Focus on Filling Customers Needs
The better your product or service fits your customers' needs, the more sales you will have. When customers know you sincerely care about what they want and need, they will feel secure that they are making the right decision in buying from you.
By clearly identifying the needs of your customers, you can also confirm whether or not they are part of your target market. Even if they really do not require what you have, you can still build trust and improve your relationship by being candid and referring them to a more suitable resource. You never know when this good deed will return to you in the form of highly qualified referral business.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
One of the best ways to obtain pertinent details about a customer's needs is to ask questions that elicit information, rather than a simple "yes" or "no." The classic interview questions are: Who, what, when, where, why and how. For example, "who will be using this product?", or "when will you be ready to make a decision?". While you are asking, also respond at appropriate times by linking key product or service benefits with the prospect's stated requirements. The result is an interactive conversation where information is exchanged and both parties expand their knowledge.
Sometimes it might be appropriate to elicit certain specifics. For example, "how long have you been in business?" Don't be afraid to ask such closed-ended questions. They can be quite useful, even though they don't provide the in-depth information acquired from open-ended queries. Open and closed ended questions were often used in the outmoded formula style of selling, but with a more insidious goal of finding out enough information so the sale could be made - whether or not it was beneficial to the customer. In contrast, as a sales professional focused on building relationships, you are operating in a context of integrity and trust with the goal of having customers for the long-term, not just for the moment.
Listen More Than You Talk
Something magical happens when people give their undivided attention to others, without interrupting or focusing on what they are going to say next. This is true whether the environment is professional or personal. However, it is often overlooked in the context of establishing a business relationship, much to the detriment of the seller. After all, if you do all the talking, you will never learn anything about your prospect.
When you listen more than you talk, customers realize you are genuinely interested in them, and that you are trying to understand their specific situation. They feel more comfortable with you, and will soon realize you are on their side. Make active listening a regular practice, and you will find it much easier to create excellent relationships with your customers.
Useful Selling Techniques
Although selling by rote formula is no longer appropriate in today's environment, some simple techniques can be very effective when properly applied in the context of creating business relationships. You can focus on building trust all day,? but if you don't ask for what you want, you still won't make the sale.
For example, you might have made a good connection with a fellow industry organization member, but there will be no possibility of a sale unless you spend some time discussing how the two of you might have a match. In a retail environment, it could be as simple as introducing yourself to customers, rather than staying behind the counter and ignoring their presence.
Another traditional technique is understanding and using body language. Knowing how to interpret prospects' folded arms or eye contact could give you much-needed information about how comfortable they are with you, or how ready they are to make a purchase decision. Also, when you know how to use body language appropriately, you can communicate your interest, concern or enthusiasm without words. It is well known that communication is 50 percent body language, 40 percent tone of voice, and 10 percent the actual words used.
Dealing with Rejection
One of the main reasons small business owners dislike selling is that they don't like to get rejected. This is a basic and very understandable human reaction. However, excluding financial considerations, people generally say "no" for one of three basic reasons: They don't like you, they don't trust you, or what you are offering is not what they want or need. Aside from the fact that not everybody will like you, if you have done your job, focused on building trust, and made sure that there is a fit between you and the prospect, you will rarely hear "no." At worst, the timing will not be quite right, or you may be referred to other people who might respond positively.
Many entrepreneurs have their survival directly linked with the success of their operation, which makes rejection very serious indeed. When starting out, make sure you have at least a 12-month cushion of money for living expenses while you are building your business.
Then try focusing on the "numbers game" aspect of selling to put things in perspective. The truth is that you need to be engaged in a number of selling "conversations" at any one time in order to reach your desired goals. Not all of these conversations lead to immediate sales, and you will normally have to replace approximately 10 percent of your customer base every year, as people move, change jobs or go out of business. So make a game of it. While you are busy building relationships, make sure you are building enough of them. Focusing on the game aspect can help diminish your feelings of rejection every time someone says "no." You will be better able to move on to the next prospect, knowing you made your best effort.
A Different Framework for Selling
Although a lot has been written recently about relationship selling, the concept itself is not new. The principles involved have always worked, and are even more important in today's highly service-oriented market environment.
Relationship selling does not consist of a simple set of techniques you have to master. It is a way of conducting yourself in the business world that is flexible, cooperative and professional. When selling in a context of building healthy relationships, you are operating as an ethical, considerate and helpful human being. You are also building your communication and other personal development skills. This is not only satisfying, but also quite effective in creating a steady stream of sales for your business.