Before we begin talking about sales opportunities, I would like to make two things abundantly clear around the marketing and sales mindset:

  1. You are helping people to make a purchase – you are not selling
  2. Sales and marketing are not magic, they are planned processes.

I see many business owners who don’t like picking up the phone because of a fear of being perceived as a ‘salesperson’, and perhaps it’s because they don’t like being targeted themselves by strong sales messages or tactics and don’t want to come across the same way.

So, let’s look instead at a sales process that allows you to make the most of being helpful and not salesy…

Introductions – getting them right

You have between three and seven seconds to make a first impression… And only one opportunity to make it. Try using this framework:

  1. I am…
  2. From…
  3. And I/we or with…
  4. Who have a problem with…
  5. What we do is…
  6. So that…
  7. Which means that…

(incidentally, this is also a good basis for your networking 60 seconds). Choose a time for your conversation that works for you. If you’re better in the mornings, try to avoid afternoons, you don’t have to take the first time slot your prospect offers you…

It’s best to begin by identifying yourself, especially if you haven’t met or spoken in person before, and perhaps you’re following up on a lead from a website or social media enquiry.

I also always like to thank the person, not for their time, but for the opportunity to share your product or service and explore how you might work together.

Finally, reflect on how it went – what could you have done better, what needs to change? Was your body language positive or was it communicating something you didn’t intend?

At this point I’d like to touch on listening skills, because if you don’t actively listen to your prospect you simply won’t be able to progress the conversation.

Improve your listening skills

Active listening means your conversation could go in any direction, which is why you need to be able to maintain control of your sales opportunity and steer it back in the direction you want it to go, without displaying any of these bad listening traits:

  • Giving advice instead of asking more questions
  • Interrupting
  • Avoiding answering questions
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Filling short silences to avoid awkwardness
  • Moving the conversation in the

A good listener will make notes, make positive sounds and body language such as nodding. They will allow pauses in the conversation for the other person to absorb and process what’s been said, and a good salesperson will be non-judgemental about the end of the conversation, so you remain in active listening mode.

The What, Why, So sales technique uses active listening as the pivotal tactic.

A good questioning technique for sales

The aim of asking questions is to lead your sales prospect to the point where they realise on their own terms, that they have a need for your product or service. The more your questioning prompts them to say yes, the more naturally positive the sales meeting will be.

Questioning softeners: Can I just ask, by the way, incidentally. These are ways of making your questions less direct and more friendly.

Open questions: A way of eliciting conversation rather than a yes/no response.

Probing questions: Digging deeper

Assumptive: Making a clear assumption so that your prospect can give you a yes or no response. This way you’re learning – would I be right in saying…?

Leading questions: You tend to know the answer you’ll get, but you’re leading them to clarify it so you can progress.

Alternatives: OK, I understand, but how about, or what if?

Paraphrasing: This is how to demonstrate that you have listened and are repeating the answer in the form of a question in your own words.

Think about how to structure your sales opportunity around these types of questions. Perhaps you’d use lots of open questions to begin with, move onto probing questions like, ‘Can you give more specific details on…?’ and then assumptive questions such as ‘So, if this happens, then that is the result?’ and finally present an alternative like ‘are you therefore looking to get X or Y from this solution?’.

Convert features into benefits

It’s all too easy to go into a sales meeting with a list of features that make your product or service great. But your prospect isn’t interested in the features or is already aware of them and now wants to know how those features will benefit them. I always use the example of iPod: ‘1000 songs in your pocket’ says it all. It’s slim, it’s lightweight, it has a great capacity, but none of those things are quickly translated into the best thing about it – no more bulky Disc/Walkman with cassette tapes or CD’s to carry around, you now have 1000 songs in your pocket…

How can you convert the features of your product or service into benefits? Try using this technique:

  • What we do is/the great feature is…
  • So that…
  • Which means that…

For example, ‘The great feature of this vacuum cleaner is the 30 metre power cord, so that it can reach all the rooms in your house, which means you don’t have to move the plug, which means that you can clean more easily and in less time.’

Overcome objections

Objections can come at any point during your sales opportunity meeting…

I believe that most businesses only have a handful of objections. So, think about the five most common objections that could come up over your product or service and where in the sales opportunity they might come up so you can prepare a response in advance. Just like your pricing structure, be ready to respond at the drop of a hat.

Remember, a quick response to an objection deepens the trust in you. Here’re some common objections to work from:

  • Price
  • Somebody already does it for me
  • I have a regular supplier/provider already
  • I’m also speaking to other providers
  • You don’t have what I need.

 A strong closing technique

One of the main reasons people don’t ‘win’ a sale, is because they haven’t asked for the sale, they haven’t asked for the business or ‘closed’ the sale.

The techniques for closing a sales opportunity are almost as varied as the questioning techniques we looked at above.

Assumptive: Making the assumption that they want to buy and discussing how the contract is produced or the payment method.

Alternative: So, shall we say X, or Y?

Summary: Summarising the conversation that has led to the end result of purchase.

Fear: Limited time offers, or even, ‘you’ll continue to experience the problems you told me about earlier’.

What if/So if: Leading your sales prospect to come up with the fear factor themselves.

Direct: How many would you like? From our discussion, this is the best solution for you. Would you like to sign today?

Soft: If you were going to ask for our support, which level would suit you best?

And it is imperative that you finish the close with a clear follow procedure. Tell your sales prospect what happens next…

There is much more to delve into when it comes to sales opportunities, but I believe getting to grips with these topics will give you more confidence the next time you go into a meeting. They are covered in greater depth in Module 10 of the Online Business Development Programme, or if you have a sticking point you’d like to talk through with me personally, get in touch and let’s see how I can help.

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