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How to be direct in sales

August 4, 2014 -  By

At the end of a sales presentation the words, “We like your numbers; we’ll get back to you,” are the kiss of death. It’s in this case my third habit of successful salespeople—be direct—would come into play. (See Web Extra for all six habits.)

Selling is a process of successive trial closes designed to manage the prospect’s “objections” and help them arrive at a decision. There’s a classic quote from the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” that goes, “A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing.”

This is what ABC means: Be prepared to trial close on customer objections. To do this you must be direct, and ask questions.

“We like your numbers; we’ll get back to you,” is an objection in my book. It needs to be followed up with a trial close question like: “It sounds like you have some hesitations about working with us. Off the record, can you tell me what those might be? It would be very helpful to me and my team to know these.” That is directness.

A habit is the product of practice. Directness is a personality predisposition, but it’s also a skill developed through practice. At the end of the day, the job of a salesperson is to help the customer make a decision—not to sell “features and benefits” and sound really smart providing the customer with “an education.” Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to know features and benefits and educate the customer, as I outlined in my February column, “The simple sales pitch.” But it also is essential to identify and explore objections and hesitations. 

Yes, you love your product and the clients may, too, but that doesn’t mean they will buy it. And since most people (prospects and customers) avoid conflict by nature, if they have any hesitations they’ll say things like, “We like your numbers; we’ll get back to you,” instead of saying “no.”

Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes. Why would he or she hesitate? There are three primary reasons: 1). The prospect doesn’t know you; 2). Change is hard; and 3). Price. The way you sell—less talk and more questions—helps the first. Address the second with honest exploration of their fears about working with a new contractor. And price is always an objection—always. If you can address the first two then you have the ammunition to address this one. 

When they talk price, you talk value. Here’s one way: “Let’s talk about the price because this is always important. Just to help me, if we were priced exactly right for you right now, would we be the company you would want most to work with?” This question/probe must be followed by silence. What you hear next will tell you if they are serious about you and about making a change. Be prepared not to like their answer, which means, “We like your numbers; we’ll get back to you,” really means no.

Asking the hard questions that separate the buyers from the tire-kickers is what it means to be direct. I never said selling was easy. But it’s my favorite job, and it’s far easier when you’re willing to be direct.

Illustration: FreeDigitalPhotos.netjscreationzs

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About the Author:

Kevin Kehoe was the founder of Aspire Software and a longtime landscape industry consultant.

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