Written By: Stu Schlackman
Today customers are more intelligent about solution offerings than ever before- thanks to the Internet. In today’s economy companies want immediate results and incredible response to their needs. The definition of P & L has now become “profit or leave.”
I believe Sales is a competitive sport. As we enter the new year, the successful sales professional will look at the economy and say – this will be a great year! In other words it doesn’t matter if we are or were in a recession and it doesn’t matter if the forecast for the year is iffy or bleak. Successful sales people always find a way to win despite a very competitive market where customers have many options to consider.
Today customers are more intelligent about solution offerings than ever before- thanks to the Internet. In today’s economy companies want immediate results and incredible response to their needs. The definition of P & L has now become “profit or leave.” The terms customer service or satisfaction have been thrown around like a commodity, yet if we don’t take care of customers to their satisfaction they’re gone in a nanosecond.
Whether we are looking to win new business with new companies or build our existing customer base there are three musts for sales success in the future.
The first one is to have a mindset of building long term business relations. In other words if we want to develop a customer for the future we must be strategic based on their long term needs and not for the immediate sale. The first sale should be the start to gaining credibility, trust and respect as we move forward and prove ourselves over time. Proving ourselves starts with the customer’s needs and not ours. We need to understand that even though a customer is asking for a specific solution it is based on two needs-business and personal. When more than two decision makers are involved we need to understand that their individual personal needs can be quite different. So how do we find them out?
Finding out all the needs of the decision makers comes down to the second must which is asking critical questions. Asking questions that go deep makes the difference. Presenting a solution in the beginning of a sales cycle is solution suicide. You don’t know what they need until you get all the information. In other words you need to be strategic in the questions you ask. We need a plan that shows the customer we are more concerned in understanding their needs than selling our products and services. If you want better answers from the customer-ask better questions!
The third must which is the result of asking critical questions is – differentiate or die! This happens to be one of the titles of Jack Trout’s books. If we don’t differentiate ourselves from all the options the customer has, we’ll lose every time. If we can differentiate our solutions based on asking excellent questions, we can propose a solution that will more closely meet the needs of the customer. Each time we obtain a critical piece of information it can put us a step ahead of our competitors and earn us the right to come back and ask more. Decision makers respect sales professionals that ask the tough questions. Proposing the right solution is directly proportional to better performance thus leading to repeat business. Remember that products don’t develop relationships, people do. You the sales professional make the difference in a world where customers have many options.
If you want this next year to be your personal best have the mindset of building long term relationships, prepare and ask the critical questions and remember we must differentiate or die!
Happy New Year and great selling!
Stu has spent over 25 years in sales management, sales and sales training with…
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