Summer at TGA Premier Junior Golf is synonymous with one word for me – sales. I’m responsible for the company’s franchise development and this is always our busy season as franchise candidates want to start the business prior to the new school year. This year we decided to significantly increase our advertising budget, so the quantity of leads is even larger than normal and the profile of inquiring candidates has changed due to these efforts.
Thus, right now I’m doing little besides thinking about – and talking about – sales.
Sales skills are worth developing because everything in the professional world involves them. Whether you’re selling a product to a customer, selling a service to a business, selling a co-worker on the best way to do something, selling a superior on a project idea – everyone in the workforce is selling something to someone.
And sales is not the dirty concept that many make it out to be. When people think of sales, they often think of that caricature of a slick, slimy and shady used car salesman. But in reality, sales is a beautiful thing. It generates the revenue that makes business possible and creates the jobs in finance, accounting, HR, etc.
Additionally, the best salespeople are a customer’s best friend because they solve problems and kill pains. How great is that?
I’ve been fortunate to have had several recent conversations with folks who are very talented at sales. Since this is the lifeblood of any entrepreneurial endeavor, I wanted to share with you a couple of the key points (in addition to the 10 Commandments of Sales featured above, which I LOVE) that have been helpful to me.
Sell to a Pain
Figure out what the customer’s pain/problem is.
Sometimes the pain is obvious – i.e. a lady goes to McDonald’s because she is hungry.
Sometimes the pain is not obvious – i.e. a lady goes to a car dealership … but why? Is she starting a family and in need of a bigger car? Has her old car deteriorated to the point where she needs a new one? Is she going through a midlife crisis and in need of a sportscar to make her feel better? Was she recently laid off, causing her to need a cheaper car? Did she get a big promotion and now she wants to show off her new status class? Etc.
The best way to sell to a pain is to ask questions and engage the customer in a two-way conversation. Focus not on the product’s features or your standard “pitch,” but rather find out what pain/problem is driving the customer’s motivation to talk to you – and then focus on how your product or service solves that pain.
Some great initial exploratory questions for the customer (with the corresponding question being answered for the salesperson in parenthesis) include:
Earn the right to learn about the customer
- What brings you in today? (What’s the pain?)
- What about this product/service caught your attention? (What features of our product/service should I focus on?)
- Have you been looking at other similar products/services? If so, which ones and what have been your feelings so far? (Who am I selling against and how much do they know about the market?)
- Are you looking into this for you or someone else? (Is it your pain or someone else’s I need to solve?)
Customers control the money and usually have many options, so they come to you, the seller, seeking information. They expect to be the one asking questions. They expect to be sold. They do not expect to be the ones getting interviewed.
Thus, you have to earn the right to dig down into the secondary and tertiary levels of their pain and their subsequent motivation for talking to you. To do this, you need to build a level of comfort and trust. Be an expert on the company and product. Be friendly. Show that you’re concerned with solving that person’s problem, not with making a sale (which sometimes requires pointing them in a different direction if you’re not a great fit). Most importantly, be authentic.
A good process to follow when working with a customer is this:
- Start the conversation by speaking generally. Focus on the typical pains your product solves. Speak passionately. Get the person excited. Stay at a 50k foot level.
- Ask a few gentle questions (reference above).
- Provide a brief overview of the company and product.
- Ask questions as a lead in to talking about features. i.e. “Do you listen to music a lot when you drive?” If the answer is “yes” you know to highlight the awesome stereo system. If the answer is “no” you know to move on to other features that the customer will find more relevant.
- Work on the customer’s timeframe and don’t be pushy about changing it.
- Say what you do and do what you say.
Keep in mind that everyone in the workforce is a salesperson to some degree and sales is about solving pains and problems. If you approach sales with this mentality and are authentic about wanting to help people - whether it's a customer, colleague, supplier, superior, etc. - you’ll likely see a lot of long-term success in the business world.
I hope these thoughts help you down the road to happy entrepreneuring.