In theory, sales are easy. You have an excellent product or service, you tell a prospect all about it, and they are persuaded by your passion and ask to sign on the dotted line. Simple, right?
Yet, in practice, the sales process is never as cut-and-dry as that. Instead, it is a fluid and flexible process that can change depending on the person on the other side of the table. Now, that doesn't mean you don't have control over the conversation — you absolutely should – it just means that you'll need to adapt your sales approach for each prospect to appeal to their values and needs.
While you do need to be adaptable, it helps to have a framework of the sales process to guide you along the way. Here are the six steps of making a sale so you can be more productive and confident in your next sales meeting.
1. Ask and listen
Questioning is a vital skill in communication; the ability to ask the right questions is invaluable, as it allows you to get into the mind of your client. By asking questions, you can obtain information, clarify details, and learn more about who your client is to understand them better. To do this, you need to ask the right kind of questions — in particular, open-ended ones. Close-ended (yes-or-no) questions don't let you dig in deep, whereas open-ended questions elicit more in-depth responses. It's not about blue vs. pink, but about the WHY behind the decision.
Here are some general open-ended questions you can use to explore your client’s intentions:
- “How do you feel about this?”
- “What do you think of that style?”
- “Can you explain why you chose that?”
- “Tell me your views on this issue.”
2. Educate your client
It’s easy to assume that today’s client is more informed than ever, thanks to the accessibility of the Internet. You’d be right in that assumption, but that’s not to say that any client is fully informed. More informed still leaves room for gaps, so they’ll look to you to fill them in. After all, who better to guide them towards smart decisions than you, the expert in the field?
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3. Know the client’s needs
Before you can give a client what they want, you first need to understand their needs and the motivation behind them. For example, if you're meeting with a corporate client and mention that they recently won an award, they're going to be impressed that you did your homework. Take some time to dig into a client so you can know the type of person or organization you're working with, along with their values and preferences.
4. Present solutions
Once you’ve thoroughly researched a client and gotten a grasp on their needs, it’s time to prepare your ideas to show them. Tailor to their needs and always bear in mind that this event is about the client — not you. Listen to their input and pay attention to what they have to say. At the same time, don’t be a ‘yes’ person and go along with everything they say; they’re relying on your expertise, so you need to guide them towards the event of their dreams.
5. Gain their trust
This is arguably the hardest step in the sales process, as gaining someone’s trust is difficult (just like giving someone your trust). When a prospective client walks in the door, they come in thinking you're just another salesperson trying to make a few bucks off of them. It would be best if you turned that mindset around by showing your genuine interest and building rapport. If you can, schedule your meetings in a comforting, welcoming environment where they can feel at ease. You need to show them that this new relationship revolves around them and their desires, and you'll do anything to provide them with the best day of their lives.
6. Close the sale
Now, this is naturally the most critical step — it's the difference between booking new business and losing someone to a competitor. It's not enough to build rapport, you need to close the deal with them. Fortunately, you don't need to do much here if you've abided by the first five steps. If you've followed the sequence as mentioned above, closing the sale becomes a no-brainer. There is no one-liner or magic word; you're just ready to get started on the paperwork so you can dig into the planning details.
Jot these steps down on a sticky note and stick it on your desk, so you can see it and remember the process the next time you’re preparing for a sales meeting. By the time you have your initial consultation, you’ll be well on your way towards closing the sale and winning over a new client.