I once heard a conversation between a sales manager and one of his team members where the sales manager is telling his sales person, simplify the conversation so that even a five-year old can understand what solution you are providing and how it will benefit him. Do you know how to do that? The sales person looked a bit confused and retorted back: “Oh yeah, that is easy”.
Is it really that easy? How many sales people resort to simplification (oversimplified) instead of simplicity?
A friend was buying a house in Singapore. One of her real estate agents showed her several houses and his main pitch was how beautiful the Jacuzzi and the swimming pool in each of these houses were. The fact was she was not keen on having either a Jacuzzi or a swimming pool and in her initial meeting with the real estate agent she had categorically specified what she was looking for and that didn’t include either of the two. Worse still, he had forgotten some of the key features that she was looking for in her prospective house. Had the agent bothered to listen and remember what mattered most to my friend, his chances of getting the deal would have been significantly higher. The real estate agent, however, was interested in pushing his agenda only instead of finding something according to what my friend had specified.
What were the reasons she wanted to buy the house?
What were her buying criteria?
Who are other people needing to buy in (if any) and what are their concerns?
Understanding the basics was something this sales person ignored.
What is Simplicity?
The foundation of Simplicity lies in clarity, and that comes from understanding the context, framework and the issue to be simplified. With respect to sales, it is understanding the needs of the buyer, having knowledge of the buyer’s background (company, industry, etc.) and their challenges. It involves listening, asking the right questions, being conversational, having the right attitude, business acumen, knowledge in different areas and an adaptable approach.
Simplicity does not mean simplification which often includes overselling, being manipulative, applying pressure tactics to close the sale, taking short cuts and having a transaction based view instead of caring about the relationship. There is nothing wrong with stripping away everything that is redundant and superfluous and avoiding unwanted jargon and technicalities. But this requires critical thinking and having an in-depth knowledge and understanding of not only the seller’s company’s business but also that of the buyers. It requires influence of the sales person, influence that comes from being known as someone who can be trusted and counted on to create value and show care for the customer.
Three Important Factors That Simplify Customer Decisions
1. Ask questions – don’t make the mistake of being the only talker where you show up and throw up and don’t give an opportunity to the buyer to speak. Ask questions to find facts about the buyer and their organization. Navigate your way through by finding out what do they currently use, what do they find good about the current product or supplier, challenges they face, what gaps are they looking to fill by way of new vendors or suppliers. Questions need to be asked to understand any internal loopholes or hurdles that the buyer is facing currently. This enables setting the framework for meaningful future discussions. It also helps to understand what are their plans or vision.
Asking open-ended questions (what, how, why, where, when and who) and where necessary probing questions will generate meaningful responses. Don’t sell what you have but find out what your prospective customer needs.
2. Trust –
Enabling the customer to have access to trustworthy information that is relevant to the customer enhances trust. Most of all, if you truly care about the buyer making the right buying decision (which could mean not buying from you), it helps make you a truly trusted advisor to your customer.
3. Choices – in these days of information overload, too many choices tire the brain. Easy access to information and the navigation to be able to make the choices according to their needs is a good foundation of simplifying the buying decision process.
As a result, only present solutions, products or services that are really relevant to the buyer and minimize talking about anything else to avoid confusion.
A new study described in the Harvard Business Review suggests that
The single biggest driver of stickiness, by far, was a decision of simplicity; the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options. What consumers want from sales people is simplicity. From To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple – A Harvard Business Review by Patrick Spenner and Karen Freeman.
The article cites an example of two approaches to selling cameras to web searchers: one firm provides visitors access to extensive information about each of its products, while the other focuses on the user’s needs and steers the user to the most appropriate product. The latter approach would be far more successful in today’s marketplace, say the authors.
If you understand the reasons that people buy and address that, you will do well as a sales person.
- What have I done to engage the potential customer?
- What have I done to engage the potential customer?
- Will I buy my own pitch?
- Have I clearly understood my customer’s needs and challenges?
- Have I explained my offering and niche to suit the customer’s needs?
- What value am I offering to the customer?
- What are the “Unique Buying Propositions” (versus Unique Selling Points which might be irrelevant to the buyer) and have I highlighted them to my customer?
- Does my product or service or offering contribute to the customer’s profits directly or indirectly?
- Do I know how to say more with less and be more significant to the buyer?