Customer Experience News & Trends

How to change the customer conversation to close more sales

Sales conversations have changed dramatically.

Some of the reasons: globalization, the economy and emerging technologies.

Sales talk used to be a monologue, with salespeople talking and prospects listening. Salespeople had to know everything about their products but not much about their prospects. Today, how salespeople sell has become more important than what they sell.

It’s no longer what you know about your products that prospects value, but what you can do with what you know to solve their business problems. Prospects expect you to understand their business challenges and be ready to drive results. They want you to anticipate their needs and add to what they know. They look for insights, ideas and know-how.

Shift the conversation

Shifting conversations from product to business challenges starts with a click on a website that brings you into a prospect’s world, just as prospects turn to the Internet to learn about you and your offerings. They’ve researched their issues, compared their solutions options, and come to the sales table prepared. They no longer rely on sales conversations to understand the options available to them.

From your first prospect conversation, you are expected to show how you can add value in terms of outcomes and financial impact. From the perspective of prospects, buying is a problem-solving cycle. How you enter this cycle will have a strong impact on your closing success. Salespeople must demonstrate greater expertise, stronger skills, more creativity and deeper motivation.

The two critical areas in which salespeople need to build their knowledge base:

  1. Industry knowledge. This gives salespeople a running start when it comes to understanding their markets and paves the way for effective conversations with prospects.
  2. Trend knowledge. This allows salespeople to anticipate and meet their prospects’ current and emerging needs.

Start by reviewing every page on a prospect’s website to understand his or her vision, products and goals. Websites give you a view of how prospects see themselves and how they want to be perceived. It’s a good idea to make a list of what you find relevant on the website so you can reference it in your conversations.

Go below the surface

Dig deeper to understand the needs the prospect is focused on now, and go even deeper to anticipate future needs. Look for insights on your competitors and your prospect’s competitors. Use this information to identify business challenges your prospect faces. With each new bit of industry knowledge you gain, ask yourself, “How can I apply this to my prospect? How shall I share it?”

Adopt social media

Social media presents an opportunity to find out what prospects are and are not looking at, which can help you understand the challenges that are high on their priority list. It’s a good idea to become a part of your prospect’s network to stay abreast of management changes, new contacts, product launches or shifts in strategy.

Your prospects will probably check you out online, too, which is a good reason to create strong profiles on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Update them regularly and include a picture that represents how you want your prospects to think of you.

Consider changing your biography to include what your prospects get as a result of all your experience and expertise. Develop a niche so your prospects view you as the “go-to-person,” whether it’s for industry knowledge, finance, technical strength or creativity.

Adapted from: “Changing the Sales Conversation,” by Linda Richardson, the founder of a global sales performance company where she serves as executive chairwoman. She teaches sales and management courses at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

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