The best salespeople have the discipline to confront sales situations from the customer’s point of view. This philosophy is easy to entertain, but hard to live by. After all, there’s a big difference between your position and the customer’s. But does there have to be?
As a salesperson you are invested in the product or service you are selling. There’s an inherent bias in your view. The customer, meanwhile, can take it or leave it. The traditional sales model says it’s your job to convince while the customer decides if you are convincing.
But if you’re simply trying to convince, you’re ignoring the fact that the customer is on a journey and want a positive experience. All the information you need to sway your prospect is at your fingertips. If you make the interaction useful and relevant you create an enjoyable customer experience. Even if they don’t buy what you’re selling, they’re more likely to tell their friends about it.
The experience arc
If you think about it, the customer’s interaction with your brand is part of an experience arc. Hubspot points out that today’s “buyer-centric” sales environment is better suited for inbound prospecting. Before you’re able to contact a prospect, they’re already 57% of the way through the decision-making process. In other words, since the customer can look into your product and do research that conveys a level of interest, prospecting efforts are best when they’re geared towards following up on and augmenting that interest.
Every touchpoint between the customer and your brand is part of an experience. Software developer Zang points out that a business’ website must be mobile friendly, because 92% of Millennials–the largest group of American consumers–own a smartphone. If a website doesn’t account for their mobile experience, it misses, and that Millennial is less likely to become a prospect.
Later, after the prospect becomes a customer, the experience continues. Square’s guide on how to get repeat customers points out that customers who return, satisfied with their experience so far, spend about 67% more than they did the first time.
The prospect’s experience
If you’re doing inbound prospecting, you’re reaching out to the lead once they’ve demonstrated a certain level of interest. Say, for example, they read a blog post on your website and decide to sign up for your company’s email newsletter to receive more information on the subject of the post. Next, they follow a link to your social media page, they ask a question, and you now have the opportunity to reach out to them via direct message or email. They want to know more about how your software can really help their business, and you’re able to arrange a meeting in person.
The impression you make defines the prospect’s experience. Before the meeting, do your best to familiarize yourself with the prospect. In order to personalize the encounter, determine the following:
- Stakeholder level–is the prospect a decision-maker or an influencer, or just an interested party?
- Familiarity and awareness level–what’s the prospect’s relationship with your niche? Do they work for or own a company that is directly in line with your offering? Do the prospect’s internet activities show they are already aware and knowledgeable concerning your product or service?
- Internet presence/profile–does the prospect blog? What does her LinkedIn profile indicate? Without being intrusive, what can you find out about the person to help put you in her shoes?
Optimally, the information you find out beforehand will enable you to tailor your conversation to the person’s needs. For example, you won’t go in trying to explain what your product or service is when you know they’re already familiar. You’ll be prepared to answer their more in-depth questions. Conversely, you won’t go in with highly detailed and thorough documentation if you know they’re not a decision-maker. If their interest is casual, you’ll go in casual, and trust that the interaction will lead to the next level.
The next step is not to sell them yourself or to sell them something–it’s to build trust:
- Prepare ahead of time with interesting talking points to drive the conversation
- Showcase your dependability by being on time or early; if you promise to follow up with them after the meeting, be timely about it
- Make eye contact and be affable–be good-humored and be yourself, make sure your posture and stance are open and convey confidence
- Practice active listening–pay careful attention to their concerns and ask impact questions that make them think; e.g. “Say you do decide to use CRM software and your sales numbers increase, what does real success for your company look like a year from now, beyond that pure increase in sales?”
- Use your natural humor and the self-deprecation you’d use in any social situation where you’re confident enough not to worry too much about what people think
- Focus on the problem–help them determine why they need a solution, but don’t worry about stressing what the solution is; they’re aware of why you’re there
- Follow up with a handwritten thank-you note
So far, the potential customer has had a good enough experience with your marketing to become a prospect. Then, you’ve followed through on the positive experience arc by engaging them in a personable, low-to-no pressure conversation. If you can continue meeting with them, hopefully out of the office at lunch or coffee, you’re maximizing the experience. Next, you’re going to close the deal.
The closing experience
Closing isn’t always effortless. But if they are truly interested and you’ve maintained contact, nurturing that positive experience and relationship, closing will be close to effortless. Be consistent with the demeanor you established in your initial and subsequent meetings. Have a written contract and a pen on hand (or these days, a laptop or tablet), be upfront and honest about your intentions, and ask for the sale.
They wouldn’t be meeting with you any more if there wasn’t a close in sight. But they may still be unsure. Grant Cardone recommends you remained seated even if they stand up. This isn’t pressure, it’s a way of showing you’re certain that what you have to offer is worth staying seated for. They may stand up out of uncertainty. You’ll remain seated until they give you an absolute yes or no.
The artful close is not more or less than continuing where you left off with your previous interactions. The only difference is, now you’re drawing things to a close. Even if they decline your offer, their experience with you was nonetheless positive. Sale or no sale, ask them for a referral to someone else who could benefit from your product or service.
After the sale, give them some time, then follow up with them to see how things are going. Their experience is continuing on with the product. If they’re not satisfied with it, they’ll be happy to know you care.
Daniel Matthews is a freelance writer who specializes in all things business and tech. Before becoming a freelancer, he sold website design services to small businesses. You can find him on Twitter.