Some people were born with the ability engage anyone in a conversation, deflect objections and recall pitches without hesitation.
For the rest of us, selling is necessary, but not always convenient or second-nature. Yet we find ourselves selling every day as part of the role of running a business. Where do you hone your skills in the limited time you have with the list of other jobs you do — such as accounting, inventory management, and customer service?
Students know that having reference materials on-hand while learning new tasks is an effective way to become more comfortable with the unknown. Here are six powerful selling tools you can use to help you along the the way to support your pitch.
- A Self-assessment questionnaire
Most successful sales conversations begin with a discussion about the customer’s needs — not necessarily about your product or service. Try creating a self-assessment questionnaire customized specifically for that customer. Make a grid and list the most common reasons people buy from you. These are the pain points, or problems the customer wants to solve. Beside each item, leave room for them to check off the items that matter most to them. Or better yet, leave room for them to rank each issue on a scale from one to four.
The first item might ask how they found your business. Did they try any other products or services? Then move on to their reasons for considering your product or service. Be sure to include questions about timing. How urgently do they need a solution? What will be different for them when they find it?
Once they have filled out the questionnaire (keep it short!), you have a handy reference tool to keep the conversation on track. Tick off each item as you discuss it.
- A comparison chart
If you suspect your customer is talking to your competition, create a side-by-side comparison chart. Before the appointment, create a list of all the features included in your product or service. Then add a column for two or three of your competitors. Do an honest appraisal, awarding your competitor a check mark in the areas where they meet the criteria. Hopefully your company ends up on par or with more checkmarks than your competitors, but this is an opportunity examine the market together and help your client through their research.
- A shopping checklist
You can use a similar technique to capture your customer’s attention by creating a list of all the items that are frequently purchased with your offering. Many times it is helpful to guide your potential customer through these details they may not be thinking of already. These suggestions might take the form of “You’ve got the hotdogs, don’t forget the buns”, or “Before our service technician arrives, be sure to put the dog in the yard”, and so on. Remember, no matter how dry that list may be, you can always use graphics and color to highlight the document and brand your company.
- A fact sheet
When it comes time to talk about the features and benefits of your product or service, many get nervous. It can be easy to skip over an important selling point, or worse, run out out of things to say. Print out a simple fact sheet, and use it to keep your sales pitch on track. You can point to certain features and specs as you go along, and don’t forget to add a high-quality photo of your product!
- A testimonial or case study
You call tell a prospect about how much your customers love you, but having a brief testimonial sheet tucked into your sales kit is much better. It truly is the next best thing to hearing a compliment right from the customer’s mouth.
- A referral coupon
Walk into every sales meeting expecting to close the deal. And come prepared. When they sign on the dotted line, be ready with a printed coupon. Invite your new customer to pass it along to someone else in need of your product or service. Rather than asking for a referral, a printed coupon can be successful method of getting that all-important lead to your next customer.
The Value of Research
Before you create any of these printed materials, you’ll need to do a little homework. Create a profile of your ideal customer, include information about their age, gender, marital status, household income and zip code. Then dig a little deeper. Make a list of leisure-time activities and other lifestyle information that might influence their decision. Do they place a higher value on convenience or price? Are they committed to supporting a local business, or do they prefer to work with a national brand? Do they appreciate a personal touch, or are they just interested in getting the transaction done as soon as possible? The effort you put into this kind of research will pay big dividends down the line.
A few sheets of paper certainly can’t replace a qualified salesperson, but they can make a big difference when it’s up to you to close a deal – especially if you’ve done your research. And it’s certainly not a bad move leaving behind a sheet of something useful that your potential client will read later on.
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