Anyone who is in a selling situation, especially anyone who is evaluated or remunerated based on how well they sell, might want to think about how they can improve their selling skills.
Recently I’ve come up with four key words, the four L’s of selling, that encapsulate the four key steps in truly high performance selling.
But before we get into the four L’s, let’s agree on one thing. Let’s agree that true selling is, most emphatically, not scheming, wheeling, badgering, manipulating, or otherwise forcing someone to buy something they neither want nor need. If that is what you’re looking for, you can stop reading now, because you won’t find it in this article.
Let’s agree instead that true selling is the fine art of finding the best match between what the client needs or wants and what you have to offer. With that settled, let’s get on to the four L’s.
Before you can find a match between what you have to offer and what the client desires, you first have to find out what it is they actually need or want. This involves listening, and many people have a dreadful misconception about listening. Many conceive of listening as a passive skill: you sit there, the client talks, and the words wash over you, a bit like standing in the shower.
But the kind of listening that you have to put into play if you want to improve your selling skills is active listening. This involves clearing your mind of what is going on around you, what you hope to have for dinner tonight, or any of a myriad of other concerns that might pop into your brain. To really listen involves actively concentrating and focusing in on what the client has to say. By doing this you will not only begin to discover what the client’s needs or wants, but by paying close attention to what they are saying, listening to the tone of their voice, observing their body language you will show that you value them as a person and begin to establish rapport.
Remember, the client needs to feel that there is some true rapport taking place and understanding of their needs before they will trust your recommendations.
Learning involves diving deeper or drilling down into what the client has to say. This means you will have to ask appropriate questions regarding their true need. So if the client says they need a checking account, you need to find out if it is personal or commercial, how many checks they plan to write a month, what sort of balance they expect to maintain, and so forth. If they want to rollover an IRA into your investment department, you need to find out what their goals are and what level of risk they are willing to tolerate. You also need to find out what the client’s expected schedule is and their sense of urgency.
Once you think you understand what the client needs or wants, you need to verify that your understanding is correct. You can do this by asking verifying questions: Ms. Smith, if I have understood you correctly, you would like a checking account with the following characteristics . . . And when you asking verifying questions, make sure that you listen carefully to the answers.
When you understand the needs or wants of the client, along with their sense of urgency, it’s time for you to leverage your product knowledge. Based on your understanding of the client’s needs and your product knowledge it says to the client you can identify a product or service that matches that solves the client’s dilemma.
Sometimes, though, there isn’t a perfect match between the customer’s desire and what is available. That’s when the need for true selling creativity arises: Well, Mr. Jones, we don’t have a checking account that offers all of the features that you want, but if you’re willing to keep some of your money in a checking account and some in a money market account, we should be able to accomplish your goals.
There are two additional points that need to be made here. First, in order for you to leverage your understanding of the products, you must truly understand those products. If you lack that understanding, you need to obtain it by whatever means necessary if you want to be successful in selling.
Second, you need to take seriously the need to match what you are proposing to the customer’s needs and wants. Recently, a colleague was considering rolling over some investments. He asked for a recommendation for federally insured alternatives, stressing that he was not interested in any investment product that could possibly lose capital. When he received the response in the mail, the recommended investment vehicle was not federally insured and said prominently it may go down in value. In his view, it was a totally useless response.
Once you have listened to the customer, learned what they need, and leveraged your knowledge to create a solution that meets the need, it’s time to take the lead: Mrs. Johnson, I think this will do what you asked for. If you are ready to move forward on this, here’s what I will do, and here’s what I need from you.
If the client needs more time to decide or is not prepared to move ahead immediately, make a note to follow up to see if you can help in any way. If you have committed to take a certain action by a certain date, make sure you do it and follow up with the client to let them know that it has been accomplished. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to keep your commitment, contact the client immediately, explain the issue, and set a new specific commitment with the client.
If the client fails to keep their commitment, follow up with them in a very service-oriented way. You want to show the client that you are anxious to serve them well, not berate them for failing to do what they said they would do.
If you put the 4 L’s to work for you in a conscientious way, I think you’ll find that your sales performance will improve and so will your client satisfaction.
The Connors Group