How to be an Innovative Company
Frist build a meaningful relationship
People buy from people whom they like, respect, and trust, so selling is really about building and managing relationships. The ﬁrst step is to ﬁnd out what your customers expect and demand, and what you need to do to respond accordingly.
Offering good products at competitive prices just isn’t enough to win sales in today’s competitive market. Your can bet that your best ideas will be emulated by others sooner or later. Today’s customers expect you to add value to their business—to address their needs and deliver solutions.
The evolving selling mentality
Being a successful salesperson today involves you in collaboration, facilitation, and a sense of partnership with your customer. Long gone are the days of one-way persuasion the canned pitch is considered the lowest level of selling. Ideas about selling have evolved rapidly as globalization and fast communication have produced more savvy and demanding buyers. Selling reﬂects wider changes in business and today goes far beyond pushing product, embracing an understanding of how organizations work, management structures, psychology, and self-awareness.
Understanding your role
In the past, a salesperson could get by through eloquently telling the customer everything he or she knew about their product, and explaining why their company was the best in its ﬁeld. This approach may still win your business today in some areas, but most customers now demand much more from their salespeople. They expect them to add value to their business—to understand fully their needs and to offer up solutions to problems they didn’t even realize they had. To succeed, you need to interpret what the client tells you, and often educate your customer about what’s out there. Then you need to mesh together the abilities of your organization with that of the client for the beneﬁt of both. You need a measure of curiosity and good listening skills to uncover what the client really needs. And you must be a brilliant innovator, with the ability to think creatively and manage creative processes that ﬁnd answers.
Selling isn’t a moment of inspiration; it is not about force of argument or the strength of your personality. It is a process. The process is fairly easy to understand, but as you’ll see hard to do. The techniques in this book are centered on a process called needs-based selling, so let’s examine its principles and set the scene.
Examining the process
The process of selling requires careful planning and management. Beginning a relationship with a new client is the ﬁrst phase of the process: you can’t just walk into a customer’s ofﬁce and kick off a sales meeting it needs careful staging, and both you and your customer need to be prepared. Next, you start the most important part of the sales process determining the customer’s needs. During this phase, you ask the key questions, listen to what the customer has to say, identify both the obvious and less obvious needs, enter into a meaningful dialogue, and review what you have learned. Needs determination drives everything in selling, and it is only once you have listened to your customer that you move on to the phase of the process that most salespeople enjoy the most: presenting their products and services. This is when you get to explain how you and your company can address your customer’s needs. You know your products and services inside-out, and your customers want to hear how you can help them. Once you have determined the needs and made recommendations, it is time to think about gaining commitment. But something almost always gets in the way and you face resistance to commit. The customer needs to be allowed to object even when they seem ready to buy and you must resolve the client’s objections if you are to close the sale.
Simply put, needs-based selling means determining a customer’s needs before you start to propose solutions. Get to understand the customer by letting them speak—at length, if necessary. When it’s time to present, you’ll do a better job than those who merely display their products and services and you’ll be far better positioned to sustain a long-term customer relationship.
Success in selling is linked to effective problem solving. If you’re good at one, the chances are that you’ll excel at the other. The process of problem solving is also remarkably similar in its structure to that of selling.
COMPARING PROBLEM SOLVING WITH SELLING
|PROBLEM SOLVING||NEEDS-BASED SELLING|
|Set the stage. Provide structure for the problem-solving session.||Open the meeting. Build rapport, conﬁrm the agenda, prepare the customer.|
|Deﬁne the problem. Review background information and solutions already tried.||Determine needs. Engage with the client and tease out both their obvious and their hidden needs.|
|Generate ideas. Provide the climate where everyone can contribute creative perspectives without judgment||Present products and services. Describe the features and beneﬁts of what you have to sell. Impart your enthusiasm and belief in your products.|
|Evaluate the ideas and develop the best ones. Identify the appealing aspects of an idea, then list the concerns.||Resolve objections. Effectively and sensitively resolve the objections that customers inevitably raise.|
|Summarize the solution. Put together a speciﬁc action plan.||Close the deal. Agree on how to move forward with fulﬁllment|
Empathy is the ability to connect with someone to see things from their perspective. Several recent studies indicate that, for many buyers, a salesperson’s ability to understand their situation is the single most compelling reason why they make the decision to buy. Many people think that empathy depends on similarity of age, background, experience, or point of view. That’s a myth. A young salesperson can connect with and relate to someone much more senior if they can identify areas of mutual interest. It’s not hard to ﬁnd common ground. For starters, both are already in the same business—even if they are on different sides of the desk. They may have similar interests and educations: if salespeople allow the customer to talk and genuinely show interest in what they say, the customer will appreciate the empathy shown. Without understanding the customer and showing real interest in what he or she has to say, a key ingredient in the relationship will be missing and the salesperson will remain an order taker… at best.
Trust takes a long time to build, but only a second to lose. To demonstrate that you can be trusted, you need to be responsive, direct, clear, reliable, and straightforward. Customers don’t like to be manipulated and don’t appreciate evasiveness. If you get caught being dishonest in any way, you’ll not only lose that customer, but the ripple effect of your actions will also spread far beyond the borders of that relationship. Always assume that your customer is smart and give them due respect: don’t play games, make sure to deliver on your promises, and avoid nasty surprises. Follow these simple rules and your customer’s trust will follow in time.