A lack of confidence when interacting with potential buyers is a sure way to sabotage a sales discussion. Here are four ways salespeople can improve upon their interpersonal skills and become more confident when dealing with prospects.
- PRACTICE DELIVERING YOUR ANSWER TO THE QUESTION, “WHAT DO YOU GUYS DO?” Your answer to this common question should be consistent. It’s a good idea to role-play its delivery over and over and over again, until you feel totally comfortable delivering it. The answer you give should be no more than thirty seconds in length, and should quickly relate your product or service to one or more specific, pressing problems typically faced by your ideal prospects. Skip the buzzwords, the technical information, and the long list of products and services. Instead, focus on the solutions you deliver for your best customers. For instance: “We help companies dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes for them to get a new hire up and running… and we help make sure that the best employees stick around, instead of defecting to the competition.” Ideally, your thirty-second commercial – which can be easily adapted to any number of conversational settings – should conclude with a question that elicits some kind of response from the prospect. (See the next item on this list.)
- PRACTICE YOUR OWN QUESTIONS. Many salespeople revert to “features-and-benefit-speak” monologues whenever they meet a new prospect, reciting the contents of their product brochure. They do this not because they believe this is what prospects want to hear, but because they feel stressed. They default to what they’ve been trained in most, which is typically product knowledge! It makes more sense to create, and practice, three or four targeted questions that are likely to uncover a gap between what the prospect is experiencing right now and what he or she would like to be experiencing… in an area that your company can help with. We call these “pain questions.” An example might be: “A lot of our clients have problems with employee turnover that’s too high. Is that an issue for you?” Take the time to design the right pain questions. Get them down in black and white, show them to your manager or to a trusted colleague, and ask for feedback. Refine the questions and improve them. Then do some role-playing, so you feel comfortable saying them out loud and can work them into the conversation easily.
- ESTABLISH EQUAL BUSINESS STATURE. Remember: You’re not there to simply follow instructions: this is a business conversation between equals! Engage in an adult-to-adult, person-to-person way. No matter what the prospect’s title is, you have a role to play in this relationship that is just as important as the prospect’s. Specifically, you have the right to ask questions and determine what the real business issues are. You also have the right to set a mutually acceptable agenda and establish a structure for the conversation, with clear possible outcomes that both sides agree on ahead of time. And you have the right to decide this opportunity isn’t right for you. Which brings us to…
- GO FOR THE NO. One great way to improve your confidence is to remind yourself that you may not get this piece of business… and that’s okay. Accept ahead of time that you’re not going to hear a “yes” from every prospect, and that you can’t expect to. This will take the pressure off. Assume that your job is not so much to “sell” as it is to disqualify. Be a little skeptical. Make it your goal to confirm, objectively and without getting emotionally involved, that the person you’re talking to is not qualified to buy from you. Set a target for the number of “No” responses you aim to hear in a given week. You’ll be pleasantly surprised when you hear a “yes.”