How many golden rules are there for achieving success in selling? Probably hundreds. In fact you'll find plenty in this blog. But there are some which stand head and shoulders above the rest. This article focuses on six which apply to any sale, of any product or service, in any business.
1 - Call As High As You Can
Whether selling $billion business process outsourcing or garbage cleanup, your conversation needs to start with the highest authority you can reach. The CEO might be the final decision maker, or may have delegated the role to a staff member. It doesn't matter which. Reaching the top of any authority hierarchy and being referred down the tree to the decision maker always carries an authority you'll never achieve by working your way up. Call as high as you can. That's how you'll uncover the real reason for the buying discussion, figure how how real is the opportunity, and understand how to win it.
2- Integrity Is Your Only Asset
Do you know any sales people who spent their entire career working the same job? Sales people always move on, taking their past successes and failures with them. Some past misdeed could bite them in the behind at any time whereas a good reputation is an enduring asset. Doing the best job you can for customers is the only way to build a reputation in sales. Ultimately what the bean counters think of you is irrelevant. It's past customers who give you referrals, and references.
Protecting your reputation is reason enough to stay away from selling the wrong thing in the wrong way. But there's another dimension to maintaining your integrity. Knowing your professionalism works to the customer's benefit builds confidence. You can be direct, knowing all the experience, and knowledge, and skills you're contributing to the conversation. Believing you are doing the right thing, for the right reasons helps you stay in the game when the going gets tough.
3 - Sell Aspiration
Whatever the prospect says s/he's buying, there's another motivation which won't be discussed. There's another objective the decision maker and influencers wish for. Find out what that is, and align your offer, sell ways you can help achieve that aspiration and you'll be home and dry.
4 - Recruit a Coach
In any sale there's always a conversation the seller isn't part of. Knowing what's being said in that conversation is a competitive advantage. Understanding how alternative solutions are viewed, and where are the weaknesses in your proposition is the intelligence which makes the difference between losing and winning. The only source of that intelligence is your internal coach. And your internal coach is the best route for delivering messages to those who favour somebody else's offer.
5 - Always Be Prepared to Walk Away
There's no game worth staying in regardless of the odds. Selling can be like playing Poker. You have to know when to Hold Em and know when to Fold Em. Cutting your losses is reason enough to exit a sale, but there's another advantage. Always being prepared to walk away usually means you won't have to. Once the prospect realises she doesn't hold all the cards the conversation will be less about buying and more about negotiating a business transaction.
6 - Talk About Money Early, and Price Late
You have to get the subject of money on the table early, but that doesn't mean the price you'll deal at. Talking about money early sets the scene for the business transaction. Of course you want paying for what you'll deliver, and the prospect understands. You need to test the buyers sensitivity to price, and need to check there's a budget available. At the same time you need time to build up understanding of the value you'll deliver. Talk about money, early and often, but don't declare your final, bottom line price until the prospect is ready to sign.
That final conversation satisfies both parties. Up until now the relationship has been about value. Once the prospect has decided to buy the resistance to price is at its lowest, and that's when you need to close the deal with your best offer.