This blog, number one of three, is dedicated to my good friend Sam Matthews who got me a job while I was studying at Loughborough University. It was a part-time job in a call centre selling mobile phones to people who would call up to enquire about ads in the back of the national newspapers. Little did I know this would be my training ground for my first proper outbound sales job where I had to overcome my fear of making a cold-call and become the person everyone said yes to! (Missed this blog? Read it here).
This job of inbound sales made me potentially the richest student in my university. I worked a total of 16 hours a week and I earned more than those who worked a 40 hour week. Plus, I learnt how to do it all without lowering myself to a sleazy salesperson. Follow this simple advice and you can avoid the horror of awkward silences, frustrated huffing sounds, or worse… the “uh-huh” replies, as you won’t be reeling off a product sales sheet! Instead you will be the helpful, easy to deal with ‘salesperson’ and that always feels good.
So… How do you do that? Read on as I map it out for you in 3 easy steps.
- Use what you know
Keep it human and always draw on your real experience.
- Look for solutions to problems
Be the person that helps find a way to get what the customer wants.
- Give the customer what they want
Learn to Always Be Closing, this is the ABC of sales.
Use these 3 ways to shift your thinking and reframe how you make your next sale. You will find the best solution for them and you WILL make sales. Let me break it down for you.
1. Use what you know.
Your knowledge is your expertise and the first tool you can draw on to confidently make any sale, your way.
Maybe you have a new product or service to sell that you are reading up on every spare minute but feel hugely uncomfortable selling because you just don’t feel like you know enough. You only know what you know right?
So let’s explore that. What is it that you know? What personal experience do you have with this product or service?
You may think you have none but really think about it. Have you used a competitor service? Have you ever tried the product in any kind of variation, format or style?
I’m pretty sure you be able to answer these. Unless, you are working for a start-up that just got Unicorn funding, which is fundamentally breaking the mold of how we use and consume things today, in which case call me and let’s chat; I’d love to hear more about it!
Back to the rest of us.
As an exercise try the following:
Think about your own personal experiences with your product or service – try to explain why you love your product or service to a friend in no more than 3 or 4 bullet points.
Real experiences are fundamentally what sells and people value sales people with knowledge.
To illustrate using what you know in action, here is an example from my first day selling mobile phones; something I believed I knew very little about. A call came in, it was an elderly lady who knew exactly what she needed, our chat went something like this:
Customer: “Hello dear, how are you?” I wonder if you can help me? I’m looking for:
– Something where the buttons aren’t impossible to press.
– A phone I will hear when it rings.
– I just want to be able to make phone calls, I don’t care about all that other stuff.
– I don’t want any big bills, so something that is low cost and allows me to speak to my family whenever I want.
-What do you recommend?
Ok, not rocket science but I have never sold mobile phones before. A sea of options swam in front of my eyes… training was errr lacking to say the least … so what did I know?
From her requirements, instantly my last phone, a Nokia 3210, sprang to mind. I’m not one for awkward silences, so I started chatting about it and explained I had recently gifted this to my Dad and he had also loved it, because it did all of the things she had asked for plus my Dad’s favourite ringtone, a traditional house phone (which I never even noticed when I had it) that went really loud, so he never missed a call.
I was confident that this phone or another of the Nokia range would be ideal for her. I did a quick search and there it was. The sale was mine.
I was knowledgeable, I had made a recommendation that matched her needs and sold it to her with excitement and some storytelling. The best part it didn’t feel like selling, I really believed it completely suited her needs and she trusted me. She was 100% convinced I had chosen the right thing for her. She had never met before, never even seen the product! It blew my mind.
I had made my first sale and it didn’t feel sleazy or uncomfortable.
Obviously no two customers are the same and it won’t always be so easy. My next call was a very different customer!
It was a young lad, I pictured him as a bit of a hotshot, who was very specific, talked very fast but was clear on what he wanted (not so much what he needed):
– The latest release flip phone (Yep, if you hadn’t already guessed this job was some time ago)!
– You know the one in the Matrix movie? (Errr no, but ok..).
– On any contract that he could get it for free (after much discussion he also should have added – and afford).
After some searching, I found there were no cheap options. He had to spend well over his budget to get it. A sale lost. There was nothing more I could do… or so I thought.
2. Look for solutions to problems.
While on a short break, I overheard the top sales guy in the company selling the exact same phone. This guy, I’d been told, often lied to customers so I had some speculation but it turned out he had found a way to make it affordable.
I learned, customers only needed to stay on the high tariff for 6 months before they could downgrade.I double checked this with the network providers, it was true. I then did some more calculations in my break, what customers could save versus buying the phone and boom – I had valuable information that could help the customer by making their dream handset affordable.
When the next Hotshot called up, I successfully explained how it was possible to get what he wanted and boom! I made my next sale.
Ok, so I’ve sold two phones, I’m hardly a selling queen at this point, but I’ve learnt some valuable lessons, which include:
- It doesn’t need to be complicated.
- I knew more than I thought I did about my product range.
- I’m learning all the time – I can’t know it all immediately but I can look for solutions to problems.
- I’m giving the customer what they want – saving them money and time and making sales confidently and professionally.
3. Give the customer what they want.
This is more a word to the wise that anything else.
If a customer is well researched, knows what s/he wants, then they are simply looking for you to process the order, then for the love of all that is holy… give them what they want. Do not start making other suggestions or introducing alternative things into their consideration set, you will only come across as pushy or worse you will place a seed of doubt in their mind, which could lead to losing the sale altogether.
I’ll caveat the above by saying, these sales tactics do have a time and a place, but it’s certainly not when a customer is in-the-know and ready to buy. We will come on to when this is appropriate later in this blog series.
Obviously I didn’t make a sale every time and to start with you won’t either. There will be lots of times when people will take information, there will be what feels like missed opportunities. That’s where you need a sales strategy to make damn sure every enquiry, becomes a prospect that you can nurture into a sale.
Find out how I created my first sales strategy to sell to customers on any budget, bring customers back to me again and again, and how I turned every enquiry into a valuable lesson to reach my goal and get to the top!
Until next week.