Article by Susan Villamena, President & CEO, Acrylic Flooring Inc.
If you’re in sales, you don’t need me to tell you it’s the hardest job in any company. It’s the only job where your paycheck is directly linked to whether a customer decides to buy. If prospects don’t become customers, you don’t get paid or maybe you don’t get to keep your job. Couple that with all the uncertainty of sales. Not knowing who will say yes and who will say no.
That’s why when I had my first introduction to the Sandler method of selling it was a transformative experience. For the first time in my selling career I was learning something that I didn’t think was possible. There were two concepts that had the greatest impression on me, 1) I had rights as a sales person and 2) If I was going to succeed, I had to be the person who controlled the process.
If you look closely, the sales person/prospect relationship is the craziest relationship on the planet. It’s amazing that business happens at all given the dynamic between the two parties. The person who needs something feels compelled at every turn to resist the person who has the thing they need! As salespeople, our history has been a difficult one. We’re sometimes viewed as disreputable shysters who will manipulate unsuspecting prospects into giving us their money and then not delivering what they promised. While we can all agree we’ve come a long way in our profession, those feelings still run deep. If we’re being honest here, we’ve all had those feelings and we are in sales!
So, what’s the answer? To start with, you need a tried and tested process for selling; one that you can rely on every time you meet a prospect. Add to that, a new definition of what it means to sell and, an understanding that it’s not your job to convince someone to buy from you. Remember, Selling is the process that two people go through to determine if it makes sense for the buyer to buy and the seller to sell. Your job as a sales person is to help your prospects discover for themselves whether they have enough pain to fix their problem and then to decide if they want to fix that problem with you.
Once you know what the desired result should be, you’ll need to prepare yourself for the game that exists between you and your prospects. Sandler called it the “Buyer/Seller Dance”. And the dance goes like this….
Prospects agree to having a conversation. They pick our brains for information, and then take that information and do one of five things…buy what you have, compare your information to competitors, use your information to leverage their current relationship, toss it in the garbage or let it sit on their desk until it becomes stale enough to throw out without any guilt. Of all these possible outcomes, only one of them is “Buying”! Of course, when they buy, it’s easy, but when they do any one of these other things, it starts to get messy. They may string you along, you may find yourself leaving voice mails, sending emails, on and on and on. No matter how you slice it, you’re in a Chase and it’s the Chase that drives us nuts as sales people. Here’s where your rights come in. As a professional, you have a right to know the truth about what your prospect is thinking and where you stand as it relates to doing business, or not doing business, and unless you have a good system, you will be vulnerable to the “Buyer/Seller Dance”.
Sandler says, rethink the timing of your presentation. Before you talk about what you have and what you can do for your prospects, find out a few things first so you can decide; a) if you should even do a presentation or; b) what type of presentation you should be doing.
The first thing we need to do when selling is find out, in detail, what issues your prospect is having and seek to uncover whether those problems are causing enough Pain to do something about it. In other words, are they committed to fixing their problem with or without you. Deciding whether they want what you have is two steps away. The only thing that matters in this step is if figuring out if they are ready to take action. All successful sales relationships have this one thing in common; the prospect had a Pain that they were committed to solving. Rule number one in sales is: “If there is no pain, there will be no change”. If they don’t have Pain, find a new prospect or you’ll be spinning your wheels.
A prospect with Pain is still a prospect. If they don’t have the Money or the willingness to spend the money they will never become a client. All prospects must have a way to pay for what you have. And don’t be fooled, they always know how much they’re willing to pay for what you have. Never believe the prospect who says, “money is no object” (it always is) or “I don’t know how much I’m willing to pay” (not true…. EVER!). Your question should be simple…” Do you have a budget for this?” If yes, ask, “can you share with me in a round number about how much that might be?” If they say no, ask, “Have you thought about how you will fund this purchase?” Again, if there is no money or not enough money or the willingness to spend the money, there is no sale. Plain and simple. When prospects have enough Pain around what you have, they will find the money. If you run into trouble in this step, go back to step one. If you feel that you did a great job in the Pain step, and there is still an issue around the money, you may need to walk away. Remember, Budget is a qualifying step. Pain without Budget = No Sale. Move on. Consider yourself lucky that you didn’t spend another minute with a prospect who isn’t buying. Find someone else to call. SWSWSWN, Some Will, Some Won’t, So What, Next.
Let’s assume they have Pain and the Money to fix it. Then you’re ready to move onto the Decision Process. In this step, you want to make sure you have full control of what’s coming next. It’s imperative that you spend some time talking about ‘how’ a decision is made at this company or with this person. I’m not talking about asking who the decision maker is. Remember, even the person with the checkbook has a process. Your job is to uncover what that process is so you can decide what to do next. Clearly the person you are meeting with is part of the process somehow, even if they don’t get to say, yes. Try changing up your questions slightly and ask, “when buying a product like ours, what is the process you go through to make that happen? Who else is involved?” You’ll need to find out…
- Who is part of the decision process?
- What are the things that must happen to satisfy those people and their concerns?
- How will the decision take place, i.e. another meeting with those people?
- When does a decision need to be made?
Without a greater understanding of the Process, this is the step that will trip you up every time; because it’s at this point people are vulnerable to saying “Hey, thanks for coming in.” We’ll be in touch”, or, “Call me next week” or “Send me a proposal”. “Let me run this by the boss”, etc.
If you and your prospect, working together, can determine there is a Pain that must be solved, they’ve shared with you a Budget (even an approximate number) for getting it done and all the players who have an interest in getting it done are part of the Decision Process, you have a green light for a presentation. At that point, the interested parties can decide if what you have to offer is what they want. If they don’t like your solution, that’s okay. It happens. But if you did a good job in uncovering Pain and Budget, you should know exactly what it is they are looking for.
Taking control of your sales calls will stop you from spinning your wheels with prospects who don’t have a real need, or the money to spend or the ability to help facilitate a decision. When you sell this way prospects will appreciate the process, because the ironic thing is, they will feel like they are the ones in control.
Susan Villamena is the President and CEO of Fairfield, NJ based Acrylic Flooring Inc. Prior to taking the reigns at the Garden State flooring concern Ms Villamena spent 25 years teaching sales with Sandler Sales. She can be reached 914-804-7988 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about sales or her quick drying floors.