marketing+sales: Partner Selling:
Partner selling is a logical approach to selling in today's electronically connected world. We all like to do business with people we know and trust. This simply makes buyers more confident in their purchases. If you sell from the perspective of serving customers as a partner, rather than an opponent, your rewards will certainly follow. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Step 1: Be Caring
Your customers' perception is their reality. Seeing things through their eyes will help you to position yourself as their caring and trusted partner, rather than just another vendor.
Step 2: Do Your Research
Without product knowledge, it will be impossible for any salesperson to translate product features into customer benefits. Also, know your customers' needs, wants and desires. This comes from direct and meaningful communication with your customers. I've found that a basic understanding of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), the science of how the brain learns, will assist any salesperson to become substantially more effective in the sales process.
Step 3: Be a Better Listener
Listen for NLP indicators. Everybody has a primary basic learning strategy: visual, auditory or kinesthetic (feeling). While people use each of the three strategies in different learning environments, most favor one strategy. Determine your customers' preferred strategy by listening to the kind of words they use. Talk with them in their NLP-favored terms to quickly build rapport. For example, the customer who asks, "I wonder how this will look on me?" is most likely a visual learner. Talk to that person in visual terms. An appropriate response might be: "Just picture yourself..." This is called direct or matched communication; in other words, you are mirroring your customer. If you responded with: "Feel this fabric," there would have been a communication mismatch. The more rapport you have with prospects/customers, the more they will tell you exactly how to sell to them.
Step 4: Ask Questions
One learns more through asking than through answering. "Ask and listen" is the formula for selling success. The correct questions, if answered, allow you to hear exactly how to sell to the individual or organization. Asking about needs and wants—along with past purchases—will help you understand what product features will deliver the benefits desired. In your questioning, determine the preferred learning strategy quickly and use "seeing," 'hearing" or "feeling" words when questioning prospects and customers.
Step 5: Determine the Benefits
To this day, viewing websites and sales and marketing materials, and listening to people talk only about features, causes me great pain. People buy based on benefits—or how the product or service makes their life better. Features are those things built into the product or service that assist in delivering the desired benefit. Your customer is always thinking, "What's in it for me?" To be a true partner, ensure the benefits of the product or service are the focal points of the conversation.
Step 6: Identify Buying Motives
Be a problem solver for your customers—justify their emotional decision to buy through the logic of fulfilling their buying motive(s).
Different people in different situations have one or more of the following buying motives: Profit or Gain; Fear of Loss; Comfort and Pleasure; Avoidance of Pain; Loving and Affection; and Pride and Prestige.
For instance, people generally buy insurance for fear of loss rather than for profit or gain; however, they play the stock market for profit or gain. Similarly, they buy aspirin and other painkillers for avoidance of pain rather than for pride and prestige. Yet pride and prestige is why most people buy an expensive luxury automobile. Sell to your prospects' or customers' buying motives and you'll close the sale much more quickly.
Step 7: Create Urgency
Help people understand why it is in their best interest to act now. Answer objections simply and quickly, as if your customer is asking a question—because that's really what they are doing. Say, "That's a great question, I'm glad you asked." Then go into overcoming their objection by explaining how a particular feature creates a benefit that makes their life better.
My favorite method in answering a prospect's questions is the "feel, felt and found" method. Try saying, "I know how you feel. Mrs. Smith recently felt the same way. She wasn't sure the colorful fabric of a swimsuit would hold up to the chlorine of a community pool. She went ahead and took a chance. We chatted the other day, and she told me that she found the color did hold up, even better than she had expected. She thanked me for helping her to choose such beautiful swimwear."
To create urgency, discuss the limited availability or seasonal nature of items. The herd effect is sometimes helpful to get people into action. This is when you talk about how many have already been sold today, this week or this month. Ask them, "How many times have you gone back to a store to buy something you wanted but didn't buy and it was gone?" Don't let this sort of thing happen to your customers.
Step 8: Close the Sale
You cannot be a successful selling partner for long, unless you turn your prospects into buying customers. While I am distressed by the number of my live seminar attendees who have told me they came just to learn closes, I am encouraged by the number that "got" the partner-selling basics. While closing is crucially important, there is so much more to selling than the twisting of arms.
I love soft selling, and silence is an excellent soft close. If you have enough confidence to remain quiet, simply review your offer, ask for the sale and wait until your prospect speaks. For most people, silence is uncomfortable. This is the only pressure I'd ever suggest you use.
Additional closes that might be helpful are:
• The Little Decision Close. First, get prospects to commit to a style or color they like rather than to making the purchase. Then, try one of the other closes.
• The Premium Offer Close. "Buy now and we'll include ..."
• The Doorknob Close. As you are walking out of the prospect's office, say, "Oh, by the way ... I'm really interested in knowing what is the real reason you decided not to buy today." At this point, they feel safe and will provide an honest answer. Then, as a good partner, say, "Oh, I'm so sorry I didn't tell you about that. Let me further explain." Next, go to the "feel, felt, found" method of overcoming objections and when you have answered all questions, try a different close.
• The Ask-for-It Close: There is nothing wrong with simply asking for your prospect to buy. The three great words that will change your life are: Ask For It. Be a bold and fearless partner, overcome rejection and doubt.
While the above suggestions are not guaranteed to work all the time, they will lead to more meaningful relationships with your prospects and customers and a faster sell.
By Ed Rigsbee, CSP, CAE
This article was originally published by Ed Rigsbee, CSP, CAE, in 2001 and was heavily edited in 2012. Rigsbee is the author of three books on business collaboration: "PartnerShift," "Developing Strategic Alliances" and "The Art of Partnering." He has more than 2,000 print-published articles to his credit and is a regular keynote presenter at corporate and trade association conferences internationally. Many know Rigsbee as "The ROI Guy." For more information, visit www.rigsbee.com. To access additional information at no charge, visit www.rigsbee.com/downloadaccess.htm.