Sell the company before selling the product

This is the fourth article in my series analyzing the seven steps of the Track Selling System.

In previous articles, I analyzed
Step One: Approach,
Step Two: Qualification and
Step Three: Agreement on Need.

The combined objective of the first three steps is to establish rapport, gather important information to determine your prospects needs and gain agreement on your assessment.

The fourth step is "Sell the Company."

Why "Sell the Company" now? You may think that doesn't make sense as the next step, "Fill the Need," should logically follow Agreement on Need.

The reason for this is all prospects make a series of five buying decisions in precise, psychological order.

The first buying decision is about you, the salesperson, and is made during the Approach and Qualification steps. If you've made it this far, your prospect most likely sees you as a friendly person who shows integrity and good judgment.

Now comes the prospect's second buying decision: the company. The prospect makes this decision before concluding about the value of your product or service. There's little chance you can fill the need with your company's product or service without satisfying the prospect's second buying decision.

So in this step, you'll help your prospect make a positive decision about your company. To your prospect, you are the company. Your prospect wants to know -- even if he or she never indicates this -- whether your company has integrity, will perform as promised and will honor its commitments.

Your communication about your company is based on the prospect's input during the previous steps. To move smoothly into step four, use the following transition sentences.

The first is a question: "May I ask how much information you have about (my company)?"

I think this question is so vitally important to the success of your sales presentation, you should memorize it. Why is the exact wording of this question so important? It's an open-ended question that encourages your prospect to freely express whatever facts and feelings they may have about your company.

An effective statement I use to lead into the question is: "Mr./Mrs. Prospect, if I were in your position I'm sure there would be some specific information I'd like to know about (my company). May I ask how much information you have about (my company)?"

Your prospect may know a lot, a little or nothing at all. He or she may have positive, neutral or even negative feelings about your company.

Regardless of the response you receive, use the second transition sentence by stating: "I understand. Let me quickly cover a couple of things I think would be important to me if I were in your position."

You now are ready to give your prospect honest, accurate information to build trust in your company's ability to perform competently and with integrity.

Even if your prospect knows a great deal about your company, you must reinforce and expand his or her knowledge by offering important facts, statistics, accomplishments, etc., that will reinforce positive feelings.

If your prospect has little or no information or perhaps worse, negative information, it's even more important to encourage -- even invite -- that person to let you know.

But remember, it's important that you sell not tell. Your main objective is to help your prospects decide your company has the integrity, honesty and ability to perform as promised.

What you communicate to your prospect will be influenced by your prospect's needs and concerns. Answer concerns with facts, but you also sell them by pointing out the benefits that a particular feature provides.

Keep in mind the prospect is always thinking, "What will it do for me?"

If he or she has negative feelings about the company don't try to make excuses, be defensive or apologize. Instead just say: "I understand."

This way, any negative feelings about your company are out in the open with your acknowledgment. And your empathy and understanding aligns you on the prospect's side.

What about calls to long-established clients? Is it pointless to try to resell your company to these old reliables? Definitely not. Don't take any customer for granted.

Remember that if you are not selling your company, you can be sure that there will be others selling theirs. Take time at every sales call to sell your company. Don't leave it to chance.

Of course you handle a long-established client differently. Your long-term client probably won't ask for information about your company. It is your responsibility as a sales professional to supply this information without being asked. You may want to share news on improvements, awards or new products that have occurred. And it never hurts to remind long-term clients of facts they already may know. You may remind them of why they chose to deal with your company in the first place and why it still is the best choice.

In a recent column, salesperson Gerri of Happiness is Hawaii Tours reached an Agreement on Need with her prospect, Dick. Gerri now will transition from Step Three: Agreement on Need, to Step Four: Sell the Company.

Gerri: "Dick, I'm sure if I were in your position there would be some specific information that I would want to know about Happiness is Hawaii Tours. May I ask how much information you have about our company?"

Dick: "I know very little about you. I've been looking at your ads on and off for the past year, but this is the first time I've really investigated them. I don't know anybody who's gone on a trip with you."

Gerri: "I understand. Let me quickly cover a couple of things that I think would be important to me if I were in your position. Happiness is Hawaii Tours has been planning family vacations in Hawaii for over 20 years.

"We started in the Northeast, where people like your son were happy to get away from the bad weather and get to Hawaii. As we've grown, we expanded and now have offices in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and Dallas.

"We have over 150 travel agents in those cities, planning meetings for corporations such as Chevron USA, General Motors and also small or large family vacations, all on an annual basis.

"In fact, Happiness is Hawaii Tours sent more people to Maui last year than any other travel group, as reported in a recent issue of Travel and Leisure magazine."

Things to remember

In step four, you help your prospect make a positive decision about your company.

Give your prospect the information he or she needs to be assured your company operates competently and with integrity.

Sell the company to long-time clients, as well as to brand-new ones.

If your company has problems that cannot be rectified, consider finding a new company, one you can be proud of and sell with confidence.

In an upcoming article, I'll analyze Step Five: Fill the Need.


Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.