The sales profession is undergoing a historic change.
All salespeople must decide where they stand in relation to this change. On the path from the past, pseudo-salespeople maneuver, ambush, trick and cajole customers into buying a product or service. On the path to the future, up-front, empathetic, professional salespeople serve their customers as advisors, counselors and even partners.
Our contacts with thousands of salespeople have convinced me that to succeed, today's salesperson must make the customer's needs primary. If the customer doesn't benefit from a sale, the sale shouldn't take place.
A Buyer's Market
Today's competitive marketplace is forcing companies to scale back costly sales operations, leaving room only for top-performing salespeople. The seller's market which existed for many years has become a buyer's market. Companies don't need salespeople to take orders, they need salespeople who can sell.
Only the cream-of-the crop salespeople will remain. Out of necessity they will practice partnership selling. They will be actively engaged in their clients' business affairs as consultants and counselors.
Companies are reducing the number of vendors they deal with, and want partnerships with those they retain. Customers will turn from salespeople who cannot or will not forge such partnerships to salespeople who are willing and able to help them succeed. A salesperson's success will depend on the success of his or her customers.
Today's more sophisticated customers no longer tolerate the fast-talking, back-slapping salesperson whose only concern is his or her pocketbook. Clients want salespeople who help them solve problems and who enlighten them on new ways to improve their business.
In developing the book, "World Class Selling: The Complete Selling Process", I wanted to promote those selling procedures which followed an ethical philosophy that you can rely on, a win/win philosophy of serving the customer. One never needs to con or pressure a prospect, or do anything against your standards or contrary to your personality. It is a philosophy of doing things for the client rather than to the client.
It's human nature to be a little nervous about operating in a changing environment. For years we have used in our sales training programs what is called the Track Selling SystemTM which is also based on a win/win philosophy of serving the customer.
Here is a capsule outline of the five buying decisions every prospect must make before buying, followed by the seven steps of the scientific Track Selling SystemTM that are based on helping the prospect make those buying decisions.
The Five Buying Decisions
There are five buying decisions people make when you are trying to sell them something. These decisions always come into play even though a person may not be aware of making the decisions. Once you know about these five buying decisions, you can conduct your sales interview so that each of your prospect's decisions is positive.
About you, the salesperson. Your integrity. Your judgment
About your company. Is it dependable? Can it support service after the sale?
About your product or service, Factual details. Can the product/service solve my problem? My needs?
About your price. Is the product or service affordable? People don't really buy because of price, they buy because of value. Don't push price, sell value.
About time. The customer has made the first four decisions and found you are a decent, likable person with integrity and good judgment. Your company sounds honest and capable. Your product or service fills a genuine need or solves a genuine problem. Your price is fair in terms of value received. The only thing left to decide is WHEN to buy. When that's all that is left to decide, it's time to ask for the order.
The Seven Steps Of Track Selling
The seven steps in the Track Selling SystemTM parallel the five Buying Decisions. Their purpose is to help your prospects make each decision positively.
Step 1: Approach
Because the first few minutes with customers have a tremendous impact on whether or not you make the sale, your initial approach must include two essential factors: professional integrity and a well-groomed personal appearance. Approach customers with the knowledge that your job is to be of service to them.
Step 2: Qualification
This is your information-gathering period. Here you will qualify the person as a genuine prospect and uncover the problems or needs that exist so you can present your product's benefits in their most attractive light. You determine whether there is a need for your product/service, who the company's decision-maker is, and whether your product/service fits into his or her budget.
Step 3: Agreement On Need
Here you summarize for your prospects the information you gathered in Step 2 to verify and clarify the facts. You demonstrate your understanding of your prospect's unique problems and needs.
Step 4: Sell The Company
Your prospects want to know about your company. Does it operate with integrity? Does it have the competence and capability to perform as promised? In this step, you supply your prospects with the information they need to make this decision.
Step 5: Fill The Need
Prospects want to know about the product or service you sell and the price. In this step you show your prospects how your product or service solves their problems or fills their needs precisely and the value they will receive for their purchase price.
Step 6: Act Of Commitment
In this step you ask for the order or the act of commitment. Closing is the most important step in a successful sale and is also the most frequently overlooked. A successful salesperson not only asks for the sale, but may ask for it several times before the sale is closed. Closing requires the ability to conquer the prospect's fears, uncertainties, or doubts about you or your product/service. These fears can be conquered by returning to the features and benefits of the product and asking for the sale again.
Step 7: Cement The Sale
People buy emotionally, then justify their buying decision logically. In this step you "cement" in your prospects' minds the logical reasons that made their purchasing decisions wise, sound and intelligent so that your sales will wear well.
The seven-step Track Selling SystemTM has been field-tested and it works. Although it is structured, it is not canned. You will be able to expand on the content of each step from your own training and experience. In "World Class Selling: The Complete Selling Process", for example, we devote seven chapters to specific techniques for conducting each of the seven steps from the Approach to Cementing The Sale.
You can adapt the Track Selling principle to your own personality, the different personalities of your prospects, and the specific product or service you sell. In every step, you will emphasize being of service to your prospects with complete integrity, using persuasion, not pressure.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.