The first sale is you

Joe Girard, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s greatest salesperson said, “They don’t buy Chevrolets – they buy me.” Today, people must “buy” the person selling the product before they’ll purchase the product. Consumers are more informed now than ever before. If they don’t trust the person selling, they’ll move on quickly.

We’re selling complex solutions and need to earn our customer’s trust before we can ask for their business. To earn the right to guide customers through the maze of potential problems, advanced technology and fantastic opportunities, you must first sell yourself. Here’s how.

Be the customerʼs consultant
Today, people refuse to be sold. But almost everyone needs professional assistance when it comes to buying a complex solution. Your job isn’t to force people into buying, it’s to help them make a wise long-term decision.

The key to successful consulting is fact finding! Ask questions, listen and survey their current situation and you’ll discover all you need to know to help the customer want to buy.

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.
Sherlock Holmes

Invest enough time to build rapport
One of the biggest reasons sales are lost is the salesperson simply didn’t spend enough time with the customer. 30-minute sales calls don’t work. The more complex your solution, the more time you should spend building rapport, asking questions and reducing the perceived risk. Research shows if a customer is spending 30- 60 minutes with you, they’ve spent twice that time researching online. Take all the time you need to validate and in some cases, correct their findings.

We all want to make wise investments, but it takes time to gain the knowledge, information and trust necessary to feel comfortable. The more time you spend, the easier it is to close the sale.

Have a high level of enthusiasm
According to Harold Whitehead, who wrote Principles of Salesmanship in 1917, “50 percent of all big success, whether in business, art, science or politics, can be attributed to enthusiasm.

“Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” You must be sold on your company and its ability to help the customer, so much that your enthusiasm shows through. People who are enthusiastic about making their customers’ lives better aren’t so much selling as they are sharing what they believe. If you’re not sold, you can’t sell.

Be extraordinarily organized
Humans are drawn to order. The more organized you are, the more you are trusted. Don’t tell people you’re organized, show them. Be on time. Have everything you need with you. Never wing a sales call, the customer’s time is much too valuable for that. Always plan ahead, be prepared and know what you’re going to say, before you say it.

Build a bond
We’d rather do business with people like us. No matter what your background, you can always find things in common with your customer. Take time to notice what your customer’s interests are. Comment on shared interests, offer sincere compliments and ask questions that allow them to tell more about the things they care about.

Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” To find a person’s interests, look around their home or office. People wouldn’t allow you to see pictures of their grand children, trophies or awards if they didn’t want to talk about them. Reading the walls of your customer’s home is the most valuable reading you may ever do.

Look successful, but be prepared to get dirty if it’s required. Look sharp, but don’t over-dress. Some customers may be put off by trendy fashions, excessive jewelry and over-powering cologne. We all have personal favorites, but everyone likes plain

Focus on the customer
We buy from people who show they care about us. They not only want the facts, they want to know you care. Given a choice, we’d all rather do business with people who care. “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Start with little things like using the customer’s name and pronouncing it correctly, pausing after they speak and taking notes of the important things they say. Be sincere. Let them know you want what is best for them, their family or coworkers.

Working from the customer’s viewpoint allows you and the customer to become a problem-solving team. Prove you’ll work for them. Show you’re more interested in making a long-term customer than you are in making a one-time sale. Take full responsibility. Let them know you’re willing to do whatever is necessary to assure they get more than their money’s worth.

Do a thorough job of fact finding to discover needs the customer didn’t know they had. When you find problems others have overlooked and demonstrate a willingness to do whatever is necessary to solve them, you quickly eliminate your competition.

Prove your expertise
We’ll go out of our way and pay more to deal with experts. Expertise is proven by action, not words. Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly, I can not hear what you say.” Don’t tell them how good you are, show them. Be ready to prove your expertise. Show case studies and testimonials to prove your point and try to avoid saying anything you can’t back up in writing. Be consistent in everything you say and do.

There may be a natural unwillingness for people to believe you. When possible, use precise numbers. Precise numbers are much more believable than round numbers and help show you know what you’re talking about.

Experts are confident, even when facing a problem for the first time. You don’t have to be an authority on everything. But you must be able to discover problems and unrecognized needs. Experts do a superior job of matching the benefits their solution provides to the problems and needs the customer has. The more powerful the benefits and the more precise the match, the greater your perceived expertise.

Donʼt just educate, inspire!
Your level of enthusiasm helps determine how your message is received and believed. High, sincere enthusiasm is your greatest ally.

Tell the truth. If there are any potential problems or disadvantages, mention them. It makes everything you say more believable, it flatters the customer’s intelligence and shows your objective. Avoid using “fluff”, like “this is the best solution in the world.” People are skeptical, so don’t say more than they can believe.

Know what you are going to say before you say it. Practice your presentation. Keep it as short as possible while covering the logical points and emotional elements needed for the customer to gain ownership.

Have fun
Let’s face it, most people don’t look forward to spending money. And the thought of spending time with another salesperson is as appealing as eating hot non-fat yogurt. So change the game, have fun. To be more successful, be more entertaining. Use quotes, props, stories, photographs and analogies to hold your customer’s attention while driving your message home. Research shows that when people associate you and your message with pleasure, they are more apt to buy from you.

Build a superstructure of trust
Trust is absolute confidence in the honesty and reliability of another person. Trust is hard to gain, easy to lose and critical to your success. The more people trust you, the more they will buy from you. The ingredients needed to build a high level of trust include:

Non-verbal clues
Trust is first developed on an emotional level. The mental impression you make in the first two seconds is so vivid, it takes another four minutes to add 50% more to the impression. Before you open your mouth or reach out your hand, your customer’s subconscious mind is processing years of imbedded information to determine if you can be trusted. Make sure the first “clues” the customer sees — posture, dress, grooming, jewelry, etc. say, “this person can be trusted.”

It’s virtually impossible to trust people we don’t like. Think about the last time you met someone and it was like being with an old friend. Chances are this person had a firm handshake, warm smile and gave you three to seven seconds of repeated eye contact while you were talking. Sincere eye contact is the shortest path to likability and trust. It’s hard, if not impossible to trust someone who doesn’t “look you in the eye.” Why is eye contact so important? Because human eyes are the only part of the central nervous system that are in direct contact with another human being.

We tend to like people who listen to us. We tend to agree with people we like. We buy from those we like and agree with. Listening is much more than hearing, it’s understanding. Ways to increase trust through listening include — taking notes, nodding your head in agreement, pausing after a customer finishes speaking and paraphrasing to show you’re processing the information the customer just gave.

Showing you care
We trust people who care about us. We measure the level of caring by actions and not words. Start by showing you care about the customer’s time and plan ahead so you don’t waste it. Show you care about the customer’s property, employees, family, pets, etc. Care enough to not only give the customer what they want, help them discover what they also need. Show how additional accessories, services and solutions will make their lives better.

Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
Theodore Roosevelt

Discovering problems
We trust people, like doctors, who take time to gain the information necessary to solve our problems. Asking the right questions not only allows you to gain valuable information, it also allows you to discover problems your competition has overlooked.

Belief is acceptance on faith. The quickest way to lose trust is to say something that the customer doesn’t believe. Here’s the hard part; what you say can be 100% true, but the customer may not believe it. A customer may not believe the new solution you are proposing can really provide up to a 20% safe return on investment. Here believability is established and reinforced with evidence. Use data, manufacturer’s specifications and literature; case studies and testimonial letters to prove your claims.

Instilling confidence
It’s much easier to trust people who know what they’re doing. Given a choice, we’d all rather deal with specialists. One key to instilling confidence is breaking down technical details to a point that the customer can easily understand. Other ways include explaining what quality is and how you’ll deliver it, telling what to expect and when, and detailing what you’ll do if a problem arises. To provide a higher level of confidence, give customers your cell phone number and encourage them to call any time.

Providing a proposal people will trust
Trust is established emotionally and reinforced logically. Your proposal cements the trust bond between you and the customer. In your proposal profile the details; list brand, model numbers, spotlight your warranty, describe your quality equipment and materials and spend time showing how the terms and conditions help protect both you and your customer.

No hiding anything
We don’t trust people who hide things from us. With this in mind, think about every element of the sale. What are you doing now that the customer can’t see or be part of? Invite the customer along wherever you can. When determining the sales price, instead of marking up your costs, show the customer your retail pre-printed price sheets. Leave nothing to the imagination.

Following up
We trust people who go the extra mile. When you follow up, you demonstrate you can be trusted. On the other hand, if you mention in passing that you’ll send the customer a small piece of literature, but don’t, a degree of trust will be lost.

Exceeding expectations
To build the level of trust needed to provide repeat sales and customer referrals — under promise and over deliver.

Once people buy you – – the rest of the sale is just working out the details.

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