By Jeff Bowman
The world of professional sales has taken many turns in the last 25 years. We have moved from traditional sales methods – pushing whatever product or service you have to move or clear using a variety of tactics – to a more customer centric needs-based approach. The term has been coined “the soft sell”. The focus is on achieving the desired solution for the customer’s needs through a series of questions and targeted probes as opposed to offering deals, freebies, layaway plans and clearance offers.
Selling is a profession, and like other professions, it has a set of required skills and competencies, which when utilized well, produce successful results.
Entrepreneurs and business people need to understand that above all else they are salespeople first. There is no difference between common commodities or highly innovative products. A sale must be made in order to start the ball rolling.
Stephen Rhodes mentioned the Dragon’s Den in an earlier blog. A sales pitch based on razzle dazzle usually fizzles in the Dragon’s Eyes. They need to see potential; they want to be able to visualize what needs will be satisfied and how flexible the product is to a variety of applications.
An innovative approach to sales requires that the salesperson knows their product inside out, has identified its purpose and has crafted a unique selling proposition that focuses on satisfying the needs of a client.
A sales presentation to the people who make decisions is critical, although many of us spend countless hours speaking to people in organizations who don’t have that power. Open probes allow the potential customer to express what it is that they require and we need to recognize the opportunities as they arise to dig deeper.
Innovative products require a more tailored approach, more subtle, in order to have the potential customer or investor accept you as a solution provider/problem solver as opposed to a product pusher.
There is no such thing as a born salesman, just those professionals who recognize the importance of assisting a prospect through the sales cycle, on their own terms and in their own time. Think of the sales process as a fact-finding mission. The very things that lead entrepreneurs to explore and develop innovative products and services will often hold as much value in a prospect’s mind as they did in the creator’s. Use the research to identify needs whether they are safety needs, financial needs, green initiatives etc. to mold your approach to selling.
Sales effectiveness is measured in output versus outcome, and it is easy to tip the scales.