By Chris Gale (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Professional consultative selling is constantly evolving, as indeed it should, as buying behaviours are also evolving at pace. It can be argued that the way people make their decisions and make purchasing decisions has evolved at a faster pace than professional selling skills, which in many ways, lags behind. The aspiration has to be the heady heights of the “Trusted Advisor”, but don’t be fooled by the term. The trusted advisor is not an “advisor” in the truest sense of the word. He or she is someone who possesses the most advanced sales skills and abilities and will win sales in the toughest of competitive environments.
Corporate differentiators are no longer enough. Product or service features and benefits can take us a percentage point or two beyond the competition but these alone are increasingly unlikely to influence the final decision. The true differentiator in state of the art selling is the sales person, the sales expert, the ‘trusted advisor’.
So what skills do these people possess which set them aside from the rest?
• They make outstanding, impactful and memorable first impressions
• They know how to build rapport and stay in rapport
• The know the importance of empathy and they understand the difference between empathy and sympathy
• They have a honed sense of how to match and mirror with their prospects, when to do it, how to do it and about doing it with care and sensitivity
• They earn the right to ask direct and searching questions, they don’t accept the first answers they hear and they challenge and probe with warmth and humour
• They listen – they really listen… not just to what is said, but to how it said and with what motivations and root cause reasons
• They have a powerful radar which picks up, responds to, adapts to and build rapport with personalities, characters, social styles, language preferences and convincer patterns of pretty much anyone they engage with
• They always stop at amber traffic lights. They have a well tuned sense of when they need to slow down and stop. They never “push through” because they know the damage it will do to their credibility and to their chance of closing the deal
• Their DNA has ‘positive intention’ written all through it. Their interest is in helping clients to succeed – making sue they get what they want, need and desire.
A crucial advanced skill I’ve mentioned above is the awareness of, and the ability to work with a range of ‘convincer patterns’. For so many years sales people were taught to “push through” towards the close when prospects talked about needing time to think or wanting to speak to friends or maybe needing to study some alternatives. New thinking in sales suggests that the ‘trusted advisor’ approach is, of course, to treat the prospect with respect and therefore to work with their convincer pattern and support it in any way possible. The fact is, the harder people try to sell (to push through), the least likely it is that they will succeed. Conversely, the more we try to help people succeed in making the right decision (to pull back), the more likely they are to succeed. Check out some convincer patterns below and think about any additional patterns you might be aware of…maybe your own pattern is different to those shown below:
• Seeing specific evidence
• Seeing general evidence
• Hearing from others
• Reading a report
• “to do my own research”
• To conduct an evaluation
• To trial the product or service
• To have time to reflect and think
• To be shown how it works in practice
• To talk to people who have already bought it
Finally, I talked about having the awareness, the ability and the bravery to stop at traffic lights. High achievers in sales live and breath this skill. They see traffic lights coming from a distance and they know when they are headed towards an amber light. They even have the ability to take a prospect to their own amber light, or even their red light point so that they can expose objections and concerns and deal with them positively. The serious point here is that in sales, we have to ensure that the prospect is with us all of the way. If a gap appears between us and the prospect, we are lost and the sale will go away from us. Inexperienced sales people don’t see a potential gap coming and they don’t feel the gap, even when it is gaping wide open and in desperate need of repair. High achievers see it coming, head it off, put it to good use and discuss it openly with their prospect if it appears.
So… the next time you approach an amber light, will you zoom through or slow down and stop?