As a business owner, you know your product is great and you’re ready to tell the world. You think spreading the word will be easy enough. You can talk to anyone, you have a great pitch, making the sale should be easy, right? Wrong. Contrary to popular belief, the key to closing sales is not pitching, it’s listening.
Whether its because of nerves, misconception or just plain ignorance, most novice salespeople call prospects with one intent in mind: to give their spiel. What they do not realize is that delivering a monologue closes off specific selling opportunities, and gives the buyer an easy way to exit the conversation without ever really engaging.
Imagine the following: you call a sales prospect, tell him in one breath how amazing your product is, he just does the “uh-huh…yeah….ok… well, I’ll think about it” routine, and hangs up. Where has that gotten you? Back to square one. You have no information, no reason to follow-up, no sale. What good businessperson wants to find himself in that position?
Slow the call down and probe. Asking questions allows you to get to know the business of the person to whom you want to sell, the obstacles he is facing, and the needs he already has, all of which are valuable selling tips that will both bring you to the heart of the sale faster and help eliminate non-prospects from your customer pool. Best of all, your prospect will drop the wall he puts up every time he answers an unwanted sales call.
Consider this: Politeness dictates that when a person is asked a question, he should answer. As he takes a moment to reflect, he stops rushing you off the phone, thinks over his response, and provides an answer that can lead the next part of the call in a mutually beneficial direction. By asking a question, you have shown the prospect that you are genuinely interested in earning his business and that you are willing to put in the time to meet his needs.
Follow a few simple rules and listen your way to a deal.
1. Assess the opportunity. Questions that are direct and open-ended help the potential client open up enough to tell you about his business. Listen carefully and then select the products you think will do the most to help your prospect grow in both the short and long term. Sales is not about a one-time cha-ching, it is about building businesses—your prospect’s and yours!
2. Seek Insight. Ask the prospect what products or services work for him right now. This allows you to tailor the conversation to complement his business and meet its needs. It also eliminates wasting time on products that will never get a green light. After all, who wants to be sold something he doesn’t need?
3. Discover needs. Inquiring about what types of products the prospect has been looking for but has had trouble finding is another great conversation to have. This question allows the potential customer to think about his current needs — not hypothetical future needs — and opens the door for you to talk about how your product can help meet that need right away. Closing a sale becomes easy when both sides can see the immediate benefit.
4. Determine timing. When you sense that the sale is not going to happen right away, being up front is even more crucial. A direct question like “when do you think you will be ready to place an order?” is appreciated by the prospect, because it allows him to set a time frame with which he feels comfortable for his purchase. No one likes to feel pressured or to admit he does not have the money to make a purchase. Why put the prospect in that position by calling back over and over and souring the good will you have developed, before he is ready or able to act on a deal? Simply asking the time frame question and then following up as instructed is often the most effective way to close the sale eventually.
The next time you are ready to call a prospect, rather than worrying about what you want to say to him, think about what you would like to learn from him. Look at it as a fact-finding mission. Ask questions, and lots of them. The buyer on the other end of the line will give you all the information you need to make the sale, and she will appreciate the fact that you took the time to listen.
Vanessa Nornberg is the founder of Metal Mafia, a wholesale body piercing and costume jewelry company. Now one of the top body jewelry suppliers in the US tattoo and piercing industry, Metal Mafia sells to 5000+ independent specialty shops and large retail chains in 23 different countries.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (Y.E.C.) provides its members with access to tools, mentoring, community and educational resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth. Our organization promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment.