in their life (e.g. quality, prestige, etc.). Having this knowledge lets you know who you’re dealing with and how to talk to them.
Second of all, make a good first impression.
In the first several seconds of your first meeting your customer’s brain will automatically categorize you. If you’re smiling, you give an assertive handshake, you’re well dressed, you look him in the eyes, you have an open body position and mirror his body language, then he’ll unconsciously decide that you’re a friendly person and he’ll want to build a relationship with you. And if, on top of that, you look professional, sit up straight, answer his questions precisely, speak in a lower voice than usual, you have some type of business accessory like a computer or notepad, then his brain will categorize you as a competent person and he’ll trust you. Judging a book by its cover is a cognitive fact which can’t be ignored. It’s worthwhile to remember that we generally like people who are optimistic, positive, don’t take themselves too seriously, are different than others, don’t judge or boast about themselves, who maintain eye contact and even engage in culturally acceptable touch (research shows that waitresses who give their clients a friendly pat on the arm get bigger tips). The first impression is one of four key elements of sales (you’re selling yourself, your product, your brand, and your market); a client won’t buy a product unless he buys the sales person.
Third, build a relationship.
We like people who are like us—a sales person who sits and uses body language similar to that of his client, shows an authentic understanding of his needs, is similar in terms of finances, family, friendships, future plans and values will be treated as an ally by his customer’s brain. In order to build trust further it’s necessary to be transparent (informing the client about the stages of the conversation and necessary details), to engage the client, tell him something interesting about yourself, predict his doubts and assuage them ahead of time, be ready to defend the weak points of your product, brand, or market. The technique known as social jiu jitsu—getting your client to talk about himself (stimulates the brain to release hormones associated with happiness), as well as showing an authentic interest in him and his problems—will help you further build your relationship. If the sales person wants to stick out in the client’s memory, it’s worthwhile to share curious technical knowledge and details about the product which the client might not know.
Fourth, understand needs.
Those who ask questions collect information. Having it, they know how to present their product in a beneficial way, or to show its advantages in a way the satisfies the needs of the client. Needs are discovered by asking questions of an informative or persuasive nature. The first deals with the purpose of the product and the way in which a client intends to use it; problems which this product solves; motivation, why the client wants to buy this product; values, which control his decisions (“What is important for you?”); logistical issues dealing with finances and methods of payment, as well as educational issues dealing with the use of the product. Persuasive questions are intended to bring the client closer to buying, “How happy will you be?” suggests a positive emotional state, while, “What is your preferred method of payment?” assumes that a sale will occur. “What do you gain because of this?” turns an expense into an investment, while “How delighted will your relatives be with this product?” can invoke a desire to brag.
Fifth, make a sales presentation.
Gathering information about the client’s profile and needs allows you to present the product in beneficial terms. From among the most common benefits we can always include; financial benefits, time benefits, relational and emotional benefits. The purchase should bring some type of profit or allow for some type of savings (it’s worthwhile to present them numerically), save time which leads to greater effectiveness, generate improved relationships (at work, with family, or during free time) and generally make the client more comfortable. At this stage, the client’s doubts should also be assuaged. These doubts can be put under four categories: “I don’t have enough time,” “I don’t have enough money,” “I don’t need it,” “I don’t trust you.” The presentation should cause the client to buy the product and, having built a relationship with the sales rep and being satisfied with the purchase, you can count on a long term relationship, loyalty, and recommendation.