When was the last time you had a great sales experience, as a customer? From the buying side, what made you feel like an appreciated customer?
The last time I had a great buying experience, I purchased something fairly mundane: a blood test. I’m serious about taking care of my body and to do that, I get a blood test every year. I decided to look into a company that a friend recommended instead of my normal provider. This company promised to give me the answer to “so what” once I received my blood test results. (Normally, you receive the results and it’s up to you and your relationship with your doctor to know what to do about making dietary changes.) I could plug in my data every time I get a blood test and see a timeline of my blood chemistry over the years. Pretty cool, right?
So, I purchased the test. Not more than 10 hours later did I have an email in my inbox from an account rep at this company. She said that she wanted to offer me an upgrade to the next level test because she saw on social media that I’m currently healing a stress fracture in my foot.
I was so shocked and surprised by her personal touch – especially at a time when I really wanted to understand why my stress fracture may have happened in the first place.
You may not be able to see it, but there is a process under everything that this company is doing. From the moment you peruse the site or express interest in purchasing to committing to the purchase and waiting for the results. As a buyer, I thought, “wow, they really make it easy, don’t they?”. Furthermore, they’re using social media in a way that makes a difference for their customer. A good sales process doesn’t happen without a strong amount of discipline – and this company set some parameters around their sales process to make sure their prospects and new customers are happy.
A process is a start. Now you have to make it obvious. In my work at Sales Engine, we tell our clients to make the sales process explicit to their customers. Doing so means that they know what to expect at each step of the process, what you will deliver as a provider, and what they can expect to receive as a customer.
In order to make your sales process explicit to your customers, follow these 5 rules:
- Slow the process down (sometimes even, make a full stop).
I understand this first rule isn’t intuitive. As a salesperson, you would ideally like to have a short sales cycle, rather than dragging it out. But you can leave your customers behind if you move too quickly. Your sales process is as much about getting through to close as it is about stopping at each step of the process to make sure the customer is comfortable. Take the time to remind your customer where they are within the process. You build credibility by being transparent and they’ll know exactly what’s coming next (making it easier on you, in the long run).
- Encourage their objections AND seek to understand them.
Again, you probably think this is a typo. I’ll say it again: encourage their objections, don’t shoot them down or outright deny them. If a customer says, “we just don’t have the budget to move forward this year”, encourage the objection by saying something like “I understand. It sounds like there are other priorities right now and you’re restricted by budget. Can we discuss the scope or think about a solution that would allow you to move forward before this year ends?” To some extent, you’re basically reiterating what they just told you – which makes them feel heard. But you also communicate that it’s not an all or nothing deal, that there are creative solutions that you can discuss. Even if you’re not able to propose a creative solution, you’ve reached this part of the sales process — you *know* they have a need for your offering. By encouraging their objection, you allow the sales process to continue, or at least keep the discussion open. I’ve observed a lot of salespeople make the mistake of jumping to provide the answer to the objection, without first encouraging it. Differentiate yourself from the competition.)
- Always have something to offer. Be a wealth of information.
Always always always be as helpful as possible. Many times, this comes in the form of providing information that helps them make a decision. If you have a long sales cycle, the easiest way to stay in front of a prospect is by sending them an article that touches on a prior conversation. Did something happen in the marketplace recently that made you think of a certain prospect? Is there an idea floating around that you think would be a good fit for their company? It doesn’t necessarily have to be related to the business – it just has to teach them something. Always seek to offer your prospects and customers information. Be a wealth of information so that your prospects think, “wow, Jenny always knows what’s going on with my business and the challenges I’m facing.”
- Limit your proposal to 3 pages.
If you can’t say it in 3 pages, you probably can’t say it at all. It’s extremely rare that a prospect would take the time to read a 30 page proposal anyway. Give them the most important information and move on with it. A proposal isn’t a contract. Demonstrate your value by not wasting your prospect’s time. It’s likely that they’ve never seen a three-page proposal for their business and they’ll be relieved when they discover they don’t have to read through a 50 page proposal to figure out what’s actually important. (If you have the discipline to distill your message down into 3 pages, you might like the discipline manifesto.)
- When appropriate, make it personal.
When I bought my blood test from this new company, they took the time to make it personal. They used social media in a smart way — by upgrading me to the premium blood test free of charge, they communicated that they cared. And you know what? They’re smart because I can’t stop telling my friends about their product! In most sales contexts, you have an opportunity to make it personal (without being a creep). One of our own clients had a great example of this. One of their prospects had been planning on taking a vacation with her family, including 3 children, to the Caribbean for months. She hadn’t had time to properly prepare because she’d been so busy working, so the salesperson ordered 3 or 4 books for her on the Caribbean – and one of them was a travel book for kids. So the salesperson made a personal touch by taking 3 minutes to buy a few books AND provide some entertainment for the kids on the plane ride. When appropriate, make it personal.
These aren’t rules that are appropriate to every customer or every situation. But if you begin to instill a few of these rules in your process, you might find that your customers seem to feel more comfortable buying from you. Make the sales process explicit by slowing the sales process down, encouraging their objections, being a wealth of information, limiting your proposal to 3 pages, and making it personal. They’ll love it.