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Thursday, 8 January 2009

The 5 Stages of a Sales Call

You might be a business owner or self employed or someone who through force of circumstance has moved into sales and has had little, if any, formal sales training. This blog article will give you a structure to work from which will help you be more successful in sales. 

First a bit of Psychology, when people meet for the first time, there is always some stress particularly for the potential buyer. Stress levels which start at a high level at the beginning fall throughout the call only to rise to a peak again during what we all know as "The Close". What this 5 stage approach does it to try to make this psychology work in your favour to improve your chances of making a sale.

Stage 1. The Ice breaker

This stage relates to the first key minutes of the meeting at this point stress levels are high and we need to bring them down. It's a conversation which takes place between the two parties but which has nothing to do with business. It helps to establish ease and rapport before the business meeting proper starts. It literally breaks the ice. Obvious isn't it, well why do we often not use it. Well it's that word stress again which pressures us to get on with it, and don't you know it - when we rush straight into the business content we're less successful. What do you talk about? Well look for clues, people tend to publicise what they're interested in, even if they do so unconsciously. So if you see lots of golf pictures on the wall, guess what; he likes golf, there's your starter for ten.

Stage 2. The Opening

As it suggests, this is the start of the business portion of the meeting, it's a series of opening statements which should outline the agenda for the meeting, make sure you always have one. At this point you won't know what specific issues your prospect faces so you have outline the list is issues that a typical prospect for your product or services might face and relate that to the specific benefits that your company's product or service provides. This is the most talking you should do at the meeting.

Stage 3. Qualification or Questioning

By now and in a few short minutes by following these simple steps you'll have managed to reduce much of the stress levels, both you and your prospect will feel more comfortable and they will be ready to discuss the issues surrounding their business. There an old saying in sales which goes "you have two ears and one mouth use them in that proportion", basically and especially during this stage only ask questions and let your prospect do the talking. Qualification is a much undervalued part of the sales call, but if you don't qualify properly and understand your prospects issues and rationale you've dramatically reduced your chances of a successful close. This section is by far the longest and should represent at least 75% of the time you spend with your prospect. Don't at any point during the qualification stage offer any solutions; just make note of the issues and problems raised and how your solution can solution can help. Start with easy questions like "how did you start your business?" and "who do you sell to?"or "why did you buy this machine?" Then ask more searching questions once you've uncovered some issues like "why is that a problem for you?" or "what are the implications of not addressing this problem?" Having gathered your information and understood his problems we go to...

Stage 4. The Close

It's the term that strikes fear into the hearts of many sales people, just the mention of the word has probably increased your heart rate and you're not even at a meeting! So as we enter the close our stress levels really start to spike. One of the side effects of high stress is that we have a tendency to talk too much and frankly just babble. 

This is a real danger because by talking too much we let our prospect off the hook and leave without a sale. So as we move into the close keep calm, try to deliberately talk a little slower, then sum up the qualification session by identifying each issue and how you can help. You then ask for the order and stay quiet and you stay quiet until your prospect answers. Don't worry if it takes what seems like an eternity for him to respond it's only likely to be 5-10 seconds, and remember your prospect will be feeling just as much stress as you. If you start speaking first you'll have lost; the conversation will avoid directly the issue of purchase because you'll have given your prospect a chance to talk anything other than the most important - will he buy.

Stage 5. The Consolidation

Congratulations you've held your nerve, you've asked for the order and you've answered a couple of objections and he's said yes. So what do you do next? Well you could run around waving your arms in the air saying Yes! Yes! - but that's probably not the right thing to do. 

Let's look at the stress levels, they've collapsed you've both taken a huge sigh of relief and there's a great tendency to get out of there just as fast as you can. Don't. Stick around the consolidation stage is there for you to allow the prospect to be comfortable in his own mind that he's made the right decision. There is something called "buyers blues" which relates to circumstances where after a purchase the buyer becomes disillusioned with what he's bought. It often manifested by the unexpected cancellation of an order. The Consolidation is designed to minimise this, you need to find a reason to stick around for 10-15 minutes, if you can, get him to fill in some documentation relating to the sale, alternatively if you haven't already suggest a look around the factory or site, your intention here is to get them back into their comfort zone, I've even suggested a celebratory cup of tea.

So there you have it, a simple five step model for being more successful sales, happy selling!

Find us also at www.exigent-uk.com

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