The ability to think on one’s feet is of great benefit to salespeople, since they will be required to modify their sales presentation to suit the particular needs and problems of their various customers and to respond quickly to unusual objections and awkward questions. However, there is much to be gained by careful preparation of the selling task. Some customers will have similar problems; some questions and objections will be raised repeatedly. A salesperson can therefore usefully spend time considering how best to respond to these recurring situations.
In many selling situations, buyers and sellers may negotiate price, timing of delivery, product extras, payment and credit terms, and trade-in values. These will be termed sales negotiations.
A number of factors can be examined in order to improve the chances of sales success in both sales negotiations and pure selling.
Knowledge of product features is insufficient for sales success. Because people buy products for the benefits they confer, successful salespeople relate product features to consumer benefits; product features are the means by which benefits are derived. The way to do this is to look at products from the customer’s point of view
Knowledge of competitors’ products offers several advantages:
- It allows a salesperson to offset the strengths of those products, which may be mentioned by potential buyers, against their weaknesses. For example, a buyer might say, ‘Competitor X’s product offers cheaper maintenance costs’, to which a salesperson might reply, ‘Yes, but these cost savings are small compared to the fuel savings you get with our machine.’
- In industrial selling, sales engineers may work with a buying organisation in order to solve a technical problem. This may result in a product specification being drawn up in which the sales engineers have an influence.
Although versatility, flexibility and the ability to ‘think on one’s feet’ are desirable attributes, there are considerable advantages to presentation planning:
- The salesperson is less likely to forget important consumer benefits associated with each product within the range they are selling.
- The use of visual aids and demonstrations can be planned into the presentation at the most appropriate time to reinforce the benefit the salesperson is communicating.
- It builds confidence in the salesperson, particularly the newer, less experienced, that they are well equipped to do the job efficiently and professionally.
- Possible objections and questions can be anticipated and persuasive counterarguments prepared.
The temptation, when setting objectives, is to determine them in terms of what the salesperson will do. The essential skill in setting call objectives is to phrase them in terms of what the salesperson wants the customer to do rather than what the salesperson will do. As with all objectives, sales objectives should, wherever possible, fulfill the SMART criteria for objectives that were discussed An important factor affecting the setting of sales objectives is the so-called sales cycle.
The sales cycle refers to the processes/steps between first contact with a customer and the placing of the actual order and the amount of time this takes. With regard to the process/steps in the sales cycle, once again this should always be considered from the point of view of what processes/steps the customer undertakes rather than from the perspective of the steps involved in selling, though clearly the former should determine the latter.
Many organizational buying decisions are complex, involving many people whose evaluative criteria may differ, and that the purchasing officer may play a minor role in deciding which supplier to choose, particularly with very expensive items.
The internet can provide a wealth of information on the buying organisation. The buyer’s website, online product catalogues and blogs are useful sources of information.
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems allow salespeople to access customer information held by their company via the internet. For example, Orange, the telecommunications company, enables their field salespeople to access their CRM databases using personal digital assistants (PDAs) equipped with wireless modems.