Toughest Job in Sales

Professional sellers agree that just about the toughest job in sales is getting time with a buyer. In retail sales, the problem is easier to solve. Buyers walk in. Getting time with the retail buyer typically means making yourself available to help. However, as the price of things sold goes up, so do the barriers that buyers erect. If they make decisions on major purchases for their company, they are inundated by salespeople with requests for their time and attention.

Obviously, they can't see everyone. So many buyers take the stance of: We're not buying right now! This can be frustrating, especially for salespeople who sincerely believe that the solutions they offer could really help the buyer — if the seller could just get some time with the buyer.

The solution for professional sellers is to focus your message, develop buyer trust, and be patient yet persistent. Following are some guidelines for making the toughest job in sales easier.

Your Message

Buyers are busy. They don't have time to listen to salespeople stutter over their sales pitch in hopes of gaining the buyer's interest. Their initial message must be focused, clear, and attention grabbing.

The products or services that you represent probably are designed to solve a number of generic problems for buyers. But buyers really don't care about other people's problems; they want to know how to solve their own problems. Your sales message must focus on how it can benefit the buyer. For example:

  • Acme Widgets are the most popular brand among consumers and are the most profitable for retailers.

  • Our umbrella business insurance plans can increase covered events at lower premiums.

  • Wholesalers can reduce inventory with our just-in-time delivery system.

  • Conventions at our resort have a 97 percent satisfaction rate.

  • You will have many unique selling points like these in your sales arsenal. It is vital that you use the appropriate one to focus your message on the specific buyer's needs.

    In addition, your message must be clear and specific. Saying “conventions at our resort are satisfied with our service” has less meaning than specifying that the verifiable satisfaction rate is 97 percent. Being clear and accurate can help buyers understand that you recognize their problem and that you have a solution.

    As much as possible, make your message attention getting. Stating a primary benefit can gain a buyer's notice: most popular, most profitable, lower premiums, reduce inventory, high satisfaction. Before you ask a prospect for an appointment, make sure you have a focused, clear, and attention-getting message. Know what problem you can solve for your buyer and present it as succinctly and vividly as possible. That's the first step in getting a quality sales appointment.

    Developing Trust

    As noted throughout this book, trust is the key to gaining a buyer's confidence. You must encourage and develop a level of trust in your buyer so that she or he can believe what you say and do. Without trust, there is no transaction.

    How can you build a level of trust in a prospect that you barely know? Most often, initial trust is transferred from another source. That is, a trusted business associate or friend recommends you. “Mike Simpson, your golfing partner, just bought a set of our new clubs from me and suggested that you might like to know about how they improved his game.”

    In some cases the product or service that you offer has developed brandname recognition that you can use. “I'm Dave Jones from Acme Widgets, the bestselling brand in the United States.” Use this associated trust to your advantage. Just make sure that the trust you attempt to transfer is valuable. If, for example, you are calling an expired customer who may not have had a good experience with your company in the past, start with an apology. Then you can begin to rebuild the lost trust.

    Being Patient

    Don't expect buyers to be awaiting your phone call for an appointment. Most are much too busy for that. Instead, your call may be an interruption to them. Always ask if they have time to discuss an appointment. Be prepared to hear answers like:

  • We don't have any needs to buy right now.

  • I'm too busy to discuss it right now.

  • Call me back in a couple of months.

  • Responses like this can indicate a very busy buyer. More often, they point to a buyer who doesn't see an advantage to an appointment with you. That's why having a valuable message and developing trust can help you. Be prepared to respond to a “No!” and you may get a “Yes” or at least a “Maybe.”

    Once you get some experience at setting appointments, you'll probably be able to identify which of the “No” reasons a buyer uses before it's even used. Great! Then take the power out of it. “I know you're a busy person and don't want to take your time without giving you something valuable for it, so can I buy you lunch?” “You're probably not in the market for widgets right now, but I can show you how to save 20 percent when you are.”

    Being Persistent

    Professional sellers don't easily take “No!” for an answer. They are persistent. But they aren't pests. They are careful not to ask questions that will end the discussion, such as “Would you ever buy from us?” Instead, they ask questions that typically bring a positive answer, such as “Do you buy widgets?” or “Do you have a few minutes to discuss how to save $500 on your next widget purchase?”

    In some calls to request an appointment, the buyer will put you off until another time. Don't be dissuaded. Instead, thank the prospect for the opportunity, then get a date and time when you can call back. Most important, when you do call back, remind the buyer that you were asked to call back now and why.

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