I don’t know about you, but my eyes tend to glaze over when I’m presented with a multi-step process for anything. Does a sales conversation really need to be that complicated?
Only if you want it to be!
A sales conversation isn’t all that different from any other conversation. Yes, you have a sales as the ultimate end goal, but the framework for a perfect sales conversation isn’t too different from a conversation with a friend.
Here’s what it looks like:
Your conversation with a friend may not involve as much problem solving, but it will certainly begin with something current (that’s rapport building), then move to a catch-up (review), and only then will begin to get to the meat of what you or your friend really want to discuss. Solving problems is something friends naturally want to help with if they can.
See? You already know how to do this!
How does it change when it’s a sales conversation?
Let’s break it down.
Here’s where you want to connect with your client or prospect on anything that you have in common or that you already know about him or her.
For example, if you already know that your client is a big football fan, you’ll want to catch up on how his team is doing in the playoffs. Ask him questions about things that you know are important to him. Failing that, you can always fall back on a shared experience (folks, this is why so many people talk about the weather!).
Clarify what you already know about the prospect’s issue or concern. Has anything changed? Is there additional information that would be helpful for you to know?
This is an overview of where he’s headed and what’s in the way. Here’s where you’ll deploy your questioning and listening skills the most.
In this part of the conversation you’ll want to ask questions to deepen your understanding and to ensure you’ve gotten to the real issue. You’ll need to choose compelling questions that will move your conversation towards opportunities that you can solve. Connecting your questions to your USPs is the key.
However, this can be difficult when your prospect hasn’t always fully articulated the real issue to himself!
I hate to bring in an overused analogy, but this is a classic case of peeling the onion. The more thoughtful and compelling your questions are, the closer you will get to the real issue and a the confirmation that the solution is one you can provide.
Only once you and your prospect agree on the real problem to be solved can you begin to explore potential solutions. In your sales conversation this may only take the form of an initial advisory or brainstorm with the prospect. You may want to consult with your colleagues or do further research before you present a full solution to your prospect.
It’s good practice to have planned out your conversation in advance, especially if there is an agenda you can share with your client.
When you share the agenda with your client you can easily obtain permission to discuss the specific things you want to cover, as well as giving your client the opportunity to bring up things they want to discuss.
More importantly, to be truly successful in a sales conversation, you must absolutely possess a genuine curiosity and a willingness to serve. And you must be authentic in the conversation.
I don’t believe in scripts and step by step processes (customers never stay on script!), but I do believe that this easy, natural framework, like a conversation with a friend, is the pathway to success.
Your perfect sales conversation doesn’t need to be anything more complicated than that.
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