Stop Selling and Start Solving - but make sure you qualify the customer first
The trouble with the hard sell is that it’s hard. Hard for prospective customer because it’s pushy and often an interruption. Hard for the salesperson because it’s difficult to do – ‘Selling can be difficult', 'I’m just not the selling type of person' and 'I lack confidence’ are the common issues we hear from our clients and their sales teams.
At Beyond Theory we believe in sales through service - an honest, thoughtful and ethical way of selling. We prefer to promote the idea of solving problems than selling. We call this our consultative selling approach.
To help businesses increase the confidence and skills of their sales teams we’ve developed our own PROBE methodology to help qualify a sale. This simple, easy to remember five-point plan enables sales teams to be more comfortable in selling, avoiding some of the hurdles that can trip up anyone when they are qualifying a customer. Because consultative selling is more of a conversation than a process, these five points won’t always be in this order. However, they’re a great checklist that covers the key points.
Problem faced: What does the customer need to remove their pain and resolve their challenges. Understanding their problems puts you in pole position to meet your customers’ needs.
Right person: Identify the decision maker. Do you need to include anyone else in the discussion? Make sure you connect with the person who has the authority to proceed. View them as a resource for getting a sale and not as a hurdle to overcome.
Objections to overcome: Anticipate any objections that may be raised. Researching your customer will help immensely and look to be flexible by offering alternative solutions.
Budget available: Asking the right questions will enable you establish their available budget. Remember to establish your customers’ budgeting cycle – timing can be important depending on the time of their financial year.
Expected timescale: Determine the timescales involved. Always be clear and honest with timelines to ensure expectations are set correctly. Establish the timeline in which your customer will need a solution and inspire confidence. Make sure that you can deliver to it.
Use our PROBE method to take time to pause and review your teams’ performance. Ask yourself:
- How well are your teams prepared to approach and qualify your customers?
- How often do they reach the right person who will make the ultimate decision to buy?
- How effectively do they anticipate and overcome objections?
- How successful is your sales team in establishing the budget holder and the amount of budget available?
- How well are timescales explored and determined? Is your sales team selling or problem solving?
Sales through service is a way of thinking and behaving. The UK Customer Satisfaction Index (published by the Institute of Customer Service in January 2020) shows that businesses that scored 9 or above out of 10 for service enjoyed the highest increases in customer satisfaction. For example:
- Trust grows from 45% (scoring 8.0 to 8.9 out of 10) to 95% for scoring 9 out of 10.
- Recommendations grow from 55% to 94%.
both of which will have an impact on business profitability and growth.
Making sales calls was very much part of my role in a previous business. Not getting the response you were hoping for is part of the learning process. Using PROBE will increase your chances of success – i.e. being well prepared and researching the customer, having the correct product knowledge, listening to the customer, awareness of your speech pace and tone.
One of our longstanding clients at Beyond Theory started with an outbound telephone sales enquiry by myself. The first call I made was firmly rebutted. Looking back, I probably wasn’t fully prepared for the strength of the refusal to listen to my offer. Reflecting on my success with my previous company, I decided I needed to get more organised in my sales approach.
I took the time to keep up to date with the company that had turned me down. I really liked their brand and felt we would be a great fit for them. Six months later I noticed a new manager with the authority to agree a sale was now working there. Learning from my previous mistakes I fully prepared for the call, had a solution-based conversation ready in my head and approached it as if it was the first time that I had called. I honestly believe it was my confidence and ability so see myself as the problem solver not a salesperson that gave me the confidence to gain access and make connections with the person with the authority. Over five years later that same manager has moved to manage two other businesses and he’s kept us as his chosen training provider for both. Not a bad outcome for a sales call that was originally turned down!
Remember that each time your team interacts with a prospective or existing customer they will be impacting how your brand is perceived. The importance of trust, loyalty and ethics are increasingly becoming more significant. Hard selling has its place, but it’s not in today’s marketplace where solving rather than selling is what discerning customers want and respect.
If you’re looking to refresh your teams’ approach to sales, then consider our Sales Through Service training. We’ll up-skill your teams to improve their selling techniques. Learn more by visiting our website: https://beyondtheory.co.uk/sales-through-service-training.
Associate Trainer, Beyond Theory