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Selling Anything Needs a System

February 19, 2016 by Dr. Jon Warner in Sales and Marketing

Selling Anything Needs a System

No matter what job we do, there are always times when we have to “sell” something, even if it’s only an idea or a reason why we are worth a pay rise (or perhaps to a partner or friend in your life). Equally, there are times when we have to “buy”, even when it’s just for our personal, rather than our professional needs. Because both buying and selling situations can be uncomfortable, it’s always helpful when a system is in place that feels fair to both the seller and the buyer and takes as much pressure out of the transaction as possible for both parties. In such a system we would suggest that the following 10 components are present. These are presented as the seller’s system but they are equally beneficial to the buyer, as you will see.

  1. Any person on the sales side of the transaction (from now on someone we’ll describe as the seller) should ideally think like a doctor with a patient and ask him or herself what is the possible buyer’s or the prospect’s real problem (and not just what they say they need or pain they have) at the outset, so that they can ultimately make the right diagnosis. This means that the seller needs to ask several questions to make sure he or she is getting to the root of the buyer’s problem or need and determining whether they can genuinely help.
  2. The seller should avoid thinking that an early sales “presentation” will be the best way to “seal the deal”. Instead the seller should be patient and listen for longer to help the buyer or prospect to discover the best reasons to buy from them – and not pushing them hard on why they should close quickly.
  3. The seller should always be aware of talking too much and ideally follow the 70/30 rule. In the beginning of a relationship, many people in a selling situation believe that they need to be doing most of the talking in order to “educate” the buyer. Instead they should be focused on careful listening and asking questions. Any sales process is best held as an open and honest two-way conversation.
  4. A seller needs to avoid being arrogant and thinking that he or she can convince a prospect to buy even when they don’t really want to. In other words, the decision to ultimately reach agreement is always with the buyer. The best approach is therefore to ask as many searching questions as necessary that allow a prospect to discover the good points or advantages of your product or service. This helps the prospect to arrive at a decision without feeling pushed or manipulated into an agreement that he or she may later regret.
  5. A seller always needs to remember that the key goal in a discussion or meeting with any prospect is to discover under what circumstances, the prospect will buy from you. By keeping asking questions this will reveal itself most of the time (and when it doesn’t mutual agreement may not result and may not be a good fit).
  6. Whether or not to continue investing time and energy in the relationship with the prospect is a decision for the seller to make and it is totally acceptable to withdraw politely if the prospective buyer doesn’t respond positively to reasonable questions or requests. This helps to eliminate wasted time for the seller and prospect and for both to move on.
  7. Whenever a seller experiences any lack of clarity or vagueness from a prospect, it is critical to challenge this by asking direct questions and not by guessing as to why this may be the case. Jumping to conclusions when this happens only leads to assumptions being made that, more often than not, prove to be wrong.
  8. Many possible buyers like to give themselves more time to think or defer making a decision and ask a seller to do some more homework, send literature or even give some “free consulting” to prove their value. While not a problem in and of itself, a seller should always look to get a commitment in return for doing this. One way to do this is to ask the prospect if doing this additional work, or sending information etc. that agreement can be made to meet, talk on a given day or even arrive at a decision one way or another based on what we can agree now. Again, this approach helps to save time for both buyer and seller.
  9. A seller should never blame any prospective buyer for delaying the process of finding out whether the product or service is a fit for them. Therefore the seller asks good questions that keep the discovery process efficient for both parties.
  10. The process of reaching a mutual agreement in a sales situation does not always run smoothly and snags and obstacles will often arise. The best approach here is to be as transparent as possible and then seek to enter into a joint problem-solving discussion to get an outcome that both parties value.

Although there are other steps we could list other than the ones detailed here, adhering to these ten will make a huge difference to the buyer and seller in any sales situation. For the most part, success will always be down to the quality of the listening taking place on both sides, and how open, honest, and transparent each party is with one another as they ask and answer well-put questions.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at OptimalJon@gmail.com

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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