Whether you’ve got a background working in sales or are completely new to it, this article is a good place to learn the ‘how to’ of sales. It’s no understatement to say sales is the single most important activity a business undertakes. The more you sell the closer you get to success, it’s really that simple. Selling is however a largely misunderstood practice. We sell more than our products, we sell ideas, we sell ourselves. So learning how to sell properly is very important whether you’re out there networking or trying to move your product. So here we go.

1. Establish value first

If I asked for a $100 right now I hope the question you’d ask me is what it’s for. Well when you’re talking to prospects and tell them about your product being cheaper or low priced that’s the same question they are asking. It is important to establish the value being offered. If I told you the $100 was for a brick there might be a problem but if I said it’s for a house chances are we will have a better time.

I’ve sold life insurance and one of the hardest things to do is to sell to a person who doesn’t see or will never receive the value. It was important to establish that not only did our packages represent a good value but we would also link that value to the prospects life and goals.

2. Know your product – answer questions before they are asked

Product knowledge has been a cornerstone of any good sales process. Product knowledge should be applied and the best way to do this is to answer questions before they come up. When you put your product online it’s important to answer all specification questions as well as shipping and handling in the product description. This has a 2 major benefits:

If all information is clearly available any calls or email you have to deal with will be pre-qualified instead of having to clarify whether it’s a 7 inch or 10 inch tablet.

It automates more of the sales process and means that you get to focus your energy on the customers with difficult questions. The most difficult prospects are usually the best customers.

3. Give ownership

All decisions are emotional. Even logical ones. This is an extension of establishing value. It’s most prevalent in car sales, the test drive. You need to give the prospect a feeling of what owning or using the item will mean for them and their life. Another really good illustration of this is the free trial, which can go as long 30 days. This allows the prospect to feel the impact on their life of the product and works especially well for services.

4. Listen to answer, not to dismiss

Perhaps the greatest negative stigma on salespeople is that they are pushy. Simply looking to get an order. While I assure this is not true it’s easy to understand why people may feel this way. With many people feeling there is no listening just a tendency to take your question or concern and say some words that include your concern but don’t address it.When prospects ask questions it is important to firstly understand the actual question and secondly address it.

5. Technique

This is such a broad subject and may even warrant its own articles. The study of human psychology by many very smart people to better understand the selling process. By applying psychological techniques you can greatly improve the selling process. I’ll illustrate with just one psychology based framework but there are so many more..

The learning or perception methods, namely visual, auditory and kinesthetic categorise people into groups determined by how easily we lean towards a certain type of information. Visual learners are comfortable with seeing imagery, auditory learners lean towards what they hear and are good with lists while the kinesthetic are more about the feeling, the sensory experience. If you’re creating a print advert you would want to use visuals that grab they eye, a list for the auditory and some prose text that connects the product emotionally to people to succeed at capturing all three types of learners. Here’s a tip when dealing with people face to face; the visuals will say things like “I see” or “do you see what I mean”, the auditory lot will say things like “I hear you” or “do you get me” and the kinesthetics will say things like “do you understand”. As I said it’s a really broad field but being able to identify how  the person you are trying to appeal to wants to receive information is power.

6. Know your closes

Closing is the act of getting the order confirmation. The completion of the sale and perhaps the most important part of the sale. So knowing that there are different types of closes and knowing when & how to use them is a key salesperson skill. A few examples below.

The details close

This close uses the act of gathering all the relevant customer information to confirm the order. “Let’s just fill in all the relevant details and get your order processed” is an example.

The scarcity close

The shop assistant informs you that they only have one left in your size. This clause creates urgency in you to complete the deal there and then.

The simplified close

Well all we need to go forward is your first payment  on the plan. This close uses the payment as a commitment device and handles the processing issues later. Free trials use this close very well.

Knowing which close to use and when you can get the business. Which leads to the next point…

7. Always be closing (ABC)

This may seem a little counter-intuitive but it is a very important principle. You can get the sale at any point in time but you rarely get the sale if you don’t ask for it. So it’s important to develop a habit of closing from any point in the sales conversation. Adding statements like “and we can get you one from the store room right now” after answering a prospects question is a good example of ABC in action.

Remember the close is the goal and all that value establishment and answering questions will count for nought if we don’t close.

8. Understand your market’s behavior

Understanding your market and industry norms are key. In many markets there are greater forces at play that explain some behaviors. In the book No ordinary disruption, Dobson and Manyika speak about how in emerging markets buyers will make on average 4-5 visits to a store before purchasing a home appliance. It’s reasonable to assume that in our economy this figure may be higher perhaps closer to 10 visits. Also the duration of a decision process, in workplace training some of the best clients will take 3 months from the moment of first contact to confirm an engagement. While fast food purchases are much more spur of the moment decisions. Understand your market and what it takes for customers to come to decision.

9. Understand and use the reasons

A ‘no’ with reasons is a ‘yes’ with conditions. Understanding the reasons behind a prospects hesitation can give you insight into the specific stumbling block they face in making the buy decision. The Zimbabwe government registrars office recently proposed to process passport applications through the post office. People have long complained about the congestion and complexity they face when trying to process passport applications through the disgusted passport offices. This move will allow people a smoother ride.

10. Make it easy

Making the purchase decision is hard enough, complicated sales process just makes it harder, sometimes even impossible. Granted some processes are complex and have legal requirements behind them but simplifying the sales process makes for an easier decision. Interrogate your sales process and ask if every step is essential. Also question the order of the steps and it has to be done in that way. Steward bank simplified the account opening process by leveraging the know your customer requirements fulfilled through Econet’s SIM registration process.

These 10 tips applied can make anyone selling anything better at serving their customers. The tips can also be applied in the design of the sales process by sales managers and team leaders to greatly improve results.