For the past eight years I have worked within the niche I.T sector of Print Management for an American fortune 500 company and a global Japanese company, both concerned with the sale of printers and software solutions for large Corporate and Commercial businesses with household names such as BOOTS, Northern Rock and KPMG forming part of my client base.
My journey has taken me from humble beginnings as a successful software solution sales specialist, to managing an eighteen strong solution sales team and developing sales strategies implemented in the United Kingdom and across Europe.
Throughout my eight year journey I have learnt many lessons and I now look back laughing to myself about some of the mistakes I have made along the way. Fortunately they were a blessing in disguise and a great platform to learn and develop my own personal art of selling. One experience always comes to the fore when I reminisce, it’s that glazed vacant look of the customer when you have bombarded them with lots of technical speak and jargon, showed them your plethora of software’s and sat back with pride at your technical prowess, whilst the customer was overwhelmed with information and probably left more confused than when you arrived.
This experience was a catalyst to analysing my pitch and a crucial beginning to understanding my customer and their requirement’s, whilst communicating a simple solution that would fulfil and or hopefully exceed their requirements. Sounds easy hey? Well those of you from a technical background will understand our propensity to overcomplicating everything; we just love the buzz of our acquired technical knowledge. My first step was to learn from others, studying the printer salesman’s behaviours and interaction with their customers, and learning all those famous cliché lines and phrases. One saying and principle that has always served me well is “People Buy Off People”. My experiences have led me to understand it’s as much about you as a person, your personality, your shared interests with the customer, your integrity and simply put your personable manner, than it is about your product and services. Have you ever gone to a high street store to buy a PC where the salesperson asks you “Can I help you?” You almost predict it before you walk through the door, and pre arm the automatic response of “I am just looking for now” at which the sales cycle is closed, sent in to reverse, the customer empowered and the salesperson becomes all but a bystander to you the window shopper.
I remember one of my Sales Directors explaining to me how he always watched the sport highlights over the weekend, so when he visited his customers he could talk to them about the football results, Formula One or a sport that was close to the customer’s heart. It was very clever it was like he had found a golden key through the protective armour of the customer, which most customers and people subconsciously arm themselves with when facing the Salesperson!!! So my first step was to become this personable person with my customers. I was lucky people say I am a likeable person and I have never struggled to interact with people in a multitude of social situations, may be some of my life experiences such as teaching hundreds of people Karate gave me that confidence and understanding. Well I didn’t start watching the football highlights but I did take on board this principle and develop my own way. This point moves me on quite nicely to my second area of successful sales, being you.
Remember that PC salesperson? I use to think they were cloned, no matter which shop I chose to visit they all seemed to approach me in the same manner, with similar body language and that age old closing statement “Can I help you?” These salespeople taught me a great lesson to be you in the sales cycle. Having a unique selling point we are told is synonymous with successful sales, but many of us forget the USP which is stares straight back at us in the mirror every morning you! How did I identify my USPs? Well this piece required some introspection and some constructive dialogue with other colleagues and sales people. I had to do one of the hardest things ever for a salesperson I had to disengage my ego after all I was surely the best salesperson on the planet, I was the man, and what could anyone else teach me? Well after making some seriously what are now funny mistakes it was time for some technical analysis of me. This took some time but in the end I broke it down to three areas, but before I tell you remember three is the magic number. The feedback was that I was a likeable guy, personable and people trusted my personal and technical integrity. So step one complete, my personal introspection complete and my sales pitch implemented and refined.
So I could now engage with a customer and find a key through their armour but this was all but a humble beginning. I was not a sales person clone anymore, but to my astonishment neither were my customers. I quickly understood that being a good salesperson required a good understanding of people again something my social endeavours prepared me well for. When I look back to the early days of my career selling PCs, or computer components or more recently selling complex print management solutions, one principle delivered the results, selling the benefits at the customer’s level of understanding. After all trying to sell the technical features and specifications of software’s to a non I.T literate audience requires an empathy with their abilities. Sometimes the best staff you can employ are customers, they can teach you a lot about selling appropriately to different audiences. Unfortunately there is no magic wand to this area, it’s all down to experience, sell to as many people possible for varying backgrounds and levels from grass roots to and including company directors, financial and procurement directors, make the mistakes and develop accordingly. Using some of that salesperson tenacity from your toolbox, stick with it and before you know it step two will flow easily and naturally in all your sales engagements.
So finally step three, for me this about understanding what the Features, Advantages and Benefits of my software solutions, what made them so FABulous that my customer just had to sign that deal there and then. Well the first thing I learnt was the customer is more interested in the Benefits rather than the Features, to the customer that’s where the true advantages lie. So I identified the Benefits, Advantages and Features without trying to BAFfle my customers, and then by listening to my customers used them as hooks in the sales cycle. This type of consultative sale makes the customer feel empowered in the sales cycle as you are responding to their needs, rather than telling them what they should buy. It all leads the customer to a self-fulfilling prophecy of closing the deal with you. Throughout writing the piece I have been conscious of the closing aspect of my sales techniques, however closing has always been a by-product of my sales approach, it has taken care of itself. I have seldom ever had to ask scripted closing questions, more often than not the customer feels at ease to divulge information openly during the sales cycle and or sign the deal there and then.
I now look to conclude this piece on Simple Sells and ask you the reader do you remember the magic number? Well just like many things I have found in life they start off as complicated, requiring much analysis, learning and development; however once you have cracked the principles behind what you are doing it is really quite easy, thus I define Simple Sells in to three areas (I learnt from a Marketing professional that the human mind as a rule remembers three points on average on any subject presented):
- People Buy Off People
- Be yourself
- Empower your customer to sell to themselves; closing is all part of the deal.