It's the question that goes through the mind of a salesperson during every call: How is the customer reacting to my pitch?
It's an apt question. In my win-loss analysis interviews with more than a thousand key decision makers about what determines success or failure in sales, I routinely ask at what point in the sales cycle the salesperson actually lost the deal. The most frequently mentioned response is during a sales call. With this important turning point in mind, let's examine how to develop a winning sales call strategy.
Customers will have one of five different reactions to everything you say during a sales call. They will either reject your statements and ideas outright, ignore what you say, acknowledge they've heard you, accept what you say but do nothing, or internalize your recommendations and take action. The reaction you receive is influenced by the level of rapport you have established with the prospective customer.Similarly, sales calls can be classified by the level of rapport.
Combative sales calls are antagonistic interactions with nonexistent rapport. Most likely, this type of situation occurs because the customer has a preexisting bias against your solution or an incompatibility exists between you or your company and the customer.
Contentious sales calls may begin congenially but are characterized by controversy or topical disputes that lead to ill feelings by the end of the call.
Unemotional sales calls lack outward displays of affection, and even though the call may last an hour, the customer remains aloof and unsympathetically distant.
Friendly sales calls are situations where the customer is generally receptive, cooperative, and open to your ideas. However, this doesn't mean they will buy your solution.
In synergistic sales calls, the customer shows genuine excitement, is receptive to your advice and recommendations, and jointly plans the future steps of the sales process with you.
Customers can experience many different types of reactions to salespeople, ranging from fear and hate to love and trust. For example, combative and synergistic sales calls are at the extreme ends of the spectrum. The winning sales call strategy is based upon executing synergistic sales calls and this is dependent upon establishing four different receptive states with the prospective customer.
Personal Receptive State. The first priority is to build a personal receptive state by finding intersecting activities and interests you have in common with the prospective customer. By doing so, you develop rapport with the entire person, not just the business person--building a personal friendship that sets you apart from the competition. Collect personal information about the evaluators through research, casual conversations, and quick examinations of the pictures, objects, and mementos in their offices. Always, preplan how you will create a personal receptive state at the beginning of the sales call.
In addition, speak in the customer's unique language. Match the tone, tempo, and speaking style of your customer to make him or her feel more comfortable. The most important difference between you and your competitors is not solely your products, your company, or the services and support you offer. It's you and your ability to build a deeper relationship with prospective customers.
Technical Receptive State. Every industry has developed its own language to facilitate the mutual understanding of terminology and an exact meaning of the words. The "technical specification language" consists of these abbreviations, acronyms, and specialized terms. Whether you are selling airplanes, computer chips, or telephone equipment, you need to know the terms and nomenclature of your industry.
A critical aspect of the sales call is not necessarily what you have planned to say on your call or in your presentation. Rather, it is how you handle the tough questions the customer asks you. Your question-handling ability is what helps separate you from the pack and this requires you to speak fluently with the customer in the technical specification language.
Business Receptive State. When you demonstrate that your primary interest is in the customer's success, you begin to build a business receptive state. At this point, the customer starts to consider you more than a vendor. You have proven your value as a business partner who has the expertise to solve the customer's problem.
One of the main traits of top salespeople is language specialization because a "specialist" beats a "generalist" every time. Instead of the recitation of standard "generic" product features and functions to the customer, the business receptive state is based upon a tailored discussion about business process improvement that is specifically applicable to the customer's environment.
Political Receptive State. You enjoy a political advantage over the competition when the customer believes that only your solution will help him achieve his personal benefactions. The term "benefaction" refers to the psychological benefits that determine a person's actions. It literally means receiving a benefit from taking action. Four core psychological drives determine selection behavior. People buy products they believe will help them fulfill deep-seated psychological needs: satisfying the ego, being accepted as part of a group or becoming the leader of it, ensuring survival, and avoiding pain. Customers rationalize their political decisions with logic and facts from the technical and business receptive states.
As a sales call progresses, continuously ask yourself if you are establishing the personal, technical, business, and political receptive states. A synergistic sales call occurs when all four receptive states are achieved whereas friendly sales calls may only have personal and technical receptive states established.
Finally, be sure to prepare your colleagues who will join you on the sales call by helping them understand what type of sales call to expect (combative, contentious, unemotional, friendly, or synergistic) and their role in executing your call strategy. Never forget, one of a salesperson's deadliest sins is to chatter and talk incessantly on sales calls. You have conducted the perfect sales call when you have listened far more than you spoke.
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