This resource will help develop your personal sales skills to prepare you for the sales process, including building trust, identifying customers' needs, selecting and presenting products for customers, handling questions and objections, and closing sales.
You can use these skills and techniques whether you're working behind the counter in a coffee shop or selling expensive plant or machinery to senior business clients.
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Businesses succeed or fail based on revenue from selling products or services, and how effectively customers can be persuaded to buy them.
The final sale may be the goal, but getting customers to buy a product, service or experience is just one step in what can sometimes be a long process.
Anyone can learn and improve their sales skills, regardless of their background or what products or services are being sold. You can achieve great product sales by mastering selling skills that focus on:
The best salespeople create good and lasting first impressions, know and understand their customers, listen well, and are able to convert customer needs into action.
Creating good first impressions
Making a positive and lasting impression helps you develop customer relationships and make sales. From the moment you approach a customer, your behaviour, attitude and personal presentation influence your customer's decision to buy.
Use these ideas to help you create a good first impression.
It takes 3 seconds for your customer to form their first impression of you, and in the following 3 seconds, they confirm or change that impression.
This first impression influences their decision about how much time to give you and it's based on your appearance, your body language and mannerisms, your tone of voice and facial expressions, your words, and your demeanour.
Here are some useful first-impression tips.
Your appearance shows your customer that you respect them, your business and your products and services. Here are some useful personal presentation tips.
There are many things that will impact business operations that you can't control. Your personal attitude, however, is something you can.
Your attitude affects the way you approach people and events in business. Choosing to approach potential customers positively, confidently, enthusiastically and with a helpful attitude—even when you're tired, stressed or frustrated—will improve your sales performance and grow your sales.
Every business exists to meet customers' wants, needs and expectations. If you believe your job is to understand and solve the customer's problems, then you will exude a natural, helpful confidence.
Remember, customers are not an interruption or distraction from getting your tasks completed. Customers are the very reason any business survives.
Your communication skills determine your chances of making a sale—from your opening pitch to your closing statements.
Developing your questioning, vocal and conversational skills will help you build on a strong first impression by gaining trust and establishing credibility.
The more you find out about a customer's needs, wants, expectations, interests and situation, the easier it is to reach win-win or mutually beneficial outcomes.
You learn more about people by asking them the right questions and by taking the time to listen to their answers. Their responses will help you to provide the best solution, while also making the other party feel valued.
Customers also tend to respond well when they feel another person is genuinely interested in their opinion. The best way to make the customer feel as though you are valuing their opinion and really listening is to ask them questions to assist in working towards the positive outcome.
Asking appropriate, purposeful questions help you identify whether your customer is likely to buy your products or services and move them through the sales process.
Types of questions
Closed questions require a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer.
For example: 'Are you looking to buy a television today?'
Closed questions are used to:
Open questions ask a customer to explain or elaborate which helps to build rapport with the customer and encourages them to open up about the product or service they are looking to buy.
For example: 'What type of product are you looking for?'
Open questions are used to:
Probing questions are about a specific topic to uncover more information.
For example: 'What type of television do you think would fit best on your wall?'
Probing questions are used to:
Confirming questions are designed to check that your customer understands what you've said.
For example: 'Which of these features would benefit you most?'
Confirming questions are used to check that you've successfully communicated information to your customer and that they understand it.
Summary confirmation questions are designed to check that you understand what your customer has told you and that you are successfully aligning your products or services to their wants, needs and expectations.
For example: 'Are you saying you'd prefer to order the next model up in our range?'
Summary confirmation questions are used to:
Good communicators know that what they say is often less important than the way they say it.
Use your voice to make an impact by:
Good salespeople look for a way to connect with their customer, and build a conversation based on trust and understanding.
Conversation skills include:
People from different cultures or ethnic backgrounds may speak softly or much faster in conversation, so it is important to genuinely listen to ensure you hear the information they are sharing.
Non-verbal communication skills for selling
When selling to customers, your non-verbal communication skills—such as active listening and interpreting non-verbal cues—are just as important as what you say.
Developing these skills helps you to understand what your customers want, so you can offer them the most suitable products and services.
Listening to your customer to discover their needs helps you suggest appropriate products or services to meet those needs.
Active listening is the process of confirming what you think your customer has said, and meant, by observing their verbal and non-verbal cues.
To be a good active listener:
Interpreting your customer's non-verbal signals and behaviours allows you to read their attitude and better understand their needs. Projecting the right non-verbal cues yourself can help your customer feel at ease.
Here are some positive and negative examples of non-verbal cues:
Good customer service makes sales
Businesses that prioritise excellent customer service have a greater chance of capturing and keeping loyal customers. By doing this, your business can generate higher profits and achieve a greater market share.
Establishing a successful customer service program in your business requires commitment from you and your staff. To plan, develop, implement and sustain your customer service involves training and feedback. It may also include establishing a customer loyalty program.
Becoming a customer-focused business, by identifying and understanding your customers, can help you create exceptional products and services that keep them coming back.
Collecting and storing customer information has privacy guidelines to adhere to.
Customer complaints and how you manage them can also have a lasting impact on your business.
Improving customer service can help you retain existing customers and gain new ones.
Selling complex or high value products
For fields such as real estate, business-to-business, or high value items, the sales process can provide greater challenges.
These transactions typically involve:
Steps to a sale
Sales for high value items generally rely on careful research and planning, authentic communication and tactical skills in persuasion and closing a sale.
You can develop a successful sales process for your business using these 10 steps to selling. Depending on the size and type of sale, multiple steps can be done at the same time or in a different order.
How to build customer relationships when selling
You or your sales team's ability to interpret customer needs and behaviour and build strong relationships can be a competitive advantage for your business.
Building rapport with your customer is the first step towards building the relationship.
Getting your customers to trust you is fundamental to building relationships and building rapport—or making a connection with your customer—is one of the most effective ways to build trust.
The easiest way to connect with your customer is to find something you have in common or of common interest, which you can do by listening to your customer and guiding the conversation by asking questions.
Building a rapport means taking the time to understand who your customer is, what they value and how you can help them achieve the things that are important to them, even if these things are not important or valuable to you.
When you put yourself in your customer's shoes, you can interpret and think about what your customer expects from you and tailor your approach to moving through the selling steps in a way that meets those expectations.
Know your products and services
For high value sales, product knowledge is key. An intimate understanding or your products' features allows you to tailor your language and approach to meet the values and expectations of your customer.
Customers respond to a salesperson who knows the product they are selling and can present the key features that meet each customer's particular requirements.
Customers are more likely to trust salespeople who show confidence in themselves and confidence in the products or services they are selling.
You can build this credibility and confidence by increasing your knowledge of your products or services.
Use conventional and creative sources of information to learn about your products or services, including:
If your product or service has some limitations in certain situations, acknowledge them with your customers.
Let them know early on if you don’t think your product or service is right for them and they will be more inclined to trust you when they need something in the future.
As you engage customers, use your knowledge to lead your customer through the steps to a sale, and make their experience enjoyable so they won’t hesitate to revisit.
Successful salespeople know their products' features well and skilfully turn features into benefits for their customers.
To practice this skill, list your main product's features, and potential benefits for your customers. Consider these ideas for communicating benefits.
To achieve sales, you and your team may need to use negotiation skills with your customers. This may be particularly relevant when selling high value items or selling to other businesses.
Strong negotiators master written, verbal and non-verbal communication. They adopt a conscious, assertive approach to their communication.
Good negotiators are:
Understanding the other party's interests and tactics is integral to good negotiating. Choosing a strategy that best responds to their interests and tactics will help you achieve the best outcome.
Some of the different strategies for negotiation include:
Your chosen strategy will depend on who you are negotiating with, the potential value of the sale, and the type of relationship you have with them.
For example, what level of cooperation and common interest exists between you, and how will each party behave during the negotiation? It will also depend on what you are negotiating, and the time frame and setting you are negotiating in.
As well as choosing a strategy, you may wish to consider your approach to the issue being negotiated.
There are 3 key approaches to negotiations: hard, soft and principled negotiation.
Many experts consider the third option—principled negotiation—to be best practice:
The negotiation process
Every time you negotiate, you have to make choices that affect whether you achieve a successful outcome for your business. This can mean walking away from unprofitable sales in some circumstances.
To get the best outcomes, understand the steps involved in the negotiation process.
While many negotiations are straightforward, some will be among the hardest challenges you face and success will depend on planning and preparation.
Wherever possible, approach negotiations with a clear set of strategies, messages and tactics that can guide you from planning to closing.
No amount of preparation is too much in approaching complex or high-stakes or high dollar value negotiations. Plan both your approach to the subject under negotiation, and your tone and communication style.
In approaching the subject of your negotiations:
In deciding your communication style, familiarise yourself with successful negotiating strategies. Arm yourself with a calm, confident tone and a set of considered responses and strategies to the tactics you anticipate.
During a negotiation, you may choose to use a passive, or assertive communication style or a combination of both.
Passive communicators are inclined to use ambiguous language, adopt submissive body language, and agree to demands. Using only this approach can often put customers off from dealing with them or result in a low-margin or unprofitable sale.
Assertive communicators are not confrontational. They speak and interact in ways that respect the rights and opinions of the other party, while also putting forward a position that acknowledges their own needs.
In any negotiation, both parties hold the key to the outcome.
Confident and considerate communicators are more likely to keep discussions going to facilitate mutually beneficial outcomes.
A clear, steady tone of voice, and a focus on the needs of both parties, provides a way to proceed that reduces the potential for intense conversation.
Learn more about communicating effectively for business.
Take a moment to revisit your objectives for the negotiation.
Once you feel you are approaching an outcome that is acceptable to you:
Even with the best preparation, you may not always be able to negotiate a successful outcome.
Planning alternative solutions can help you to:
Preparing an alternative plan
When it comes to negotiating, there's always more than one positive solution for your business.
Take pressure off yourself by identifying several other options or alternatives to the outcome you are seeking.
Take a firm and assertive stance when proposing ideas or drawing definite lines in your negotiation. Being willing to walk away is a powerful tool.
Clearly determine the worst possible outcome you are prepared to accept in the negotiation.