The art of selling: first listen
Misunderstanding often surrounds the art of selling. This blog explores how viewing the process through the eyes of a client can radically change your approach to sales.
Misunderstanding often surrounds the art of selling. Many of us have experienced poor selling techniques that range from aggressive pestering to clumsy pleas for our business. Even when the salesperson is charm personified, no one likes to feel pushed into something.
Selling services is no different. Clients say they hate getting random approaches from people who have made no effort to understand their situation. Pet hates can include receiving unfocused invites to this or that and generic marketing collateral. There is no surprise that many find sales experience irksome. It does not mean that they don’t want to buy - just that they want to be in control of their decision to purchase.
What does ‘being in control’ mean? Quite simply that the client has all the relevant information, is aware of their choices and feels comfortable that the professional they are dealing with really understands what is required - and can deliver on a promise. Above all, clients want a professional who does their research, is capable of listening, shows respect by doing what they say they will do and is motivated by creating value for the client.
In other words, the professional is performing all the elements of a trusted advisor before winning the work. Once you begin to understand selling as an extension to your skillset as a trusted advisor, you can start to get somewhere. After all, being successful means that a client wants to deal with you again and again. Better still, a highly satisfied client is prepared to recommend you and your services.
There is a place for acquiring the nuts and bolts of presentation skills, how to create useful pitch material rather than boastful and so forth. However, the start point is to view the act of winning business through the eyes of the client. It means taking the time to learn about the client’s situation by asking open questions and being genuinely interested in their response.
For example, you might ask:
- What are their aspirations?
- What challenges do they face?
- What are their goals?
- What is the most important thing on their agenda right now?
Asking such questions enables you to understand their pain points. A pain point is a specific problem that potential clients are experiencing. Be disciplined and pay full attention to the answers. Listen to understand their pain points instead of using the time to think of what to say next. It means being strategic in approach and selective in whatever you put before the client.
Remember that clients always have a choice. Be solution-focused, not problem-bound. You will find a point of differentiation if you begin by gaining a better appreciation of their buying experience. Listen to learn. Then you can act by creating a proposition that benefits them, and this is more likely to win you the work.