Are you still using the old sales techniques that you learned when you began selling? Do they not seem to be working for you anymore? The truth is, in order to keep up with the new millennium's fast-paced competition, we need to leave our old sales techniques behind. These new school selling concepts are the wave of the future -- you need them to save your business, to retain your existing customers, and establish new ones.
In the old school of selling, sales representatives were taught skills that dealt more with tasks than with purposes. Their training and levels of expertise were in the areas of prospecting, influencing, demonstration techniques and dozens of nifty closing statements or ploys. From my early days selling copiers, I can remember having to memorize a script on how to demonstrate the copier -- complete with hand motions!
And who can forget those famous "closing scenarios"? Closing is important, and you still need to ask for the order. However, closing today is not a single statement event. It is a process that starts the very moment you introduce yourself to your customer.
For the most part, the old school sales representative is weak in the areas of qualifying and first impressions. We used to be taught that to make a good first impression you needed to strike up a conversation about the latest football game, or talk about something relative to pictures hanging on the wall. This was supposed to help develop a personal relationship.
The truth is that most customers today don't have time for that. Their time is so valuable that if you don't instantly prove to them that you have the potential to become an invaluable resource, you're history. If you've gone out to dinner with a prospect or customer, of course, social conversations are important. But in the workplace, stick to business.
So -- how do you develop an invaluable relationship in today's world? The answer lies in the way you attract the interest of your customer, and in the kind of qualifying you do early on in the sales call. Attracting attention is not simply a matter of making arresting "opening statements." Intriguing and interesting questions will also attract the customer's attention. The right kinds of questions will dramatically and effectively raise the possibility that you just may be that invaluable resource.
For some reason, we salespeople feel most comfortable when we are speaking. We feel we are in control. The truth of the matter is we are less in control of the relationship when we are speaking. The strength you need comes from being attentive to the answers from the questions you ask.
The old school of sales also concentrated on closing new business, rather than on nurturing existing business so that they would provide greater sources of revenue. That's why many industries, including the telecommunication industry, are suffering from the "churn" syndrome: a constant influx of new customers, while existing customers are heading in another direction. Here, customer is loyal only until a better offer comes along.
Imagine what could happen if you created your own "positive churn effect" by luring away your competitor's customers? Not by lowering your prices or providing monetary incentives, but by acting as the invaluable resource they've always needed? Your existing customers will be likely to stay put, because the relationship they have with you - a trusted professional ally -- will be so important that they won't want to give it up. Your business in this case will only become susceptible to competitive pressures when your competition offers a better overall relationship than you offer. By relentlessly monitoring your customers' needs and wants, you will be able to then make the appropriate modifications to your service offering, and stay ahead of your competition.
In the new school of selling, the most effective salespeople are concentrating more on purpose than on task. They are more interested in what happens on the sales call than in simply carrying out the act of making them. They concentrate on aligning themselves with their customer's goals and challenges, in order to be perceived as being an invaluable resource -- someone the customer wouldn't switch from unless a better overall relationship emerged. The results are an increase in sales from existing customers and an increase in profitability, as the buying decision moves away from being commodity-based and toward a value-based model. This of course does not mean that you can charge exorbitant prices; you still have to be competitive. But you won't always have to be the lowest cost supplier.
Building your business by aligning it with your customer's goals, by finding out where your customer is going, and by giving your customers what they need, in the way they want it, works for all sectors in our economy today, period. That's one of the most profitable concepts you can adopt for the new millennium -- for yourself and your customers.
© 1999 by Karr Associates, Inc.
This article is excerpted from Karr's Titan Principle™- The Number One Secret to Sales Success. Ron Karr is a professional speaker, consultant, trainer and author who specializes in helping organizations to dominate their marketplace and assisting individuals to get closer to the people they serve. Call 800-423-5277, fax 201- 461-5621, or visit Ron's website, http://www.ronkarr.com, for information on results-oriented services and learning tools (including his books, The Titan Principle™- The Number One Secret to Sales Success and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Great Customer Service).