There’s a saying that goes, “Until a salesperson gets an order, nobody in the company has a job.” Right. If you don’t make a sale then a) there’s no money being brought into the business; b) you won’t achieve your sales goals (which make up your personal financial goals); c) no one brings home a paycheck; d) rent doesn’t get paid, and on and on. Yet, if you don’t have successful sales conversations first, then there are no orders to take at all.
It’s a given — business owners and salespeople must discuss their products/services in order to sell — we send out our latest brochures, explain product features and service benefits, share the company’s mission and vision, discuss pricing, etc. Yet how much time goes into the most important part of meeting: the conversation part of the sales conversation?
Prep for Success
When business owners ask me how they can have more inspired sales conversations that end with the client saying, “Yes,” I often advise them to prepare the way an athlete does for an upcoming race:
· Get ready mentally: A few years ago while listening to a podcast, I heard Eckhart Tolle say something that struck me like a lightning bolt: “Worry Pretends to Be Necessary.” Sometimes entrepreneurs think worrying is part of running a company. I’ve shared before that anticipating a negative outcome from something that hasn’t yet happened, and planning for failure instead of success, puts you into a mindset of scarcity, not abundance. Potential clients are highly attuned to how you look, the words you use, the timbre in your voice — everything. If they can see and hear your stress, are they going to trust you? They’ll sense your lack of confidence and think, “If she’s not sure about herself, how can I be sure about her?” Before your next sales conversation pause a moment: are you apprehensive, constantly rushing around at the last minute, and envisioning negative outcomes? If you are, try to change that energy. Write down 20 things you’ve accomplished in your lifetime (aside from being a fabulous mom, dad, son or daughter). Look at your list and remember how you succeeded and even triumphed. Whether it was graduating from college, starting your own business, becoming a Zumba instructor, running a marathon, leaving a bad relationship, standing up for another person, or stepping out of your comfort zone, see yourself and your accomplishments clearly. Value you.
· Visualize the finish line: The night before, the morning of, and even an hour before your conversation, imagine the outcome you want: see the client smiling at you because they’re confident they’ve found the solution they’ve been looking for, and watch yourself walking the client through the next steps on getting started (for example signing an agreement, writing down their credit card details or setting up an appointment to meet with the team). Set an intention of having a positive conversation with this client. And then let it go. Don’t add in the anxiety of, “My numbers are down this month and I really have to make this sale.” The goal is to go into the conversation positive and proactive.
· Queue up to the starting line: Whether you’re a massage therapist, a retailer of unique earrings, a life coach or an investment banker, your client wants to know how you will help them. They’re coming to you with a problem and you’re there to demonstrate to them that you are the solution that will help them. You want the client to believe in you; to believe that what you’re providing will make their lives easier, better, healthier, smarter or prettier. This will only happen if you believe it yourself. There’s no hanging back, pretending to be modest, not showing up or hiding who you are. That does a disservice to you and a disservice to the client. They’re seeking help. That’s why you’re there. Queuing up to the starting line means you’re standing firmly in who you are and why you do what you do.
· Map the course in advance: Your sales conversations should have a rhythm that you’ve honed and perfected so that at the end of it the client knows exactly who you are and what you’ll do for them. I’m not saying it should be memorized verbatim — you don’t want to sound rehearsed. It should feel natural to you, whether you’re speaking to one person or in front of a team of executives. In a following newsletter I’ll talk more about the structure of the conversation, but in general you want to:
— Take control from the start and let them know how the meeting will flow, (for example “This meeting will be approximately one hour. During the first 30 minutes I’d like to hear from you and then I’ll follow with some information about what I do …”). They’ve asked for this meeting so you should take the lead.
— Listen and learn first; don’t begin the conversation talking about yourself. Ask the client a few questions to get things started, such as “Why did you want to set up this meeting?” or “I understand you’re having some challenges, please tell me about them.”
— Reflect their challenges back to them (you want to remind them that you’re there to help them find a solution), and explain your expertise in that area.
· Cross the finish line: Tell them about your pricing, packages, etc. It’s not a sales conversation if you’re not explaining what their investment will be, the structure (50% down, monthly payments, etc.), and asking for their business. Be prepared for a “yes.” Have an agreement ready to be signed, have your credit card processor all set up, etc.
· Know you might encounter a few hurdles: Of course, not everyone is ready to buy from you after that first conversation but understand objections aren’t “no’s.” Objections are opportunities for you to learn more about a client’s problems and for you to better clarify what you can do for them. A great question to ask if you encounter resistance is “What will change for you if we don’t work together?” You should help them clearly understand that nothing changes if nothing changes.
It seems like a lot to remember but if you think about it, you’re in business because you’re providing the solution to your target market’s problem. You have a way of doing what you do, and there’s an investment that the client makes in order for you to provide that solution. All of the above is simply about being proactive because a sales conversations shouldn’t end in, “Gee, I hope they call.”