Dan Lutchansky CPA
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“The more I practice, the luckier I get”

Ben Hogan

Small Business Coaching and Workshops

 

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THE SALES PROCESS

A SKILL YOU CAN LEARN

The purpose of marketing is to generate leads. It is then necessary to persuade prospects to exchange their money for the products or services being offered.

Many books and other instructional materials have been developed to teach people how to sell. Several marketing “experts” have tried to convince us that what works in selling has changed over the last 10 years. We respectfully disagree. What really have changed are people’s defense mechanisms towards the sales process. People are less tolerant of being “sold.” In addition, they often recognize sales techniques that are offensive to them.

However, outstanding salespeople have never relied on those techniques to be successful. The very successful salesperson has always understood that he or she was facilitating decision-making and wasn’t making anyone do anything that they didn’t want to do.

You really have a choice of two approaches to take to convince people to do business with you. You can either be an “order taker” or you can be a “facilitator.” If you choose to be a “facilitator,” you need to understand how people arrive at decisions.

There are so many different kinds of sales that it is impossible to suggest techniques that will apply to everyone. A retail product sale, for example, is certainly much different than a face-to-face sale of a professional service. However, the most common objection to all types of sales is price, so let’s take a look at a real-life example of being a facilitator in terms of price.

The three most important questions you will hear when you are trying to sell something are: How much does it cost? How much does it cost? How much does it cost? Price is important, but it is not always the most important criteria when a person makes a buying decision. If it were, we would all be buying our clothes at Wal-Mart or Target. However, if everything else is equal in the prospect’s mind, he or she will generally choose the lower price. Therefore, to command a higher price, you have to differentiate your product or service from those of your competitors.

We recently did some coaching for an air conditioning contractor. One of our suggestions was to increase prices for new installations. He initially objected because he feared he would lose sales. Our response to him was “so what?” It certainly didn’t benefit him to sell new installations at such a low gross margin that it would cause the business to lose money. We then focused on how he could differentiate himself from his competitors.

We concluded that it was critical for him to discuss the “price objection” early in his presentations. After discovering the needs of his prospect, he would simply ask if price was a major factor. We decided that the answer didn’t really matter because he always had to assume it was a critical consideration in the prospect’s decision making.

QUALITY VERSUS PRICE

He would then ask his prospect for an example of a recent major purchase - why that particular product was purchased versus a competing product. My client would use this method to find what was important to the prospect in making a major buying decision. The purpose of this questioning is to get the prospect thinking quality versus price.

One prospect responded that he had just purchased a Toyota Landcruiser. My client asked him if he had looked at the Ford Explorer. He had, but he thought the Landcruiser was more solidly built. My client asked his prospect if the Ford Explorer was less expensive. The answer was yes, it was less expensive, and the point was made.

What our client was trying to do was to get his prospect thinking a certain way. While our prospects often think price is the most important criteria, it usually is not as long as you can differentiate the product.

It is better to lead prospects to think about how important quality is rather than just telling them. When prospects start thinking about quality, educate them on the quality of your products or services.

In this instance, our client discussed the very meticulous work of his technicians while detailing the features of the air conditioning units he installed compared to his competition. Prospects really appreciated our client explaining why his product is superior and he clearly differentiated himself from his competitors in terms of product knowledge.

The bottom line was that our client did lose several sales over price alone. However, the sales he was able to make were more profitable and he still had enough backlog of work to keep his technicians busy. Overall, he felt much better about how he conducted business and concluded he would much rather perform quality work than constantly cut corners.

Every prospect will have a set of criteria he or she uses to make a buying decision. It is necessary for you to discover those criteria so you can influence the ultimate buying decision. If the lowest price is most important to your prospect, it is best to know that early in your presentation.

Other criteria that may be important are service and product quality, meeting promised deadlines, educating your prospect, and a warranty. Make a list of everything about your products or services that may influence the decision making of your prospects. Once you commit that list to memory, it is now time to go and find out how your prospects make their decisions.

This discussion is just one real life example of how we have helped a client learn a better way to persuade prospects to exchange their money for his products or services. We have coached many small business owners to learn and employ better and more effective selling techniques. Let us help you as well. Please review Our Coaching Program for more details.