It is essential to the effectiveness of your sales presentations to establish rapport and trust with your prospects.
It is also important to gather information by asking them open-ended questions about their problems and needs.
The next step is to establish an agreement on need where you will summarize all the input you have received from your prospect so far. Then you'll create a capsule summary based on that information to help you both agree on the prospect's needs and how best to serve them.
If you are not able to effectively communicate your understanding of your prospects' needs, they will assume you are not really interested in serving them.
By summarizing the input you've received in the approach and qualification steps, you communicate that you are tuned in to your prospects, that you care about their problems and that you and the prospect are working together as a team to fill your prospect's needs.
The agreement on need step is crucial because it clears up the communication process, which is what selling is all about.
To easily understand your prospects' needs as well as to help them understand their own needs better, take the time to communicate sincerely that, above all, you want to be of service to them. This immediately creates a win-win atmosphere in the sales relationship.
If more salespeople took the time to evaluate their selling techniques they would give far more effective presentations. They would also see how developing win-win relationships make it easier for both parties to understand the prospects' requirements and how to meet them.
Earlier in your presentation your open-ended qualifying questions helped you uncover your prospect's exact problems. They helped you discover what the prospect needs, how your product or service might be used, what aspects of your product or service are the most important to this prospect and the benefits he or she expects to receive with the purchase.
Now it's time to put all the information together and present it to your prospect in a capsule summary.
Your statement should follow this form:
"As I understand it, you are looking for something that will [summarize all the important information that you have gathered in the approach and qualification steps]. Is that correct?"
When you say: "As I understand it..." you are verifying the information you have received thus far and that you and the prospect are on the same wavelength. When you ask: "Is that correct?" it gives the prospect the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings that may exist.
This capsule summary statement is so important, and so effective, that I recommend you commit it to memory. Read it over several times and then practice saying it until you are comfortable with it.
The following is an example of how the capsule summary can be used:
"As I understand it, you are looking for an electronic system to control your building's complete heating, cooling and lighting systems, provide your employees with consistent comfort and cut your energy bills by a minimum of 20 percent. Is that correct?"
Making this statement shows your prospects that you have listened to and understand their needs and wants. From this point on you can have confidence that you and your prospect are working in complete accord toward mutual goals.
In using the capsule summary in the agreement on need step you also demonstrate that you are a serious professional sales counselor -- one who uses persuasion, not pressure.
Keep in mind that prospects buy not because they understand you or your product but because they feel you understand them and their needs.
If your statement is right on target your prospect will tell you.
However, if the prospect says, "No" don't panic.
One of the reasons you asked, "Is that correct?" is to allow the prospect to make corrections. Listen to those corrections, revise your statement incorporating those changes and present it again using the form outlined above.
If the prospect says "No" a second time, go over the details with them again.
Continue this process of restating the capsule summary until there are no further corrections and you both agree.
As a professional salesperson you cannot assume that you have heard correctly or remember every fact or that you have pinpointed your prospect's problems and needs exactly. Therefore, you should continue to verify with them until you are both in agreement.
The heart's desire of every human being is to be understood, to have someone really listen to them and remember what they've said.
Utilizing the agreement on need is the best way to communicate to your prospect that you're listening.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.