Do you like salespeople? Do you trust them? Do you like receiving cold calls from them? No, well, you are not alone, most of us don’t, and the idea of having to become one, in order to grow your business, is not that appealing. That’s because the concept of the typical salesperson—pushy, untrustworthy and insincere—does not accurately characterize what a good salesperson is. A good salesperson asks questions, listens to the answers, and offers valuable solutions to a prospects problems. A good salesperson tries to establish a sense of trust and builds relationships. That’s a pretty big difference—an important one—and it’s the key to “wearing your selling hat with confidence.” You need to change the way you think about the selling process and how you approach it.
These are some of the lessons learned in this month’s Homegrown Lunch & Learn series Wear Your Selling Hat with Confidence with Dave Fellman, a sales and marketing consultant who works within the graphic arts industry. Fellman outlined the characteristics of what makes a good salesperson, and it’s not what you might think. Many assume that one with the gift of gab would make a good seller, but actually it’s someone who talks less and listens well that makes a better seller. Why? Because you need to understand your prospects problems, what they need, what they want, and what they are looking for, so that you can offer them a solution that they want to invest in.
SELLING TAKES COURAGE
Fellman explained that it takes courage to sell. Courage to become knowledgeable about what you are selling and who you are selling to, courage to make contact with prospective clients, and courage to ask provocative questions. When you ask thought-provoking questions and sincerely listen to the answers, you acquire the knowledge you need to demonstrate to them that you are able to solve their problem. It also gives you a chance to show what differentiates you from other vendors. Don’t just ask questions, demand answers. When you ask a question that requires thought, wait for the answer. Don’t succumb to the uncomfortable silence and start talking more. You can’t sell if you don’t get the answers.
Remember that you are not selling to companies, you are selling to individuals within a company. The person who will decide whether or not they will work with you not only needs to like you, but more importantly they need to trust you. They need to believe that you understand their problem and that quality of your work and the level of service you provide will indeed be the solution they need. Building relationships with prospects and earning their trust are vital components of the selling process.
Fellman described four categories of buyers:
1. Suspects are potential prospects
2. Prospects are potential customers
3. Customers are those currently buying from you
4. Maximized Customers are customers in which you have a maximum share of their business.
The first step in the selling process is to identify suspects. Do this by looking for companies similar to the ones you already work with, and identifying the prospects within those companies. Find out why makes the buying decisions for the services you provide. However, avoid making cold calls to the individual. Instead, call the company and explain to the receptionist that you would like to send them some information about your services and ask who is the best person to send it to. Get their email address and send them a brief message explaining why you are interested in their business, why they might be interested in working with you, and let them know you will call them soon to discuss your mutual needs. Then set yourself a reminder to call and follow up. Fellman advises to add a number of suspects to your list every week. You won’t be able to sell to everyone, so you need a large pool of suspects to draw from.
It is important to qualify your prospects before approaching them to become a customer. A quality prospect should have a good attitude, they should be receptive to you willing to listen; they should buy what it is that you sell, and should have a large volume of potential work for you; and they should show interest in buying from you.
TYPES OF BUYERS
Fellman identified five different types of prospects—solids, gases, liquids, players, and price monsters—and explained which types you want to avoid and which ones you should pursue.
1. Solids: are happy with their current supplier and won’t change.
2. Liquids: are happy with their current supplier but will talk to you, although you may need to do some work to get them to agree to meet with you.
3.Gases: are not happy with their current supplier and will change. It is easier to get their business, but it may be harder to gain their trust.
4. Players: spread their work around to several suppliers.
5. Price Monsters: all their decisions are based on who offers the lowest price.
Liquids, gasses and players are the types of buyers you should concentrate on. When meeting with liquids, ask if there is anything they would change if they could about the current supplier—the quality, service, results, etc. Their answer may provide you with leverage to draw they away from their current designer.
DEALING WITH OBJECTIONS
There are only few responses you will get when someone is not saying yes to you, so be prepared by thinking of possible obstacles and prepare responses to them. Fellman offered advice on how to handle some common objections.
“Call me in a couple of weeks”
Don’t take this as a blow off. Schedule a reminder to yourself to give them a call in a few weeks. Then call, reminding them they asked you to call back. By following up you demonstrate consistency and begin to establish trust. If your prospects tells you to call back well into the future, say six months, don’t be afraid to ask them if they really want to speak with you at that time, or if they are truly uninterested.
“I’m happy with my current designer”
Explain to them that you would like the opportunity to meet with them. Ask them who their current designer is. If you know of the designer comment that they do good work, maybe even joke that they are the second best designer in the area. Then ask them “wouldn’t it be worth your time to talk with me to see if I could better meet your needs?”
“Your price is too high”
Defend your pricing by explaining how you came to that price. Remind them of their wants and needs and show how your proposal address them. Most people will pay to get what they really want. If they still believe the price to be too high, consider negotiating a different price based on different specifications for the project. By revising the specs to reflect the most important needs, and perhaps sacrificing the wants, you can meet their budget. Conceding on price may be worthwhile in certain situations. It if is a big company, lowering the price may give you the opportunity to get your foot in the door. Just beware, they may not be as a good a customer, had you not lowered your price. You may want to offer them a reduced rate for a period of time to prove your worth and gain their trust. At the end of the period they would agree to your usual rate.
Confidence is big in sales. The more success you have the more confidence you will have in your selling process. Make it a point to learn from every selling situation. Evaluate what you did right or wrong, and what you could have done better. Fellman compares good sellers to competitive athletes. A competitive athlete has learned how to fail and pick themselves up again, reflect and review their mistakes, and then searches for opportunities to try again. And this is exactly what a good seller does.
I hope you find Dave Fellman’s advice to be as helpful as I and my fellow attendees did. Kathy, Bradley and Olivia from Burning Oak Studios did and shared their thoughts on the event on their blog. To share your thoughts or if you’ve put any of these tips to use, please share your story on our Facebook page.
photos by Laura Hamlyn and Amy Lyons
Thanks to Dave Fellman, Maura McDonald and Laura Hamlyn for another informative and valuable Homegrown Lunch & Learn. Join us next month as Stephanie Witchger presents Feeding the Fire: Creative Research for Designers on Feb 14th. Stephanie is currently a Library Assistant at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham Library. She also works once a week as a Contract Librarian for The Gregg Museum of Art and Design at NC State. She’s been at the Art Institute since last spring and prior to that she worked for several years in The Design Library at NC State.
UPDATE: a message from Dave Fellman
“I want to thank you again for attending my presentation at last week’s AIGA “Home Grown” lunch and learn. I hope you learned a few things about wearing you “selling hat” with confidence…my book contains even more Dinosaur Wisdom that could be of value to you.
You can find Listen To The Dinosaur on the shelves at most Barnes & Noble stores, and online at any one of these sites: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, dinosaurwisdom.com.
PS: If you’re not already an AIGA-Raleigh member, I definitely think you should consider joining.”