Anatomy of the Sales Call (Part 2 of 4)

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Welcome to part two of a four-part series on the Anatomy of the Sales Call.  As I mentioned yesterday, it does one absolutely no good to get a customer in front of you if you don’t know what to do next.  Your sales skills need to be effective and genuine in order to convert that lead into a client that will continue to come back again and again.  Sure, the ‘Used Car Salesperson’ approach might get you the sale this time – but they’ll never be back again.  It’s much easier to market to the client that is familiar with you and has utilized your services than it is to market to and find new ones.

Probing (Part Two of Four)
The second part of the sales method I use is called probing.  In probing, you utilize open and closed questions to establish a clear, complete, and mutual understanding of the customer’s needs.  Now, this sounds fairly simple but it often isn’t quite so.  It is critical to uncover the circumstances that drive your customer’s needs in addition to simply knowing what their needs are.  This is so you can support the customer’s needs (and circumstances) with relevant features and benefits.  In some cases, there is even a need-behind-the-need that needs to be supported.  If you aren’t able to uncover all the needs of your customer it could end up costing you the sale. More on that later.

Open Probes
Open probes are a question that elicits an open and free response.  An example of an open probe could be, “You mentioned that you really would like to shoot your new ad campaign in the studio as opposed to on location.  Why is that important to you? Now think about how the customer would answer.  They would most likely explain why they want to shoot their ad campaign in the studio vice on location.  Open probes allow the salesperson to obtain more information from the customer as they reveal their needs.

Closed Probes
Closed probes are questions that elicit a Yes or No response.  They are extremely useful in confirming your understanding of the customer’s needs.  An example of a closed probe could be, “You would like to shoot your new ad campaign on a white seamless background and that is why you want to shoot in the studio.  Is that correct?”  At that point, the customer would answer with either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

Combining the Two
By using open and closed probes together, you can drive the sales call in the direction that you would like to go by striking an appropriate balance between the two.  Once you think you have uncovered a need, you can confirm the need as well as your understanding of the need.  After all of the customer’s needs have been uncovered it’s time to move on to show the customer how you can support those needs, which we will cover tomorrow.

A Note of Caution
If you only use open probes, you will never really get anywhere with the customer nor will you discover what their true needs are.  Use too many closed probes and your customer will feel like they are being interrogated and they will shut down on you.  Neither one of those situations is a good one to be in.

Helpful Tip
Have a pen and paper or something to take notes.  It serves two important purposes.  First, you won’t miss anything critical that your customer has to say in terms of their needs.  Second, it shows your customer that you sincerely care about them and that you’re interested in what they have to say.  Be sure and let them know that you’re taking notes about the discussion so that you don’t miss anything.  It will put them at ease.

Thanks for joining me on part two of this journey down the sales call path.  These posts are by no means intended to be all inclusive, as there are a lot of things that go into sales and the sales call itself.  I’m simply trying to explain the basics that you can have a good idea of how to conduct your sales calls so that you can convert more leads into sales.  And just like photography, if you want to get good at this stuff you have to practice, practice, practice.  I can’t stress how important that is.

Join me again tomorrow as we cover the next part of the sales call – Supporting!  I can’t promise that it will be fun, but it will be informative!  See you then!

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