Partner selling is a very logical approach to selling in today’s electronically connected world. We all like to do business with people we know and trust. This simply makes a buyer more confident in their purchase. If you sell from the perspective of serving customers as a partner, rather than an opponent, your rewards will certainly follow.
To become a trusted partner with your prospects and customers, first care enough to see their needs through their eyes. Their perception is their reality. Seeing things through their eyes will help you to position yourself as their caring and trusted partner—rather than just another vendor.
Product knowledge is table stakes in the game of selling. Without product knowledge, one will be lost in the fine art of translating product features into customer benefit. The other knowledge is that of knowing customer needs, wants, and desires. This comes from direct and meaningful communication with your customers. I’ve found that a basic understanding of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), the science of how the brain learns will assist any salesperson to become substantially more effective in the sales process.
Listen for NLP indicators. Everybody has a primary basic learning strategy: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (feeling). People use each of the three strategies in different learning environments. Yet, most people favor one strategy. Determine your customers preferred strategy by listening to the kind of words they use. Talk with them in their NLP favored terms to build rapport more quickly. As an example, the customer who says something like, “I wonder how this will look on me?” is most likely a visual learner. Talk to that person in visual terms. Say something like, “Just picture yourself…” This is called direct or matched communication; you are mirroring your customer. Had you said, “Feel this fabric…” You would have had a communication mismatch. This communication matching is very effective in fast rapport building. The more rapport you have with the prospect/customer, the more they will tell you exactly how to sell to them.
One learns more through asking than does one in answering. Ask and listen, is the formula for selling success. The correct questions, if answered, allow you to hear exactly how to sell to the individual, or organization. Asking about needs, wants, and desires—along with past purchases will help you to know what product features will deliver the benefits desired. In your questioning, be certain to determine preferred learning strategy quickly and use seeing, hearing, or feeling words in your efforts to question prospects and customers.
To this day, viewing Web Sites, sales and marketing materials, and listening people talk only about features, causes me great pain. People buy based on benefits; meaning how the product or service makes one’s life better. Features are those things built into the product or service that assist in delivering the desired benefit. Your customer is always thinking, “What’s in it for me?” If you act as a partner to your prospect or customer, you will always focus on talking about how the product or service will make their life better.
Step 6—Buying Motives
Be a partner by helping prospects and customers to solve their problems…justify their emotional decision to buy through the logic of fulfilling their buying motive(s). Listed below are the six basic buying motives—they should cover most buying situations. Understand how your products and services solve these buying motives and you can be a successful partner with your customer for life.
Different people, in different situations have one or more of the following buying motives. As an example, people generally buy insurance for fear of loss rather than for profit or gain, but play the stock market for profit or gain. Similarly, they buy aspirin and other pain killers for avoidance of pain rather than for pride and prestige. Yet pride and prestige is why most people buy an expensive luxury automobile. Sell to your prospect or customer’s buying motive and you’ll close the sale much more quickly.
- Profit or Gain
- Fear of Loss
- Comfort and Pleasure
- Avoidance of Pain
- Loving and Affection
- Pride and Prestige
Step 7—Create Urgency
Help people to understand why it is in their best interest to act now. Answer objections simply and quickly, as if your customer is asking a question—because that’s what they really are doing. Say, “That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked.” Then go into overcoming their objection by telling how a particular feature creates a benefit that makes their life better.
My favorite method in answering a prospect’s questions is the feel, felt and found method. Say, “I know how you feel, Mrs. Smith recently felt the same way. (Affirm their feelings.) She wasn’t sure the colorful fabric of a swimsuit would hold up to the chlorine of a community pool. She went ahead and took a chance. We chatted the other day, and she told me that she found the color did hold up, even better than she had expected. She thanked me for helping her to choose such beautiful swimwear.”
To create urgency, talk about the limited availability or seasonal nature of items. The herd effect is sometimes helpful to get people into action. This is when you talk about how many have already been sold today, this week, or month. Ask them, “How many times have you gone back to a store to buy something you wanted but didn’t buy and it was gone?” Don’t let this sort of thing happen to your customers. Be a partner and help them not to be disappointed.
Step 8—Close the Sale
You cannot be a successful selling partner for long, unless you turn your prospects into buying customers. You, and your company, must earn a profit. While I am distressed by the number of my live seminar attendees that have told me they came just to learn closes, I am encouraged by the number that “got” the partner selling basics. While closing is crucially important, there is so mush more to selling than the twisting of arms.
I love soft selling and an excellent soft close is silence. If you have enough confidence to remain quiet, simply review your offer, ask for the sale, and wait until your prospect speaks. For most people, silence is very uncomfortable. This is the only pressure I’d ever suggest you use.
Additional closes that I believe you will find helpful:
- The Assumption Close. As their “partner” act as if it was natural for all your customers to buy.
- The Act Now Close. If you snooze, you loose! Buy it today before it’s gone. Yes, this creates internal pressure, but you are not arm twisting.
- The Little Decision Close. First get prospects to commit to a style or color that they like rather than to making the purchase. Then try one of the other closes.
- The Premium Offer Close. Buy now and we’ll include…
- The Doorknob Close. As the customer is leaving the store, or as you are walking out of the prospect’s office, say, “Oh, by the way…I’m really interested in knowing what is the real reason you decided not to buy today?” At this point, they feel safe and will answer honestly. Then you ad a good partner can say, “Oh, I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you about… Let me further explain…” Then go to the feel, felt, found method of overcoming objections and when you are comfortable that you answered all questions, try a different close.
- The Ask for It Close: There is nothing wrong with simply asking for your prospect to buy. The three great words that will change your life are: Ask For It. Be a bold and fearless partner, overcome rejection and doubt. Always, ask your partners for their business.
While the above suggestions are not magic and not guaranteed to work all the time; in my experience the above ideas will help you to build more meaningful relationships with your prospects and customers and to sell more of your products and services more quickly.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.