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Written by Andrea Barker

 

On the 28th March 2017, I had the pleasure of being invited onto Channel Radio, for the Business Bunker show, by Paul Andrews. This show is to serve and support all local businesses in Kent. This was my first, and hopefully not last, experience of being on a radio show.

You can listen to it the show no. 319 – part 1 on www.bizradio.co.uk or www.channelradio.co.uk 

Before going on the show, I asked what area of business would people like more Confidence in by doing a poll, asking if it would be in a) Sales, b) Presenting, c) Using the Telephone, or d) dealing with Conflict? Overwhelmingly it was the area of sales.

There are several reasons as to why people feel they need more confidence in this area. Sales ultimately make or break for your business, and of course is a concern. 

'Sales' is a form of presenting. Presenting is a top fear; people worry they may get it wrong, be rejected, be judged and that people won't buy from them. It also can be that they are so under pressure, from themselves or others, to perform or reach targets that may not always be realistic. This sort of pressure is picked up on very quickly by customers or potential customers.

If you do fear getting it 'wrong' what you're really saying is, that you would like to get it right! This a good thing for your customer, so how do you make sure you get it right? How do you get over the fear, or lack of confidence with sales? Below are some basic points

Firstly – Try to take yourself, and how worried you may feel about sales, out of the equation, as your primary concern, isn't You, it's about your customer and what they Want or Need from your product or service. Your focus is better being on how your customer feels, what their worries and concerns may be, their possible barriers. They are looking to you or your product, to be their solution. They want to be Confident in YOU! If you are focused on yourself, then your focus is not on them.

Think about what you appreciate when buying something. What is good service to you? What encourages you to buy from one provider over another, maybe again and again?

Knowing your product or service inside out, helps you naturally feel more confident, than if you're not sure. As with anything, we definitely feel more confident with what we know well. So, get to know all you can, where or who to get the required information from, any potential pitfalls and common questions customers may ask, so you can pre-empt them, not avoid or gloss over them. Integrity and transparency is important. Your customer is looking to YOU, to know your product, your service, your company. 

Don't be worried if a customer asks you a question you are not sure of, it is better to say 'I want to be sure I give you the right information, let me clarify / confirm / check...' nothing wrong with that at all. Then do follow up, promptly. Better than plucking things out of the air, or making promises that cannot be fulfilled. For example – ‘yes we can deliver in 3 weeks’ without knowing for certain, only to find out it will be 6 weeks. Customer expectations are usually pretty high, and it is up to You, to manage the expectations ensuring they are realistic, not only from your side, but also what may be required from the customer, to ensure you can deliver.

Customers are always wanting to know WIIFM - What's In It For ME?

Are you their 'Solution? What are the Benefits? even if they are already basically sold on the product or service, researched it, and like it, they want to know why buy form you? what extra Value will you deliver? This might be a friendly service, good after sales, a guarantee, and not what are the freebies? People will pay extra for a good service, and come back and refer on.

A friend had gone to buy a relatively high end car, and had a good idea what they wanted, but the sales person did not listen to them and tried to sell them a different model, that didn't serve their needs. The friend left without purchasing a car, feeling disappointed. When the sales person rang for a follow up a few days later, they found out that their potential customer had gone elsewhere, a competitor, and spent more, due to getting the right service and being treated like a person, not a sales target.

Inform – don’t ‘Sell’ and definitely do not pressure sell a customer. Let your customers have all the information they need, to make their decision, an informed one, when you invite them to do so. Asking the ultimate question as to whether they would like to buy your product or service, without the customer feeling under pressure, is crucial, and expected, otherwise you have just had a well-informed chat. Also having ‘calls to action’ on your website are an ‘invite to buy’

Before getting to this stage it requires you to LISTEN to your customer, actively listen to them, take their cues, and ask the right questions based on the information they are giving you, to let them know, you are thinking about them, their needs and requirements, not just the next sale. Too many people in sales have or are given a script, and have an agenda, where they talk at a customer. 

Sometimes your customer is not entirely sure what they want, and they are looking for guidance, your expertise. Uncovering what is important to them in regards to the product or service, or even beyond the product or service e.g. feeling safe. What the product or service needs to do for them, or their family, helps you and them get to the right product or service for them, which may not necessarily be yours!

Think about your customer and treat them how you would expect a loved relative of yours to be treated; With Honesty, Integrity and Respect. With a little thought this is easily achieved. Be genuine and interested in them. They may not buy from you straight away or at all, but could know many people who would. Receiving referrals is a gold stamp of approval.

How you present yourself personally is important, whether showing pride in your work clothing / branding, or in own clothes. Be smart, clean, and fresh, (you would be dressed appropriate to the industry you are in).

Your body language is important too. Yours needs to be open and friendly, have decent eye contact, but more importantly be aware of theirs; have they lost interest? are they distracted? or feeling defensive / unsure? Be aware of not being in their space, and allow them some time to think and possible converse with who they are with. Listening, and watching for non verbal cues is a great skill to have, as is knowing when to be quiet, some silence allows respectful thinking time, or a customer will quite often want to fill the gap.

Studies suggest that body language accounts for 55% of how we process information, we do most of this sub-consciously, 38% is tone and pace of voice and 7% is are the words said.

On the phone, you only have pace and tone of voice to go by. Smiling and standing whilst on the phone is effective, making your tone of voice better. When on the phone remember to listen, people are in the habit of answering the phone automatically, even when too busy to take the call; listen to their tone and pace of voice, if you can hear they are busy, say ‘I can hear you are busy, when is the best time for me to call back?’ one of two things will happen, they will apologise and concentrate, or be grateful and give you a better time to call, confirm this, make sure you can call back then at that time, and DO.

Also be aware that some people are listening to what you say, Auditory, if the product is about sound then doubly important, for some it is more what they see, Visual, so they may be looking at you, but want to see the product, read information, see how it works, see the colours etc… and others are more focused on how things feel, Kinaesthetic, so may want to feel the product, sit on it, in it, work it themselves. We are generally a mixture, but may have a preference.

Clarify often with the customer and ask things like ‘what is important to you?’ ‘Have I covered what you need?’ ‘Is there anything more you need to know?’ ‘Is that okay for you?’ ‘Do you have any concerns?’ ‘is there anyone else involved in the decision making?’ ‘what can I do to ensure you have all the information you need?’ These types of questions are endless, you will pick the right ones for you customer, if you are listening to them, and allowing them to speak. If you are doing all the talking, that is not a good sign.

An interesting question is: When does the sales process start? Is it when the customer first rings you or calls in? In most cases - no. The sales process starts before then, when the customer first starts contemplating what they want, they will rely on many things; Past experience, what they already know, what who they know, knows! A referral goes a long way in providing TRUSTED recommendation. Testimonials, written and by word of mouth; what is the product or service like? Ease of sale? or is your service provided in such a way as to relieve stress for the customer to help them overcome something? Are you fulfilling their need, are you the solution? Do you deliver, when you say? what is the after care? Do you sell, then drop them, or follow up? how are complaints dealt with? They may research on your website or other social media, or actively look for reviews.

This whole process is termed ‘The Client Journey’ their overall experience. The sales process starts way before the customer even thinks about buying from you. Your job as a business, as an employee, as an individual, is to ensure the whole process for the client is as good as it can be, at every stage, offering value at every level and being open and honest with them if things have not come up to scratch, and ensuring a more than satisfactory resolution. There are the odd customers that will never be fully satisfied, and possibly take up a lot of your time, it takes confidence to suggest they may possibly be better going elsewhere, where they can get the service they require.

Another important factor is how you or your staff 'Present' or Represent your business, not just when in the business, answering the phone, on the website and literature etc… but also when away from the business, this can drastically affect sales, especially in the days of social media, if you are saying for example, ‘we value our customers’ and you or a member of staff is heard complaining about a customer, or worse it is on social media, this affects trust, you or the company are then not seen as congruent, in valuing and looking after your customers.

On a practical level for You:

Believe in yourself and your strengths and abilities.

Arm yourself with all the knowledge you need, and be more than happy to attend training or source what you are not sure of, or know presently. Each customer, will be bring good and some challenging valuable learning opportunities

Smile, be curious and interested in your customer. Show enthusiasm and passion in what you do. Pride yourself in offering the best service you can, it will show and pay dividends, and you will feel good about yourself knowing you did your best for the customer.

Stand tall with confidence, in the knowledge that you know more about your amazing product and service than your customer does.

Finally – enjoy being with your customers, they are people like you and those close to you, don’t be afraid of them and worry about making ‘the sale’. They are more likely to buy from you if they think you are interested in them. That you are knowledgeable and care about the product or service you are delivering, are open and honest and that they FEEL they can trust you. 

 

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