I was walking out of a colony after meeting a friend a few days ago. At its gate, I came across a sign which I’ve seen many times – Salesmen and Hawkers not allowed.
This got me wondering: if sales process are essential for the seller and buyer to benefit, why do salespeople have such poor reputations? Why do most people turn away from salesmen instead of listening to what they have to say? What are the key sales skills needed to show buyers the value of the product or service?
The Problem with Sales Activities Today
In the early 90s, “Always be closing” became a popular mantra. Even today, it remains popular among salespeople and sales managers. But it’s no longer acceptable to prospects and customers.
In the 90s, people weren’t half as bombarded with sales pitches as they are today. Nor did they have half as much access to information as they have today. This is why people have averse to being sold to. They see most salespeople as used-car salesmen who simply care about their numbers and not about the customers’ best interests.
But like in everything in life, Pareto’s Law is prevalent in sales as well. Twenty per cent of salespeople bring in 80 per cent of sales. The number could vary like 40-60, 30-70, or even 90-10 in some categories. But it averages out to the 20-80 Rule.
What key sales skills do these successful salespeople possess?
Apart from following up consistently and effectively, there is another aspect: two words which open many doors for them.
The 2 Words That Almost Guarantee a Great Sale
Another mantra that became popular in the 90s was “Get them to say ‘Yes.’” It became so popular that a similarly titled book became a bestseller among salespeople and negotiators.
The logic of the mantra was that if you made the opposite party say “yes” enough times, they would get convinced about your point of view.
So all sales professional rushed to “push” their products on customers. They told customers that their products were the best in the world. They highlighted features and benefits and ended up with a question – “Am I right?” In other words, they wanted customers to say, “you’re right.”
I don’t know how effective this strategy was in the 80s and 90s, but it doesn’t work today. Here’s why.
Think about the times when you’ve said “you’re right” to someone. It could’ve been because you genuinely thought they were right. But it could also have been because you partly agreed and disagreed with their points of view. In such cases, “you’re right” was followed with a “but…”
It could also have been because you weren’t convinced about their views but just wanted to end the discussion.
Which are the other times when you say “you’re right” to people? Do leave a comment.
On each instance, think about how you felt. (When I say you’re right many times, it’s because I feel like the other person is not listening to me, and continuing the conversation doesn’t make sense because I’ve already made up my mind.)
Most salespeople fall into the trap of getting prospects to say, “you’re right.” As a result, they talk so much that they put customers off.
But highly effective salespeople do the opposite. They make customers say, “that’s right.” It’s a subtle difference in words but a huge difference in meaning.
When we say “that’s right”, it means we fully agree with the other person. And this happens when their views match ours.
This is the important sales skill that differentiates effective sales teams from the rest. They ask meaningful questions and listen to their prospects. Then they paraphrase what their prospects said in their own words and ask, “Is this right?” The prospect responds with, “that’s right.”
“That’s right” makes customers feel heard and understood. It makes them comfortable and assured that the salesperson has their best interest at heart. As a result, they’re open to hearing the solution which the good salesperson offers to their problems.
Get Them to Say “That’s Right”
People don’t want products; they want solutions. People don’t want to know about features and benefits; they want to know how a product will solve a pressing problem in their lives. And you can only explain how this happens when you know what their pressing problems are.
I still go out on sales calls. Each time a prospect tells me, “Limesh bhai, aap mere problems samajhte ho (Limesh, you understand my problems),” I know that half my job is done. It’s my version of “that’s right.”
Ask customers about their challenges. Then rephrase them to confirm that you’ve understood the same. Once they say “that’s right”, you can customize your sales pitch to make it all about them.
With time, you’ll get so good at knowing your customers’ challenges that you’ll also know many pain points in their lives which they themselves are not aware of.
Imagine what kind of an expert they’ll see you as and how much they’ll trust you after that!