Tactics for Tapping into the Customer’s Perspective

Last week I posted a blog explaining why I believe that understanding the buyer’s perspective is one of the most important keys to selling.  Today’s post is a follow up to that post because I want to take this opportunity to offer some tactics for tapping into the buyer’s (i.e., the customer’s) perspective.

Learning and adapting to the issues and whims of the buyer while moving the sale forward to a conclusion is a complex and intricate task.  Attentive listening can help you, the seller, determine if the buyer is putting you off or merely attending to pressing internal demands.  Personality profiling (come back on Monday, July 22nd for details about Personality Profiling) also helps by giving you knowledge about how to craft your sales and reporting program to the style of communication most comfortable to the client.  All customers like to be communicated with in a manner that is most familiar to them, and knowing their personality profiles helps the seller customize a sales approach for each unique individual.  One form of customer communication is the product presentation, which has a strong influence in a successful sale.

Andy Bounds, from Liverpool, England, is a sales communication expert who reminds us that the ” . . . prospect is really interested in the total opposite of most commonly delivered product presentations.  The prospect really only cares about his or her own present and future, whereas most presentations focus on the seller’s past and product features.”  Andy reminds us to talk about what the product will do for the customer rather than its features.  His favorite phrase is, “Customers don’t care what you do; they care about what they’re left with AFTER you’ve done it.”  He uses the word “after” to keep the product presentation focused on the customer’s needs, and recommends the following customer-oriented questions:

  • “What are you looking to achieve after our work together?”
  • “What would success look like to you as a result of this project?”
  • “Looking back a year from now, what will need to happen for you to think things have gone brilliantly?”

Nothing works perfectly every time, and being able to read the customer’s buying signals is crucial to making necessary course corrections that meet the customer’s top-of-mind concerns.  The state of the selling art allows masterful salespeople to combine a little science with human relation strategies to create a wonderful buying experience for the consumer, while still maximizing the seller’s commission.  Most of the time, timing is everything, which is why we wanted to take the time to share several concepts, strategies, and techniques to help you land the hesitant customer in front of you (whose hesitation may have nothing to do with your product).

Are there some additional tactics for tapping into the customer’s perspective which you’ve personally had success using?  If so, I’m eager to hear them–please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

Tiffanie Kellog: Facts May Tell But Stories Sell

I’ve done quite a few video blogs with Tiffanie Kellog and there’s a very good reason for that . . . she is an outstanding Referral Institute® Trainer, Consultant, & Speaker and she has an unending supply of highly useful ideas and comments to offer.

In this video, I talk with Tiffanie about the power of using compelling stories as testimonials for your products and/or services.  Everyone who makes an effort to build their business through referral marketing has the same goal–to have all those in their network talking positively about their business on their behalf.  So, the best thing to do in order to achieve this goal is to arm those in your network with compelling stories of how you’ve helped clients in ways that have transformed their lives in some aspect . . . your fellow networkers can then share these stories with others who may be potential prospects for you, thus creating the most powerful form of a testimonial you can receive.

Watch this short video now to find out why testimonials that simply state facts about your business do nothing more than tell and how in order to really sell someone on your product or service, you need compelling stories.  Remember . . . facts tell, stories sell!

Be sure to check out Tiffanie’s website by clicking here or visiting TiffanieKellog.com and if you have a compelling story about how you’ve helped a customer or client that you think would be a great testimonial for your business, please share it in the comment forum below–you never know who will see it and you might even generate some referrals by sharing it!

Sales: The Buyer’s Perspective

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in an airport waiting for my plane to arrive and I struck up a conversation with the young man sitting next to me.  He was wearing a nice suit, carrying a laptop, and appeared to be traveling on business so I asked him if he happened to be traveling to the same business event that I was.  It turned out he wasn’t headed to the same place but we ended up having a very interesting conversation about sales.

He explained that he’s somewhat new to the sales industry and that he has found it a bit difficult to achieve the level of success he had envisioned when he entered the field.  I offered him some advice about what I believe is one of the most important keys to selling and I’d like to share it with you here as well . . . it’s understanding the buyer’s perspective.

The way I see it, selling has everything to do with finding out what the customer wants, is able to pay for, and then making the deal (assuming you can provide the product/service).  If it were really that simple, however, there wouldn’t be a demand for salespeople; buyers could get all they need from a machine.  But, in fact, many buyers head off to go shopping for a product or service with only a vague sense of what might satisfy their needs.  Turning a buyers vagueness into clear solutions is the job of the salesperson.  Always remember that the buyer is looking for the best solution, delivered in an effective and pleasurable manner.

Buyers are multifaceted, and when they shop, they weigh the many pros and cons of a potential purchase.  Some of these they will share with the seller, while many other thoughts they will keep to themselves.  Learning and adapting to the issues and whims of the buyer while moving the sale forward to a conclusion is a complex and intricate task . . . and it’s the responsibility of the sales professional to ensure it happens.

Brian Roach, a friend of mine who sells computer technology told me about a great concept he calls the sales clock.  He describes it this way:

It’s a great day.  You answered a call from a new prospect, met with their team to discuss your product, and . . . they asked you for a proposal.  Soon after delivering your proposal you started your wait for their decision.  The sales clock ticks as you wait on the fate of your proposal.  It may tick a long time before hearing back from the customer, and as the seller, you don’t know if you are being ‘stiffed’ or if the customer is swamped with other pressing priorities.  Whatever the reason, waiting out the sales clock can be stressful.  The last thing you want is for your own stress to create a negative impact on your prospect.

Brian reminds us that ‘it’s all about the customer,’ in the sense that the customer is the ultimate buyer, but the seller also has to earn a commission, meet monthly targets, and ensure proper work scheduling.  Brian’s sales clock reminds us to always look at both the customer’s perspective as well as the seller’s demands with each sales scenario.

I have some tactics for helping you, the seller, determine if the buyer is putting you off or merely attending to pressing internal demands and also some techniques for effective communication which will help you tap into the customer’s perspective and I’ll be sharing them with you next Monday so be sure to come back then and check them out. 

In the meantime, I’d love to get your take on some other ideas that you believe are important keys to selling so please share your thoughts in the comment forum below. Thanks!

 

Speak to Be Heard and Hear to Know How to Speak

Peter Drucker once said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”  This is so true and extremely important because the quality of our relationships depends on the quality of our communications; and when it comes to sales for your business and growing your business through referral marketing, this concept is a cornerstone for success.

Of course, not all sales transactions require incredible relationships or communication (e.g., online shopping), yet even big box stores like Wal-Mart–not known for warm customer relations–illustrate the value they place on communication and relationships by employing a visitor host to greet customers at the entrance of their stores.

Sara Minnis, a friend of mine, has often dealt with a phobia many sales people face within the sales process by coaching salespeople who are afraid of being rejected by a prospect or customer.  She says, “Sales ‘phobics’ might have an unrealistic fear of being rejected during cold calling, during the closing phase, or on a phone conversation.”  This, she suggests, is because the phobic salesperson tends to focus their communication on the emotional fit between themselves and the customer.  She explains, “The real business of selling can’t begin until the sales phobic feels that the prospect likes him or her.”  To avoid this, she says, “The professional seller directs her communication toward finding a fit between her product and the buyer’s need.  Focusing on being liked only enhances fears of personal rejection, while attending to the customer’s needs drives the transaction toward a closed deal.”

Sellers in strong relationships with their clients have a competitive advantage because the client feels connected or bonded to the seller.  The single most important tool sellers use to establish a connecting bond with another person is communication.  In fact, building a bonded relationship is completely dependent on having quality communications with another individual.

The art and science of communication is more than talking and hearing words.  There are many strategies and techniques aimed at earning the right to have your message heard.  If you can communicate at a level that matches the customer’s style rather than your own, you will be well on your way to masterful sales conversations.

Masters of sales today assume more of a consultative perspective to their selling work.  In fact, many box retail stores use the term “sales consultant” to describe the store clerk of yesterday.  Master sales consultants know that their ability to communicate is critical to selling client solutions, because rapport and trust, the cornerstones of selling, are built or lost based on communication.

So what can you do this week to improve your communication skills in order to speak to be heard and hear to know how to speak (e.g., joining a Toastmasters club, reading books like Dr. Mark Goulston’s Just Listen, etc.)?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comment forum below

‘Why People Resist Networking’ Series: Part II–Too Busy to Network

In this second installment of the “Why People Resist Networking” Video Series, I discuss another commonly held idea behind why people most likely resist networking–they claim they are much too busy to network.

The bottom line is that though people may feel they “don’t have the time” or that they’re “too busy to network,” in reality they’re simply not making the effort to take the time because they don’t realize two extremely important facts about the benefits of networking and the power it has to significantly build their business.

I highly encourage you to watch this video to find out why the “I’m too busy to network” mentality is something you definitely need to overcome if your goal is to grow your business as efficiently and effectively as possible.

After watching the video, I’d love for you to leave your feedback, thoughts, and/or comments in the comment forum below.  In addition to leaving any feedback you might have, I’m specifically interested in hearing your ideas/tactics for combating the “I’m too busy . . .” mentality.  Thanks!

Facts Tell, But Stories Sell

Over the past few weeks, I’ve posted blogs on how embracing quality, adding members, and seeking engagement are all things that will help networkers and entire networking groups achieve success.  Today, I’d like to talk about an additional tactic for obtaining stellar networking results–sharing stories.

Listening closely to the information shared by those in your referral network will help you in telling positive stories about them when you come across potential opportunities to refer them.  Conducting regular one-to-one meetings with each of your networking partners will also help you become more able to share stories when you refer others to them.  Think about your many positive experiences with your fellow networkers and write them down.

A number of years ago, I met Robert Dickman, author of The Elements of Persuasion, and he taught me the formula for a good story:

  1. A story is a fact
  2. Wrapped in emotion
  3. That compels us to take action
  4. That transforms us in some way

The key here is that a good story compels people to take action and that this action transforms or helps them in some way.  I always try to re-live a story, not just re-tell a story.  Make it sound fresh and alive.  That is an important aspect of storytelling.

Remember that facts tell, but stories sell.  If you want to build your network in order to generate more referrals, overlay storytelling on top of your efforts.

The keys to success within networking groups which I’ve previously posted blogs about (embracing quality, adding members, seeking engagement) can combine with sharing stories for a powerful formula that will help members of networking groups obtain optimum networking results and business growth:

3+1 = Member Success

  • 1-Embrace Quality
  • 2-Add Members
  • 3-Seek Engagement
  • +1 Share Stories

Understanding this formula can improve your business networking success in amazing ways. 

If your networking group already employs this formula, I’d love to hear about the impact it has made on your group’s performance and results.  Please share your feedback (and stories) in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Networking Video: “The People in the Room”–Comic Relief with a Powerful Message

Last Thursday I posted a blog in which I explain why confusing networking with direct selling is one of the worst faux pas you can make while networking as it completely undermines any chance you have of being a successful networker.  The fact remains that if your idea of networking is walking around, shaking hands, and closing deals, you are not going to achieve real results or significant business growth from your efforts.

Today, I’d like to share a fantastic new video with you which not only drives home the points I made in last Thursday’s blog but does so in a highly creative, comical, entertaining, and extremely memorable way.  The video is called “The People in the Room” and it is created and produced by Lawrence Conyers of Anson Corporate Media.  Lawrence is a master networker based in the UK who has done several other stellar networking videos in the past.

CharlieLawsonMustardBusinessCard

Watch the video now to find out what happens to a confused networker who thinks the best way to network is to work the room at lightning speed, focused only on giving people his card and asking them to give him a call so they can do business.  After watching the video, you will very clearly see the difference between real networking and trying to meet as many people as possible in order to sell them on your products and services before you even get a chance to learn their name.  You’ll also never be able to forget the importance of remembering to think not only about the people in the room with you at networking events but also about the people they know who may not be in the room.

I think Lawrence absolutely knocked it out of the park with this video–I love it!  What do you think?  Please share your feedback about the video in the comment forum below.

 

 

Networking Faux Pas: Confusing Networking with Direct Selling

In this third installment of the Networking Faux Pas Series, I discuss the danger of confusing networking with direct selling–it is often this specific point of confusion which really causes networking to go all wrong.

If your idea of networking is walking around, shaking hands, and closing deals, you owe it to yourself to watch this quick video explaining what networking is really all about and how to make sure you’re not going about it the wrong way.

If you’ve had experiences with people trying to immediately sell you on their product or service at a networking event, please tell us about it in the comment forum below.  Where were you and what happened?  What was your reaction to the person who was trying to close a deal with you before putting in any effort to get to know you? . . .

Getting a New Referral Is a Done Deal . . . True or False?

When one of your business contacts passes you a new referral, does that mean the prospect is ready to hear a presentation on your product or service?  Repeat after me . . . NO.  Assume nothing.

When an associate passes you a referral, say thanks, then start digging for more information.  Exactly what does the prospect do?  What products or services does he want from you?  Will your offerings truly fulfill his needs?  What is his behavioral style?  What are his business goals?  How large is his company?

Don’t skip steps in your sales process.  Before you approach the prospect, you need to decide on a strategy based on whatever you can find out about him–the same as you would when preparing for any sale.  Just because the prospect was referred to you doesn’t mean the sale is a done deal.  All you’ve really received is an opportunity to approach the prospect with a favorable introduction.  Whether the prospect becomes a client or not depends on how well you convince him that what you offer, at the price and under the conditions that you offer it, will fulfill his needs.

There’s quite a difference between a basic referral and one that’s well developed, and there are many different levels in between.  Listed here from least to most valuable, you should consider which level this referral represents:

  • Name and contact information only–Unfortunately, this is what many of your potential sources probably think the first time you say the word referral to them.  It does represent a certain level of trust in you, but the networking value of this kind of referral is low.  It’s better than nothing–but not much.
  • Authorization to use name–If he says, “Tell ’em Joe sent you,” you can be fairly sure you’ve established a good level of credibility with him.  This gives you some leverage, but the work of developing the prospect still falls on you.
  • Testimonial or letter of introduction–If your source trusts you enough to say nice things about you, try getting him to go a bit further and write you a letter of introduction or recommendation, including background information on you and some words about your product or service.
  • Introduction call–A personal phone call on your behalf, preparing the prospect to hear from you, takes significant time and effort in preparation.
  • Letter of introduction and phone call promotion–A letter that’s followed up by a phone call advocating your business represents a high level of commitment by your referral source and has a great deal of influence on the prospect.
  • Meeting–By arranging and working out the details for a meeting between you and the prospect, your source moves beyond the role of promoter to that of facilitator, or even business agent.  This demonstrates to your prospect a deep level of trust in you.
  • Face-to-face introduction and promotion–Combining an in-person introduction with promotion demonstrates that your source is engaged in selling your product or service rather than just facilitating your sales effort.
  • Closed deal–Your referral source describes the features and benefits of your product or service, then closes the sale before you even contact the prospect.  All you have to do is deliver the goods and collect the money.  This is obviously the best kind of referral you can get.  To get to this level of referral, you’ll have to work with your sources and tell them what you’d like from them.  This takes time and education.

The better your source knows you and is confident of your character and your business, the more often you’ll get the higher-level referrals.  But keep in mind that you need to be making high-level referrals for your sources too.  It really is true . . . what goes around comes around.

What can you do this week in an effort to generate more high level referrals for your referral sources? For those of you who share your ideas in the comment forum below, I’ll send a free copy of my book Masters of Sales to everyone who posts their thoughts by the end of the week (Sunday, 5/5/13).  Once you leave your comment, send your name and your mailing address to erin@bni.com in order to receive your book (Erin is my Communications Supervisor and she will only use your contact information in order to ensure you receive your book–your information will not be shared).  Thanks!

Training Referral Sources to Generate Referrals for You

If you interact with your clients, customers, referral sources, and contacts with a referral mind-set, show them that you are a giver, help others, and continually and strategically give referrals, you’re modeling the behavior you want others to exhibit toward you.  By itself, however, that’s not enough to train them to give you referrals.

Contacts who are not involved in your strong-contact network may not be aware of what is involved  in the kind of true referral networking that you are conducting.  Often you will have to coach them as you go, letting them know exactly what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what they may expect from your efforts.

Let’s say you’ve heard about a colleague whose stolen credit cards have been used to run up some big charges: “Stephanie, I’ve been talking with a colleague about your identity-theft problem and have arranged for him to send you a number of internet links that will help you quickly straighten out your credit problems.  I also know a lawyer who specializes in this field.  Would you like for me to contact him for you?  I hope you’ll keep me updated on your progress, and let me know if there’s any other way I can help.”

Similarly, if you’re passing a referral to an untrained but potentially valuable referral partner, let him know exactly what you’re doing and suggest ways he can reciprocate: “Jim, I know a specialist who provides the exact services you say you need.  I’ve known him for fifteen years and have used him many times.  He’s good, and he’s trustworthy.  May I ask him to call you?  And by the way, if you know a general contractor who constructs steel-frame buildings in the Valley and can use the new kind of fasteners I sell, would you please consider giving me a referral?”

By talking openly about what you’re doing, you’re not only modeling the behavior you want from your potential referral partner, you’re getting him to think about it, which is an essential part of learning.  You’re also asking him to practice it in a way that will help him repeat the behavior later.  It’s not a guarantee that he will reciprocate, but it makes it more likely that he will get the idea and respond in kind–at first, out of simple gratitude; later, out of the realization that a continuing referral relationship is good business for both of you.

One of the best ways to train a referral source is to go to a professional referral-training seminar and take your source with you.  This way, you will both be trained by an expert and will be speaking the same language–the language of referrals.

If you have an additional tactic for training referral sources to generate referrals for you, I’d love to hear it.  Please share it in the comment forum below. Thanks!

Have You Been Overlooking This Important Step in Your Networking Efforts?

I recorded this video a few years back for an organization interested in learning about business networking and when I ran across it last week, I thought it would be good information to share here as what I discuss is still just as important as ever.

If you don’t know what a Contact Sphere is, I urge you to watch this short video because developing a Contact Sphere is one of the most important steps in business networking.  After watching the video, think about who might be a good fit for you in creating a Contact Sphere and if you have questions, please leave them in the comment forum below.  I’m more than happy to answer any questions you may have and, also, if you’ve already developed a Contact Sphere, please share your thoughts on how it has helped you to grow your business.

Welcome to International Networking Week!

This week marks the 7th annual celebration of International Networking Week which is recognized each year by thousands of people around the world.

International Networking Week is about celebrating the key role that networking plays in the development and success of business around the world.  It is about creating an awareness relating to the process of networking.  Not just any kind of networking, but what I call “relationship networking”–an approach to doing business based on building long-term, successful, genuine relationships with people strategically through the networking process.

International Networking Week has been acknowledged by many governmental organizations (including a joint resolution of the California State Assembly and Senate) and is celebrated in many countries across the globe through .  Start the new year out with more business by using this week to build your networking skills and expand the opportunities within your reach. If you belong to any networking groups, be sure to tell them that this is International Networking Week (Feb. 4-8).

CLICK HERE to view a short video about International Networking Week 2013.  Please feel free to share the video with others and show it at your networking meetings this week.

For more information and a list of worldwide events, please visit www.InternationalNetworkingWeek.com.

So what will you be doing to recognize International Networking Week?   Please share your plans in the comment forum below.

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