The Secret to Successful Sales

What is the secret to successful sales? Satisfying your prospect’s buying needs.

When making a buying decision, your prospective client always goes through three, almost entirely subconscious stages:

WHAT am I buying?

This phase of the buying process deals with the cognitive (or “thinking”) part of the mind. Though it seems obvious, the importance of identifying and distinguishing the specifics of the product or service cannot be underrated. If you are purchasing a car, you need to know the general specs: what is the safety rating? What is the gas mileage? Color? Year? Model? Is there a warranty? These are the basic facts and figures of the product or service. If you have a complex or little-known product, you may need to spend more time guiding prospects through this stage of the sale.

WHY am I buying?

This component of the buying process is determined by the affective (or “feeling”) part of the mind. People make purchasing decisions according to their values. One person may buy from a particular company (even if the prices are higher) because he shares the mission and values of that organization. Another person may buy a lesser-priced, generic product because she esteems frugality. Yet another individual may buy the safe car over the flashy one because family safety is more important to him than impressing friends. Key lesson here: a successful salesperson learns the values-system of the prospect, and proves that a purchase of the product/service leads to the fulfillment of those values.

HOW am I buying?

This is the one phase of the buying process that is either misunderstood, grossly overlooked, or both. How someone buys is affected by the conative (or “doing”) part of the mind. Any time a person strives to make a decision, solve a problem, or create a solution, he follows an ingrained method for doing so. If that method is satisfied in the buying process, then a sale can be made. If that method is ignored or even conflicted, then the sale is most certainly doomed.

Here’s what I mean by determining how a person buys: some people need to get all the facts, comparison shop, read the reviews, ask around…essentially become an expert on an item before they buy it. Even one unanswered question could cause enough doubt and stress to kill the sale. On the other hand, individuals who are natural bottom-liners can be talked out of a sale. If the salesperson shares too many facts and figures, the prospect shuts down and moves on.

As another example, some people need to touch, taste, hear, and see the product. Merely talking about the quality of an item does not satisfy their need to concretely experience the quality of the product. One customer may hinge her car-buying decision on the test drive, another may view taking the car “for a spin” as a completely unnecessary step. Here again, it is critical for you to remain buyer-focused. Learn the “purchasing MO” of the prospect by asking questions (like: “How do you best receive information?” and “What can I do to make your decision-making easier?”), observing their responses, and listening to the prospect’s expression of needs (for more information, more time, a product sample, flexibility, etc).

Unfortunately, when it comes to a successful sale, majority doesn’t win. ALL of the questions above must be satisfied…not just two out of three. If you are struggling to convert prospects into clients, use this information as a diagnostic tool. Evaluate your sales process against each of the three phases. Ask yourself: Am I taking intentional and strategic measures to meet the needs of my prospects in every stage of their decision-making?

So, forget the “5 Ws” — all you really need is the What, Why and How.

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