How to successfully sell anything?
Before we arrive at the tools and best practices that has been used across globe to sell successfully, we must set the context.
I am not getting into cliched arguments about, why selling is important, or how we are always selling even if we are not a sales person. All the job Interviews are about selling yourself, being an entrepreneur is about selling you idea, leadership is about selling your vision.
I assume you probably already know these. What I am going to focus on is, what makes an organization or individual successful in selling? And if that can be learnt or rather executed by anyone.
Don’t I agree, selling is different based on the product you are selling and the type of selling?
The answer is yes and a no!
Let me give you an example. When you were studying in your MBA, you may have often seen, the first couple of semesters, trimester, year or whatever time period could be, depending on where you studied. You learn a generalized version of all subjects whether finance, HR, IT, marketing etc.
Then in the later semesters you specialize in the subject you wish to pursue. Likewise sales is also like a learning journey where you need to learn the general principles first and then, based on your product or type of selling like channel sales, B2B selling or retail sales; you specialize.
In a nutshell, learn the principles, best practices and tools to successfully sell, and then you can implement it almost anywhere. Whether selling an airplane or a credit card.
Preparing the groundwork for ‘how to sell something to a customer’
You may have noticed that I have moved from sell anything to sell something. Quite a downgrade, isn’t it? Probably not. The reason is that you need to know how to sell something to a customer before you can sell anything to a customer.
One caveat though, many principles or tools here will apply to face to face selling. So you can have a look at how to successfully sell online if that were your priority, before plunging any further.
Also this article is going to be long so fasten your seat belts before you take off!
Basic requirements before you sell successfully
1. You must be reasonably healthy both physically and mentally
Notice the word reasonably not perfectly. Yes selling requires planning and meeting. Both of which require you to be in a reasonable metal and physical health. Please work on it first, if you could see a gap here.
2. You don’t trust your memory all the time
You may think you have a memory comparable to a fast SSD with lots of data. I would still urge you to get into a practice of writing down important points, things, events, person’s name. In short everything important.
3. Don’t lose your notebook
This one is a major requirement. Only getting into the habit of noting important things is not enough. You must not lose the notebook itself on which you are writing. Trust me there are many people who do exactly the same.
4. Do not pre-judge your product, company, customer, market or your ability and luck
This is very important. If you truly believe and can’t let go the fact that your product, brand, company or anything else can’t be sold and are unable to redeem yourself from the idea. Better sell something else, join another company, change the profession or whatever is applicable in your situation.
You just will not be able to sell anything unless you can be sure yourself that it can be sold.
The first customer of the product you are going to sell is you!
Enough said, I hope you get the point! Nothing is perfect and you must learn to accept that or you heed to my above suggestion of change. There will always be a better, cheaper, shinier, nicer and what not for all of the above.
It’s about having understood this and then moving ahead. You are going to sell now. I also recommend that you read ultimate guide to effective communication skills to enhance your ability to communicate. If you have taken care of the basic requirement allow me to move to
Stages of successful selling
1. Sales planning
This is the foundation of your ‘successfully sell anything’ journey. This sets the stage for all of the rest steps in selling successfully. So what are the requirements here
Product knowledge:You must know reasonably well about the product you are selling. Now again notice the word reasonably not perfectly here. Reasonable enough here means, just enough to compare with any outsider or insider that would know about your product. If you are into solution selling, you must know about the tools, stages, customization, add-on, process, options and other elements as good as any other insider knows.
The ideas is if you do not know something. Nobody else, knows that you don’t know that something!
Knowledge about competition: This one is easy, well not so much. You think you will have three to four major competitors and you are through. Well, you need to know first:
- What is it that the competitors are offering?
- Who are they offering to? know your target customers.
- How are they similar to you or how are the goods or services similar to you?
- How are they different from you? What else do they offer?
- How are you different from them? What is that you offer that competitors do not?
- What is your customer buying? Here customer means the target customers common to you and the competitors.
- Why are they buying it?
It may be useful to read the reason why customers buy. Once you have answered the following questions, move ahead to the next step after sales planning
2. Categorize your customers
Let us assume that you see a currency note of value 100 and another of value 10 lying on the road with nobody to claim it. I am not telling you to be unethical but just assume the scenario. If you were to pick one which one would that rather be?
I am sure you know the answer as well as I do. The same applies to the principle of customer categorization. You would want to target the customers who can give you maximum revenue with the least amount of efforts.
It is not being lazy but being smart. Always target the customers who can give you maximum amount of revenue with least amount of efforts.
As a prerequisite to selling successfully, you must now be in a habit of writing important things. Well you need to now, and start making a matrix of all your customers you know in the matrix given above.
Understanding the customer motivation to buy will help you in the categorization
If you are into B2B or channel selling this can be easier as you may already know your customers and difficulty of selling. If you are selling to individuals or into retail sales make a matrix with category of customers rather than the name of the customer.
For e.g a medical equipment supplier to doctors will categorize doctors based on their specialization like heart specialist, physician, dental etc. It can also be geographical location and any other category which is applicable to you. If you need help please comment or mail me and I would help you with customer categorization.
So once you have drawn the matrix, it should be clear to you that the green is to be exhausted first despite whatever your brain and heart says. Move to yellow when you are selling a niche product or high value product.
My suggestion will be to avoid the red ones. Only in rare circumstances when like in large defense deals of sorts, would a smart seller even look to sell to red ones.
3. Sales Preparation
You know your product, company and competition. You also know who are your customer and who are you targeting first.
Move to the next stage of sales preparation. More often than not the first priority of the customers will be the lowest in numbers. The low hanging fruits are less and few. You need to prepare more for them.
You need to prepare individual plan for customer in this category. One warning here though ‘Never let price be the individual plan for these customers’.
Your individual plan for each customer will start by answering following questions.
- Why will they buy from me?
- Why will they not buy form me?
- Why have they bought in past?
- Is there anything extra they are looking for before buying?
- Is there anything extra I can offer?
- Am I solving any of their problems?
- What benefit do I bring to the table
4. Prepare your Sales Pitch
Once you have answered the following questions, you need to come up with a pitch that would solve clients problem or put it this way, it will create value proposition for the client.
- Talk about benefits not advantages and features of the product Read about Features, Advantage and Benefits in selling
- Not claim anything before giving an evidence first. Let me explain. Do not say I have the highest quality product or service, if you don’t have evidence to support it. Instead focus on what benefit you are bringing to the table or what problems you are solving.
- If nothing about your goods or service is unique or rather you feel it is the case. It’s a time again to go back to sales planning stage
- Furthermore you must focus on your benefit statement and avoid telling features of the product unless asked to. For e.g You are selling a credit card that gives ten times reward points for every 100 unit of currency spent on flights. Prepare a benefit statement like you get one international travel free every year considering you travel n times. It is much more powerful than saying the 10x reward points.
5. Actual Sales meeting
Now comes the moment when all your preparations are going to give you the actual results, a successful sales. At this stage you must ensure
- Divide your sales pitch into elevator pitch and actual pitch
- An elevator pitch is a short and specific pitch about the benefit you are offering to the custoemer
- Do not get into details initially no matter how enticing it may sound. The reason is, when we meet someone we tend to use our primitive brain to process information which only is useful for survival. You need to make sure you make yourself clear with least amount of word possible.
- Move to your benefit statement and actual pitch after you and customer have settled in.
- Your main objective after the main sales pitch will be to remove any objections that you would face from customer
- Always end the meeting with a what next step. It could be a demo of your product or even a purchase order. The sales call much end with the next step clear to both you and customer.
You should also see 7 Steps to successful sales meeting
6. Building trust and relationship
Closing a sales deal is one thing and maintaining the relationship is another. It is even more important as repeat sales do not take much effort compared to repeat sales. See how to build trust
If you use the techniques listed below, you will definitely know how to sell anything and sales focus will come naturally to you. You learn by experience and with various tools. Remember you will have to keep improving and learning.
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