There is an old saying that goes, “people don’t fail, they just quit trying”. And I believe that this saying is especially appropriate in sales. There are so many times that salespeople will just stop trying rather than stick to it until they get the answer they want. Now I’m not talking about pestering or badgering or just plain making a complete pest of yourself. Nope, not that at all. What I’m talking about is diplomatic, tactical, strategic sales.
Much of my sales coaching and training is based on how to handle the word “no”, and what to do when the customer says no. Thinking of this the other day, I thought it was about time to address that word and how to move the word “no” to a “maybe” to an “okay we’ll give it try.”
But before we get into that let’s spend a few minutes talking about asking for the sale in the first place. I have found that one of the biggest problems with salespeople is their complete inability to ask for the order. For many of them, asking for the order is an embarrassment they do not want to face. In fact, some of them (often technical salespeople with engineering backgrounds) treat asking for the order with the same amount of trepidation as they would asking a friend for a loan! Let’s get one thing straight, you are never going to get an order unless you ask for the order.
One thing to remember is that sales is a process, an art, a slow dance with a number of steps. Great salespeople understand this and play the long game.
Let’s take this scenario: You have been calling on a customer for about six months. You have done all your homework and you know with all of your heart that you can provide that customer with the exact products and services he needs. But because he already has a long-time vendor, he sees no reason to change. Through your sheer tenacity, he does agree to meet with you regularly, and he has even started giving you some RFQs. But still no orders. What are you going to do? Simple, you are going to “grow” on him. Using your skills, and your charm, your calm courtesy, and especially your patience, you are going to ingratiate yourself to him. You are going to find ways to be valuable to him. Bring him information about the industry you’re both in, articles and white papers that will help educate him and make him better at his job. Make sure that with each meeting with this potential customer you are providing value. Your goal is to work your way into a professional friendship with this person so that he will come to rely on you for information as well as for support. It will take some time, but it will pay off in the end. After a while he will look at you as a friend and then ultimately as a friend he wants to help out. He will want to do business with you. So, he will start giving you tips, hints, and advice on how to win his business. He will even start confiding in you about problems he is having with his other suppliers, thus giving you the opportunity to help him solve those problems by using your products and services. And then one day he will be as happy for you as you are to give you that first order.
Think about what happened here. With your people skills and your knowledge and sales ability you made him a customer long before he placed that first order and became a true paying customer. And make no mistake about it, the road to that first order was paved with a lot of “no’s”
Keeping your eye on the ball and playing the long game is the right way to develop customers and keep them for life. But the important thing is to realize that every customer is different and what works with one will not work with another. So a key quality for a great salesperson is creativity, the ability to adapt and succeed no matter what the situation.
But there is one quality that is present in every great salesperson and that is sincerity. You have to be truly sincere in each and every one of your business relationships. You have to be sincere when you “know” that your product is perfect for that customer. You have to be sincere in your ability to help that customer by providing her what she needs, exactly what she really needs, not what you want to sell her.
And finally, great salespeople love their customers, and want to help them in any way that they can and that goes beyond just selling them their own products. No, they have to love their customers enough to make sure they are at all times giving them the very best answer, the very best solution to their problems…even when that solution is not their products but a competitor’s! Think about that…do you love your customers enough to do that? It’s only common sense.