Posted: Wed 25th Nov 2020
Don't be that salesperson who drinks their coffee cold. Good salespeople drink their coffee hot, as Cynthia Wihardja explains.
In my 22-year experience in sales and business leadership, I find that this fun mantra really helps to remind people what it actually means to build trust and empathy in your sales process.
And I'm writing this not just to sales professionals, but to business owners. When you're growing your small business, I believe you need to be a great salesperson.
So let's paint the scene: you're in a meeting with your prospect and you each prepare a cuppa. Do you get to drink your coffee hot, or is it already cold by the time you drink it? If you get to drink it hot, well done - you're listening to the prospect before waffling on about what you can do for them.
If you're drinking it cold; well, you've been talking too much. And don't be surprised if they reply with: "Uh-huh... OK... well, great. Let me think about that and I'll let you know."
Let's think about your own experience of being sold to. Which salespeople do you enjoy talking to? Do they even feel like salespeople? Or are they more like problem solvers, who take the time to listen to your challenges before offering a solution?
What made you feel confident to buy? What did the salesperson do to you, with you, and for you? Who was the salesperson for you? Were they human brochures who just talked about their features and benefits, or were they advisers who gave you relevant and useful advice based on what you needed?
Whatever you sell, and whoever you sell to, there is a pattern to every sales conversation:
The next steps
A way to remember this is by using the acronym PIDSN, which may not mean much to you now, but I guarantee you'll stay awake thinking about it tonight! Let's go through the steps one by one:
A good salesperson leads the conversation, so establish yourself as the leader in your sales meetings by saying something like: "The purpose of this meeting is to..." You can fill in the blanks or use a template that fits any industry, such as: "The purpose of this meeting is to get to know where you are now and where you want to be, discuss your challenges and brainstorm some solutions together. Would that be OK?" Feel free to add to it, but keep it short.
I assume you've referred your prospect to your website beforehand, but it's always good to re-establish who you are and what you do. But again, keep it to no more than two sentences - and I don't mean long run-on sentences where you try to fit everything in. I mean a short intro like this: "We help people ____ so that they can _____. And my purpose here is to see how we can use what we know to help you achieve your goals. Is it alright if I ask you some questions?"
_Pause. Let's have a quick break here, because I want you to notice something before I go on. Do you see how I end everything with a question? In the purpose, I ended with "Would that be OK?" and in the intro, I ended with "Is it alright if I ask you some questions?" Why do I do that? To engage, to get them to say "yes", and to get their permission to go through the process with me.
When they give permission, they are engaging themselves in the conversation. They are allowing me to help them further. They are opening themselves up to rapport. I'm not sure about the whole theory of "Get them to say 'yes' seven times and you've got the sale", and that's not where this is going. This is about making sure the conversation is mutually engaging; that both parties remain committed to go on.
Oh, and because you've done the first two steps quickly and smoothly, your coffee is still hot. So let's start drinking it in the next step._
This is where you get to drink your nice hot coffee! You all have a set of questions that you use to discover your prospect's situation and their challenges, so this is where you roll them out and listen.
Take a sip of that nice hot coffee, take notes, and just calmly listen. If you don't have a list of questions, we need to talk - this means you've been a talking, walking brochure all this time. Please create a list.
You've discovered your prospect's challenges and your expert mind has uncovered a few solutions that can help them. Now it's time to talk them through. Your coffee should almost be finished by now anyway, because you've been listening and taking notes.
Instead of going away to create a proposal and then emailing it to the prospect, can I just suggest you talk through your solution right then and there? Co-creating your solution in front of and together with the prospect usually gets me higher conversion rates. You can write the proposal later, but first take time to bounce off ideas with the prospect and make them feel that the solution is made mutually.
If you are an expert in what you do, there is usually no reason why you can't discuss ideas on the spot with them right then and there. It doesn't have to be detailed; just a ballpark idea will do. Doing this will save you editing and re-sending revised proposals later. It will also help prospects to take ownership of the solutions, because they feel they were part of the process.
For extra bonus points, use their words - not yours - in your proposal. If they have their own jargon to describe something in their business, use it if the meaning is similar to your own. They will love your proposal because it sounds like they've written it themselves.
The next steps
This is a nice end to your sales meeting: the next steps, the action plan, where to go from here. Again, lead this step. Don't just promise a proposal. Say something like: "OK, so the next step is that I will craft a proposal based on our discussion so that you can see the details of how we'll work together. I'll call you in three days to see if you have any questions. Is that OK?"
Again, put in the question at the end. Some of you have a different way to follow up. You may do a survey or sign a contract. I've just given you a generic template for what to say. Feel free to make up your own. The point is, be proactive and lead the follow-up process. Tell them what you think will need to happen and end with "Is that OK?" to keep them engaged.
Cynthia Wihardja is a trusted Enterprise Nation adviser who combines her skills in psychology and practical business strategy to help entrepreneurs' sales and marketing efforts. Discover more by connecting with her.