How to Develop Your Sales Technique
A guide to establishing your team’s sales skills to help you increase your small business profits
No matter how attractive your offering and selling price is, getting people to part with their money is never easy. You need to know how to be persuasive, and clearly communicate the benefits you are offering – as well as being aware of the legal obligations you are under when selling to different types of customer. Establishing a good technique takes time, but by following certain rules and guidelines, you can transform yourself and your employees into effective salespeople.
This guide will help you target and approach potential customers, stoke and satisfy their interests, highlight your benefits and counter objections, and learn about the legal obligations you are under.
How should I plan my approach to selling?
You should decide who your customers are, and how to approach them, as part of your marketing strategy.
Make sure to understand your customers. Find out the worth of each potential customer, and the times they prefer to buy in. Establish their needs and the benefits they are searching for. Also identify your objectives and make sure your staff understand them too. Decide whether you want to generate general interest, a follow-up meeting, or a direct sale. Tailor your pitch accordingly, and try to prepare your responses to any potential objections.
Finally learn how to recognise decision makers. If you are selling to another business, you need to know who it is that is responsible for the decision to buy from you. Who this person is likely to be is dependent on the kind of offering you are selling. Find out what you can from the company website, and by talking to the company receptionists and assistants.
How do I gain access to the people I’m targeting?
There are a number of different ways you will reach the people you are targeting, but the most common are through calling or their assistants/receptionist.
When targeting someone by telephone. Prepare your opening – the first 30 seconds of a sales call can make or break your chances of securing a purchase. Make sure to call at a conducive time (mornings tend to be better) and that you make a note of their name and position.
In regards to getting to someone through receptionists and assistants, remember that it is their job to facilitate valuable sales calls – and to reject unwelcome ones. Make sure you are friendly, and clearly communicate the benefits of taking your call. If possible establish a relationship with them by learning their name and using it the next time you call.
You may be invited to make a sale face-to-face, if so make sure to confirm a date, time, and venue, and turn up in plenty of time (do not call to confirm the appointment on the day, as customers often cancel at this opportunity). Prepare a proposed agenda for the meeting if possible.
Also plan carefully. Tell your audience the key points of your presentation in your opening, and summarise them at the close. Make sure to engage your audience. Do not read from a script and try use visual aids if appropriate, and invite questions from the audience.
Finally be interested and enthusiastic. Make an active attempt to find out more about your audience during the presentation, and listen carefully to their questions and concerns. Make your audience believe in the positive benefits you’re offering to them.
How should I engage with a potential customer?
Begin by introducing yourself and explain the basis for your call and your reason for calling. Make sure to be informative – explain the benefits of your offering specifically in relation to the needs of your sales target.
Also try to be considerate. Establish whether you are calling at a convenient time, and whether they are interested by your initial proposition. Don’t be too pushy early on – you may squander the opportunity to make a sale at a later date. However make sure to remain persistent. If your target proves reluctant, find out as much as possible about them, their needs, and the concerns they have. Use this information to pursue a sale, either at this stage or at a later date.
Questions to ask during your pitch
Asking questions is an essential part of the process of selling. Use them to understand the needs and requirements of the customer. Start with questions that presuppose positive responses, for instance ‘Are you interested in reducing your distribution costs’. This will encourage the customer to continue answering questions.
Make sure to continue with open questions. Find out as much as you can about the customer’s business – what it is worth to you, what needs your offering can meet – by asking questions that require detailed answers. Finally listen to their responses. You can confirm a mutual understanding of any point by rephrasing it in your own words and repeating it back to the customer.
Selling your business’ offering
At this point, you need to know how to communicate the benefits that you are offering. For instance sell your offering in terms of how it will benefit the customer, an example of this would be saying a car ‘has greater fuel efficiency than x car/the average’ is selling a benefit.
Always make sure to tailor your sales to the customer’s needs. Some benefits appeal more to certain customers that others. Emphasising the safety features of a car, for instance, is a good technique for selling to parents, whereas emphasising style and design might be a better technique when selling to under-30s.
Finally highlight attendant benefits, for instance ‘If your car was X times more fuel efficient, your drivers would spend X times less time filling up at the pumps’.
How should I deal with objections?
Objections may seem daunting, but they do not mean the end of a sale. On the contrary, they are a signal that the customer is interested and listening to what you have to say. By learning to deal with them you can get a sale back on track.
Make sure to isolate them and address them one at a time. Also test a rejection – ask if settling a certain objection will lead to a sale. Make sure to address them. If they are valid, answer them to the best of your ability. If they do not seem valid, try to persuade them of the fact as gently as possible. Ask if the customer is satisfied with your answer.
Finally demonstrate all your benefits. If a customer has an issue with a certain aspect of the sale – particularly with the price – stress all the benefits that you are offering that will offset it.
How should I close a sale?
Closing is everything. No amount of patter can help you if you cannot persuade the customer to sign on the dotted line.
Start by picking up on buying signals. If a customer asks a very specific question about the sale or agrees with any of the points you make, it is usually a signal that they are preparing to buy.
Also try to prompt the sale, for instance create a sense of urgency and convince the customer to make a sale now – though avoid making false claims about the limited availability of your offering, which is illegal under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
Finally make sure to agree upon and confirm actions in writing. Confirm a mutual understanding of every aspect of the sale, and set key details (i.e. timescales) down in writing.
What legal obligations must I follow when making a sale?
Unfair Trading Regulations
These are regulations banning 31 sales practices deems ‘aggressive and misleading’, such falsely stating the limited availability of a product or refusing to leave a customer’s premises without a sale. Each regulation carries a potential £5,000 penalty if violated. You can download a free guide to the regulations here.
Misleading Marketing Regulations
These prohibit businesses from using advertising that imitates trademarked products, compares products that do not fulfil the same purpose, and that confuses the customer as to who the advertiser is and who their competitors are. Find out more here.
Selling is never easy, especially if you don’t have a background in it. However for many business owners it’s vital that they are able to pitch their business, be it for sales, investment, or something else so it’s important to get the basics right.
For more information in regards to sales and improving your technique, check out our sister site Startups.co.uk’s designated section here.