In the same way an athlete will train in their discipline before a big match or competition, a salesperson needs to be prepared for just about any situation that arises. This might be in handling a challenging complaint, building trust with a new customer or simply mastering the art of keeping a conversation moving forward.
To do this, it’s important to practise. The great thing about sales skills is that they’re transferable to everyday life. So why not use your day-to-day activities to develop your selling techniques? Here’s some ideas:
Build Rapport With Everyone You Meet
In the fast paced, competitive world of sales, it’s all too easy to impatiently bypass rapport building with customers in anticipation of closing a deal. You might mention that the weather’s been nice, or ask how their day has been, but often the effort stops there.
To go far in this industry, constantly developing friendly and effective communication skills will only ever bring you positive results. The bottom line is, people buy from people they like and trust. A recent poll by The New York Times showed that people only consider 30% of the general population to be “trustworthy”. However, when the same group were asked what percentage of people they considered to be trustworthy within their own social circles, they responded “70%”, proving that familiarity builds trust so long as you nurture and develop the relationship.
So how can this be practised in your everyday life? Rapport building can occur whenever you come into contact with someone else, whether it be your local shop keeper, the postman or someone at the end of your phone trying to sell you insurance. Finding common ground, using open and thoughtful questions and taking an active interest in the person you’re speaking to are all basic rapport building skills. The trick is to push yourself past the usual questions. It’s likely your postman has already had 40 people that day mention the good weather – so how will you stand out and be remembered? Perhaps you could find out his name, what he does when he’s not working and listen to a story he wants to share. Remembering his answers and referencing them again the next time you see him will be certain to make a good impression.
Learn How To Ask The Right Questions
According to authority sales speaker Neil Rackham, there are 4 types of questions that will lead to a successful sale. A situation question, establishing the customers circumstances, problem questions, identifying the pain points that need improving, implication questions, bringing to the surface the potential consequences associated with the problems, and need-payoff questions, forming solutions. These questions can be practised from day to day through simple communications with family and friends. If you are a parent, you may want to try these out on your kids. For example, “How much homework do you have tonight?”, “What challenges are you facing with this piece of work?”, “What would happen if you failed to attempt the question?” “How can we resolve this together?”
While this may seem simple, more complex scenarios will benefit from the same questioning structure. And, as always, questions need to be kept open and focused.
Handle Complaints Like A Pro
Any good salesperson will know there’s some value in receiving a complaint. Not only is it a great learning experience, but gives you an opportunity to prove your dedication to customer satisfaction. In your day to day life, you’ll hear numerous complaints. Perhaps a spouse is complaining that you forgot to buy milk, or your kids have complained you shrunk their best sweater in the wash. Whatever it is, the first step is apologising. Apologies go a long way in sales. According to one survey, 33% of customers who were offered monetary compensation alone in response to a complaint were satisfied with the resolution. But this figure doubled when an apology was offered in addition.
Failure to apologise significantly increases the likelihood that a customer will turn to social media to broadcast their experience, which is never a welcome move in this industry.
The next step is to make up for it – not once, not twice but up to twelve times. According to one study, that’s approximately the number of positive experiences a customer needs to forget about the negative one. In everyday life, you can test this theory by ‘getting it right’ twelve times after getting it wrong, and see if the person concerned is still dissatisfied after that. Sound laborious? It doesn’t need to be – these ‘make up’ activities need only be small so long as they are significant to the complainant.
Listen With Intent
Active listening is a critical sales skill, but it takes practise to get it right. The great thing about listening is you can do it where-ever you are, whoever you’re with. There are a handful of useful listening techniques you can incorporate into day-to-day conversations such as:
• Never interrupting, but allowing for natural breaks before contributing
• Slowing the conversation down
• Asking for clarity on areas that seem muddled or contradictory
• Paraphrasing and summarising
• Hearing the ‘emotion words’ and reflecting these
• Remembering anecdotes and stories and referencing them in the future
The next time someone tells you about their day at work, you may want to practise these techniques. You may even find you receive positive feedback from the speaker, or that they open up more than usual. If so, you’re doing it right.
Remember, sales plays a fundamental roles in daily life, so there’s ample opportunity to build on your skills and refine techniques within areas you’re less confident in.