20 Sep Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride
Question: Are you losing too many sales to the competition or narrowly coming in second place? How to narrow that gap.
There are many potential reasons why you may be coming in second place. The first step to overcoming your predicament is to understand why. Ask the customer specific questions before the sale is finalized to uncover what they will base their decision on and what they like best about the competition. Then, make corrections. If you have already lost the sale, go back to the customer and ask what they liked about the competition and what their final decision was based on. Check your attitude before you do this. Make sure you are willing to listen and make corrections based on the customer’s recommendation. Don’t get defensive or try to prove your point. It’s simply a learning experience at this point.
Here are some other considerations:
- Make sure you understand the implied and unspoken needs of the customer group. Sales are often lost because there are gaps between what the customer expects and what the salesperson thinks they want. You may be losing sales simply because the competition more closely understands the customer’s needs. Ask good open-ended questions that help the customer predict the future. For instance, you may ask something like, “If you decide to go ahead with our recommendation, how will you evaluate the success of the program?” Then, frame your recommendations based on the responses you receive.
- Sell to all of the influencers. An influencer is anyone who can affect whether or not you get the sale. They may be obvious or they may not. Think in terms of whom will be affected by the decision to buy your product or service. Who will release funds for the sale and who will make judgements or recommendations. Then make sure you sell each the value that is important to them. Don’t assume that because your relationship is good with one buyer that it’s good with all.
- Assess your competition. Don’t be afraid to ask the customer whom they are considering besides yourself. Once you know who your competition is, evaluate how you have stacked up to them in the past. Ask yourself some hard questions like, “What are my strengths/weaknesses compared to the competition?” “What does the customer like about the competition?” Use the information you gain to emphasize your strengths when you deliver your proposal and make your specific recommendations. Don’t guess at this information. If you don’t know, ask!
- Stress value, not features and benefits. When it comes time to make your final recommendation, make sure you stress the value that the customer will receive, not the benefits and features that you provide. Adjust your value statements to each individual buyer. For instance, if you are working with a safety manager you may say, “You can expect a reduction in OSHA fines by as much as 10% by using our product.” Value is almost always translated in terms of saving time or money. Then you can use your benefits and features to explain how you accomplish that particular value.
- Be persistent but not pushy. Make sure you stay in front of the customer. This doesn’t always mean face to face. Research issues affecting the customer and send them a copy. National averages show that it takes at least five contacts to make a sale. Only ten percent of all salespeople make more than five calls and sixty percent make only one call to the same account. So, just by being more active in the account, you will gain business over your competition.
- Recognize buying signs. Do you know what they are? If a customer leans forward, it’s a buying sign and an opportunity to close. If they ask specific questions this is an opportunity to close such as, “How soon could we take delivery if we decide to go ahead?”
- Clarify stalls – Stalls are dangerous because they tend to look like the truth even though they usually aren’t. Typical stalls include; “We’ll look over your proposal and get back to you.” Or “Give us a call back in a month.” Clarify stalls by asking open-ended questions. It could make the difference between gaining or losing a sale.
- Use closing techniques to check the pulse of the buyer. Closing techniques are very personal. You need to feel comfortable with the ones that you use. Practice several until you find a couple that work for you. An example of a closing question that works well for many is, “Is there any reason why you would not go ahead with this?”