Recently I have come across several articles espousing the idea that in order to make a sale it you must address every concern or detraction someone might have before they voice it. The logic being you if you can keep them from getting to ‘no’ you can get them to do what you want (make a purchase, sign with your team, engage your services). I understand how and why that strategy works. But it doesn’t feel like a very real interaction. Even if you do get the sale, will the customer leave feeling good? Willing to do business with you again? Willing to refer their friends? Or are they going to leave feeling sold? I would wager the later.
I am going to go against the grain and tell you not to have canned answers to all their questions before they get to ask them. Customers, clients and potential teammates don’t want to be viewed as fitting into a box. They want to be viewed as the unique individuals they are. Give them the opportunity to show you who they are and they will leave feeling like you really understand them.
The approach I would like to share is amended from a form of addition therapy called Motivational Interviewing. The premise is that if you tell someone they should or shouldn’t do something they will push back and defend themselves. If you engage with them, understand what they want and show them how to use the tools or services to get there they will be happy to accept your assistance.
This is a brief overview of how it works:
What are they trying to accomplish – You are talking to this person for a reason. There is something they are trying to do and your service or product might help. Let them tell you about it, even if you think you already know the answer. When you understand what they are doing you will be better able to articulate how you can help them.
Listen to what they need – It doesn’t matter if you know exactly what they are going to say. Engage in active listening to show that you hear and understand what they are saying. Even if you aren’t actually learning anything new, this step allows you to connect with the customer in a way your competitors won’t.
Become part of their success team – When your client believes you really understand them your relationship shifts from being an outsider who has something they need, to being an insider who is pivotal to their success. Use ‘we’ language rather than ‘you’ and ‘I’ to as you continue the dialogue.
Follow up – When you are part of someone’s team your relationship doesn’t end when they make a purchase. Cement your ‘go-to’ status by following up with them to ask how things are working and if you can help them again. After all the effort to become part of the team, don’t drop the ball on the closing play.
Too many people view sales as a wrestling match where they try to impart their will on their opponent … er … customer. I have often left a business with a product (they made a sale) but with a bitter taste in my mouth about the interaction. Instead, think of it as a dance where the customer is leading and you are following. It is much easier to show them the path to where they want to go than to force them down it. Which customer do you think is more likely to tell their friends a positive story about the experience?