How to sell a raincoat in the desert
By Winnie Makena | February 26th 2020
“Sell me this pen,” was a quip from the movie ‘The Wolf of Wall Street. The movie is based on a memoir of ultra-successful stockbroker Jordan Belfort. The question was supposed to showcase a salesman’s ingenuity when selling a pen; one of the most undifferentiated, highly replaceable product. When the question was posed by the stockbroker (played by Leonardo Dicaprio) to his friends, they aced it. But to a group of business executives, they were at a loss.
So can you sell a pen? Does your business depend on direct sales to clients? The answer to the second question is definitely a YES, because every business offers something to its clients.
We let you in on the most common mistakes that will almost always tank a sale and how to sidestep them.
Blunder# 1: Creating a negative moment of truth
Mitigate it: You will require a healthy dose of knowing your clients and their pain points to perfectly satisfy their needs and expectations. Not doing so could mean even more negative reviews that kill your word of mouth marketing.
Prof Justus Munyoki, who lectures marketing at the University of Nairobi teaches that customer experience is the single most important driver of repeat business.
“That interaction that occurs between you and your customer that can leave a lasting positive or negative impression is called a moment of truth (MOT). If your brand creates a negative MOT it means your customers’ expectations were never met,” he says.
Owning the customer experience is how a modern salesperson can adapt their role to suit the evolving consumer landscape. It is unlikely that in this digital age, a client has not already searched your product or service online before purchasing it.
Blunder# 2: Being an insincere salesman
The late master salesman, Zig Ziglar, says in his book Secrets of the Closing Sale that If you do not believe in your product or service enough to offer it to your own family and friends, then you should question the value of what you are selling.
When pitching a sale, you are answering your client’s unspoken question, “What’s in this for me?” They want to know important details about your product but an emotional connection will reel them in more. Use the word “you” as often as possible and talk from their point of view. Goes without saying, you need to believe in yourself and what you offer first.
If you don’t genuinely believe in your product they will recognise your insincerity, not get involved with you, and tell at least 10 other people how terrible their experience with you was, costing you your reputation. Otherwise, they may buy it but end up feeling conned and never return.
By asking about their problem or desire, you can help them visualise how you can solve it and how their life will improve if they work with you.
Blunder# 3. Being pushy
After 30 minutes of persuasion and chats and testimonials and the customer still doesn’t want to buy your product or service, maybe you should just let it go.
Entrepreneurs live for the moment when a prospective client turns into a customer. So should you call them back?
The answer is NO.
In sales, you have to respect the person on the other end. If they choose not to sign up, honour that. Hounding and pestering them will just annoy them, which will solidify their decision to not sign up for your service.
Instead, give them time to reflect on it, maybe follow up in a few weeks or so, but treat the prospect like a person, not a number to get on the board.
Dr Earl Taylor, a master trainer at Dale Carnegie once said “Nobody likes to be sold, but everyone likes to buy.”
All that pushy sales tactics do is make the buyer no longer feel in control but instead feel like they’re being sold to.
Blunder# 4: Spending time on non-prospective leads/talking to everyone
It is easy to only talk to whoever will listen. However, constantly looking for low hanging fruit does not make for a great sales career. Focus on high-potential leads, even if they’re difficult to crack. It’s harder work, but the reward is much greater.
Don’t just talk to anyone you can think of.
Understand the pertinent attributes of the target market and make sure that you are starting relationships with people who will firstly buy, and secondly, will get value from the product or service, and are also interested in establishing a relationship. Avoid wasting time on the wrong contacts.
Liz Lange, the maternity fashion extraordinnaire says that “Every brand isn’t for everybody, and everybody isn’t for every brand.” So find your people.
Blunder# 5: Making assumptions when you should be asking questions
“Sell me this pen.”
Jordan Belfort, the real wolf of Wall Street, could sell anyone anything. And when he was asked to sell the pen, this is what he said:
“The real answer is, before I’m even going to sell a pen to anybody, I need to know about the person, I want to know what their needs are. What kind of pens do they use? Do they use a pen? How often do they use a pen? If I am the buyer, I want to hear the salesperson ask me a question. Most average or newbie salespeople think that they’re supposed to sell you the pen, when a really seasoned salesperson will actually turn it into a qualifying session to find out what you need. That’s the truth of it. It’s like trying to sell someone a house and you don’t know if they’re in the market for a house, what kind of house they would want or how many kids they have. So how can you sell someone a house? That’s the point.”
Prof Munyoki reiterates that entrepreneurs failing to understand their customers leads to losing the sale.
“Customer’s’ needs are the major drive. We assume we know what they need but what we need to start with is understanding the customer, their personalities, their needs and even to an extent their emotion before selling them anything.”
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