“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.” – David Ogilvie
Although the definition of a sale is simple enough, the process of turning someone into a buyer can be very complex. It requires you to convince someone with a potential interest that there is something for them in making their interest concrete – something that merits spending some of their hard-earned money.
Understanding the Talk
Like any profession, sales have their own special vocabulary. There’s nothing particularly difficult about the language of sales. Mastering it just takes a little study and practice. Knowing the language will make you feel more confident and prepared to start selling.
Types of Sales
Here are some characteristics of the different types of sales.
• Telemarketing. In theory, the telephone allows you to reach just about anyone on the planet. In practice, however, many people screen their calls and it is often difficult to get through to a real person. If you use the phone for sales, have a brief curiosity-building message ready to leave on the voice mail of potential customers.
• Direct mail. Believe it or not, a one percent response rate for direct mail is considered average. Despite these long odds, many companies still rely heavily on direct mail to generate sales.
• E-mail. Legitimate e-mail selling is different from spam, the “carpet bombing” approach that sends messages to thousands or millions of people whether or not they have expressed any interest in the product being hyped. If you use e-mail for selling, try to put something in the “subject” line of your message that will attract attention and keep people from deleting the message without reading it.
• The Internet. Most companies offer information about their products on their websites, whether or not they actually do any selling online. If you are in person-to-person sales, you need to be very familiar with what your company says about its products online. The growing interest in social networking sites, such as Facebook, offers new opportunities for online sales.
• Person-to-person. Most sales are still conducted face to face. When you eat at a restaurant, check into a hotel, or buy bananas in a grocery store, you are the customer in a person-to-person sales transaction. Since this is the most common type of sales, most of this book is devoted to it.
Common Sales Approaches
More on the three approaches discussed in this activity:
• Consultative approach. This is a long-term approach to sales. It may not lead to sales right away, but by building a relationship with a client it aims to create sales opportunities in the future. The more you learn about a client, the better able you are to understand the client’s wants and needs. It is an approach which depends upon trust – you trust that the customer will see the benefits of buying from you and they trust that you will give them the correct steer. The danger with this approach is that you may spend a considerable amount of time building a relationship and then having nothing to show for it. By building a relationship, however, you increase the chances of large-scale and repeat business.
• Hard sell. Many people are turned off by this approach. They consider it too pushy. This approach is used most often with clients who have a hard time making up their minds. It is only advisable to use the hard sell in a one-off setting where time is at a premium – if they don’t buy now; you are not likely to see them again. Therefore it is “now or never”.
• Technical sales. This approach is used most often with highly technical products and services. Sales personnel need some technical knowledge so that they will be on an equal footing with clients. The client will have a clear idea of what they are looking for, and a checklist of priorities. You will point them towards a range of items which meet those priorities – if not entirely then as well as possible. You may offer a personal opinion based on an understanding that you know what they want and they know you have enough product knowledge to point them in the right direction.
Glossary of Common Terms
• Close/closing. It is the second to last step in the sales process. In this step, the salesperson encourages the customer to sign the order. In the past, salespeople often became pushy at this stage, but customers are more sophisticated these days and they don’t respond well to aggressive attempts to close a deal.
• Cold calling. The first phone call made to a prospective client.
• Customer relationship management (CRM). A system for managing the entire sales relationship with a client. Computerized CRM systems record all customer contacts, purchases, returns, etc.
• Decision maker. The person in an organization who has the authority to agree to a sale.
• Networking. An increasingly popular method of finding prospects based on referrals and introductions.
• Prequalifying clients. Determining if potential clients are actually worthwhile prospects.
• Qualifying clients. The process of getting to know potential customers — who they are, what they do, what they need.
• Sales funnel. A pattern that describes the conversion of prospects into sales. Many prospects enter the funnel at the top, but only a few are converted to sales. (This analogy is actually flawed because in a real funnel everything that goes in the top comes out the bottom.) The term “sales pipeline” has a similar meaning.
• Warm calling. Calls made after the initial contact with a customer, often in response to a call from the customer.