Salespeople know that they’re supposed to sell to the customer’s needs. Here is the classic—and tragically wrong—way they usually learn to do it: Uncover the first need. Begin a product presentation, covering features and benefits, and then attempt to uncover another need and then give more product talk, etc.
Research shows that presentations like this are 25 percent less effective than those in which a thorough needs assessment is followed by a summary of all of the customer’s needs. You will be far more successful if you begin by uncovering and agreeing on at least three relevant needs that the customer perceives as important. Only then should you begin a product presentation tailored to address those needs.
Never present your product until you have agreed on at least three important and relevant needs.
Here’s how to do that:
“As I understand it, you are looking for a way to _, _, and _. Is that correct? If the customer says no, ask more questions and do more listening. Only after the customer agrees that you correctly understand those three important needs should you begin to present the capabilities of your company and your product. You are now prepared to make that presentation in a far more powerful way by focusing directly on issues the customer already has agreed upon as vital problems or opportunities.
In The Field:
Financial consultant Brad Martin describes his experience with the Action Selling approach to needs identification as a revelation and a radical departure from the way he was originally trained.
Martin works for a large financial services company. Like many salespeople, he was taught to respond to each customer need as quickly as he was able to uncover it. So he would spot a need, present a product feature and benefit to address it, and then fish for another need. “That worked all right, ” Martin said, “but sometimes I ran into trouble by presenting capabilities that didn’t quite match the prospect’s needs when they were considered as a whole. This meant I later had to deal with many more objections than necessary. ”
The problem is that customer needs do not exist individually, in a vacuum. They are interrelated.
Martin learned in Act 4 of the Action Selling sales training program to uncover and agree on at least three needs before presenting his solutions. “Now my sales presentations are much better focused, and fewer objections surface, ” he said. “I am closing a significantly higher percentage of my prospects. ”
Duane Sparks is chairman and founder of The Sales Board, a Minneapolis-based sales training company that has trained and certified more than 200,000 salespeople in the system and skills of Action Selling. He has personally facilitated more than 300 Action Selling training sessions.
In a 30-year career as a salesperson and sales manager, Duane has sold products ranging from office equipment to insurance. He was the top salesperson at every company he ever worked for. He developed Action Selling Sales Training while owner of one of the largest computer marketers in the United States. Even in the roaring computer business of the 1980's, his company grew six times faster than the industry norm, differentiating itself not by the products offered but by the way it sold them. Duane founded The Sales Board in 1990 to teach the skills of Action Selling to others.
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