In business, we often hear that nothing happens until a sale is made. Simple, at first blush. But how exactly does one “make a sale”?
I believe there are three key components that create an opportunity to make a sale – every time.
Of course, the customer has to have a need for the product or service that you provide or an interest in it. So assuming that need or interest, here are the three factors that can, I promise, turn into a sale.
1. A sincere, warm smile
Nothing can catalyze an interpersonal relationship with another human being like a warm, sincere, friendly smile! Smile at an individual, any individual, and watch the result. Most individuals do NOT expect that you will smile at them. If you do, most times, they will smile back. When someone who is not expecting a smile receives one from you, he/she probably wonders why. Is it just human nature? Whatever it is, everyone likes (consciously or unconsciously) to be on the receiving end of a genuine, warm smile. Try it; you will not be disappointed. Smiling is the first key to establishing rapport with a prospective customer.
2. A sincere, firm handshake
After you have initiated a sincere, warm smile, provide a firm handshake. No, not a bone-crushing test of your strength, but a nice handshake that says, “Welcome. I am glad that we can visit for a few minutes.” What this tells the prospective client is that you are real, sincere and interested in listening to him/her describe his/her life, challenge or product need. Whatever the circumstances, each of us has product needs that we are trying to address. It may be that no one has ever offered a way to address that need, but it’s still there. Sometimes we may not know exactly what it is that we need. But we do know that something is not right, and we need some help.
The handshake indicates willingness to help.
3. Sincere, attentive listening
If you’ve done a good job with your smile and handshake, you’ve set the stage to listen to the other individual describe his or her “pain point(s)” that surely illustrate a need. With the rapport you created, you’ve granted them permission to talk, to share their thoughts. Let them do the bulk of the talking and listen, really listen, to what they have to say.
Something I learned many years ago while on active duty in the Air Force was to learn five simple facts about each of the folks who worked for me. I had to work at it, actually, but with practice I was soon able to cite five facts about each individual. When you are trying to sell something, you must first listen so you can identify needs. He or she may take the conversation in a variety of directions. But you’ve fulfilled a need by just opening your ears; most people really want someone to talk to.
Through active listening, by the end of the conversation you will have gained enough insight (business intelligence) to uncover those pain points in the prospective client and how you can help relieve them. So now you are able to identify whether you can help. It will become clear how you can help, what product or service you might provide that is of benefit, what the cost would be and when you could begin to provide the service or deliver the product.
In many Middle Eastern and Asian countries, such a listening process may take more than one or two meetings. In some cultures, it is very important to get to know the individual with whom you may do business. Hence, you have to go slowly as you begin and wait a bit to talk business. You may not get a sale opportunity during your first conversation. In fact, it may take several conversations before the client is ready.
For many, this is hardest part – the listening phase. Most people want to hear the tone and melody of their own voice, not listen to another person’s voice. So remember, let the other person do the talking. Through careful listening, you will divine the need that is present.
So there you are. Three components to take you to your unique opportunity to close the sale. You’ll note that all three have an important adjective attached: sincere. None of this works unless the smile is genuine, your handshake means well and you truly listen and are interested.
Give it a try. Take your time. And remember: sincere smile, firm handshake and listen. Your patience will be rewarded as you reap the culmination of this natural sales cycle, which is that opportunity to ask for the sale. Trust me: Results will appear!
Joe Michels is principal at Solomon Bruce Consulting LLC in Fort Worth. www.solomonbruce.com