This ties directly back to the skill of listening. Before any product or service is offered, evaluating the situation is required first.
- The meeting has been scheduled and the day has arrived for you to meet your customer to discuss what their needs are and, hopefully, how you can assist them. It does seem so obvious, but before you can do anything, you have to ask the right questions to assess their needs. Too often, salespeople are anxious to jump in and talk about their own companies, projects they've done for other clients, or assume too quickly what the customer needs. So, before you jump right in with your customer, I want to share with you four basic and simple, yet so often mishandled, critical steps that are required.
They are: ask questions, listen closely, take good notes, clarify and reconfirm. If you've done your planning and preparation properly, it will automatically trigger some follow-up questions that you'll need to ask. At this stage, a good salesman is like a good investigative reporter. You ask questions that don't lead to yes or no responses, but questions that give the opportunity for the customer to speak and explain. It's not asking, how's business? It's asking something like, what are some of the issues you're facing in the marketplace? Once you've asked your questions, you have to listen closely.
I always have four to five key questions ready to ask before I see any customer, especially a new one. Hearing their answers will uncover many things about their business that will give you a greater understanding of what obstacles and opportunities they're seeing in the marketplace. This information will definitely benefit you in the long run. Another often-overlooked step is taking good notes. Sometimes we think we'll remember everything that people say and, frankly, that just isn't the case. Use your laptop, tablet, or pen and paper to take good notes, as these are details you'll need to record so you can assess the needs of the customer.
Finally, as they open up and converse with you, this will lead to other questions that will enable you to clarify, reconfirm, and focus more specifically on what solution or product might work for them. If you're truly focused and listening carefully, these follow-up questions will easily surface. The job of a salesperson is make the buyer, along with the company that they work for, successful, profitable, and happy. A salesperson wants to establish a foundation for a long-term relationship.
It's during this stage that the client is also assessing you, seeing how prepared you are, how much you know about them, and if you're asking good questions and are actually listening. This is how the initial phase of trust and credibility is built between a salesperson and the buyer. Remember, you aren't selling anything yet. You're asking questions, taking notes, and you're getting a clearer picture of the needs of the buyer and the organization. Many times, it may be totally different than what you originally thought.
You may even be surprised that they need even more of what your company offers. As you're listening, you'll begin a mental checklist of some of the solutions you may be able to offer during the next stage. This part of the process can be frustrating for many new salespeople because we're not selling at all, we're listening, assessing the needs of the buyer, and beginning to formulate solutions or product matches isn't the most glamorous part of the sales process. But without this step done properly, a sale can rarely be made.
Assessing the need and formulating potential solutions is a critical building block to the foundation of closing a sale.
- Gathering information
- Assessing needs
- Presenting and selling your product or service
- Delivering on your promises
- Following up with your customer
- Reporting and communicating back to your company
- Improving your process continually
- Learning from other sales processes
- Applying your sales process to other aspects of your life