November 04, 2001 18:49:42
Inside Every Sale
Co-Founder of Martin-Keeney Success Training Systems
We frequently discuss the various steps the salesperson must take along the road to closing a sale. Those steps are meant to parallel the recognized steps the customer must take before they can commit to a sale. Unfortunately, many salespeople have never been formally introduced to those steps. By providing these valuable clues to the correct timing of the selling process, we can provide motivation to avoid shortcuts. Often it is not a lack of technique that causes us to miss a sale, but simply faulty timing.
In almost all selling situations, the very first step in the sale is greeting and reception. This is true for the buying process as well. Before we can sell anything, we must allow the customer to learn that we are someone they would consider doing business with. Your customer needs to be assured during this phase that you are qualified to identify their buying or shopping needs. Think about whether you would consider taking the advice of a lawyer regarding your health. No matter how much documentation he or she provides, or how persuasively it is presented, you are less likely to heed their advice than that of a qualified physician. By the way, you are also less likely to provide them with accurate information.
During the counseling phase, we are continuing to build a relationship with the customer. You must assure your customer that the purpose of counseling is to formulate a solution to their buying needs. Remember that while your primary need is to make a sale, your customer's primary need may not be to buy, but rather to spend less time in the service department, or be able to transport their entire family in one vehicle. The attractively advertised payment in the newspaper may not close your deal if their primary motivation is to own something a little more luxurious and you land them on an economy model because they happened to mention your ad. This should not be an interrogation. For example, how do you respond to a customer who says that they came to look at a specific model from a newspaper ad? Do you immediately choose the least expensive one and run for the keys? If your customer is looking for something that can tow a boat, and the ad vehicle cannot, it's unlikely that they are going to allow you to show them something that will, after you have wasted an hour of their time. Most customers want to tell you why they are shopping. Be prepared to listen. A better response might be, "Great what was it about that model that grabbed your attention?"
Once you have uncovered your customer's real buying motivation, it is time to select the vehicle that most closely suits your customer's need. Nearly 70% of customers buy a model other than their first choice. There are several reasons for this, but two of the most important are: their primary buying need was met and urgency was created, or someone they believed was more knowledgeable convinced them that another model could more effectively meet their needs. Don't race ahead of your customer into the demo. Remember that they are trying to discover a solution to their driving needs. Make sure that you are doing the same.
Once you have discovered the solution, you must work to convince your customer that your selection will provide the rewards they are looking for. Your customer's need for this reassurance is often the reason for resistance to the demo drive. I'm certain that most of you are quite talented at building value in your products. Remember at this stage to build value for the customer. Your customer needs to see themselves enjoying the benefits of your solution. This is what happens as the customer is taking mental ownership, and you can help him do this by again acknowledging his buying motives and assuring him that your product is a safe solution.
Hopefully, at this stage, you already know if your customer has shopped elsewhere, or has considered different models. Once you have proven definitively that your solution will work, you must then prove that it is the superior solution. How often has a customer come in comparing payments to your competitor, and drove your product home because your warranty looked a little better, or they really could stretch their legs out in the rear seats? Competitive product knowledge is important at this stage. Being armed with current knowledge on features is essential. For example, if your customer is talking to you about fuel economy, but you know his primary motivation is to be able to tow a boat, find a creative way to tie those two capabilities together. Chances are, no one else has.
Once you have effectively edged out the competition and negotiations are looming on the horizon, you have entered what is called the "risk phase" of the buying process. This is where your customer begins to weigh the risk of purchase, or even the risk of negotiations, against the benefits of ownership. It is important at this phase that you appear confident in your customer's ability and willingness to commit to the purchase. Your level of preparation for this phase, and in some cases, even your open acknowledgement of it, can be a relief to your customer. How well you handled the initial trust building phase of this relationship will determine how much control you have over the risk phase of the deal. Will your customer perceive you as an ally who is qualified to advise him in assessing the risk, or does he view you as the enemy? The risk phase is often where objections are raised, and if you recognize this as a necessary part of the selling process, in many cases your customer will respond positively to your lead. The salesperson who is prepared knows that this phase is the definitive buying sign.
After you have helped your customer reach the logical conclusion that he can and should buy from you, your next task is to identify or create a reason to buy now. Your manufacturer can provide some important help in this area with incentives and package savings. If you have counseled thoroughly, chances are, your customer has already provided you with some clues as well. If your customer has already shopped several other stores, even that can be a reason to "put the shopping experience behind you, and start enjoying your new car today."
Richard Keeney is co-founder of Martin-Keeney Success Training Systems. He has extensive experience in both management and training of dealership personnel and systems. Since it's inception The Mar-Kee Group has grown from an in house training provider to a full range distance learning and consulting firm. They are happy to offer their clients services in fixed and retail facets of their operations. firstname.lastname@example.org