I was delivering a business talk recently on the subject of ‘critical sales conversations’. I was struck by the almost universal absence of a structured sales process in most small businesses. People work hard to get a marketing lead and then just ‘Work it out as we go along!’ once crunch time comes and a deal is in the offing. And fear seems to lie at the heart of it all.

There’s no doubt that, as Brits, we seem to have an in-built aversion to sales. Small business owners, in particular, just love the idea that someone might be as passionate about their product as they are and so are hoping to find customers who essentially demand to be sold to. The truth is they’d prefer not to have to actively ‘sell’ to anyone!

Sadly, it’s just not that simple.

Business owners seem to struggle with the idea that they need to properly craft their approach to sales to ensure that the penny drops with their prospect – that ‘A-ha! moment’ when they realise their need can be well met by what you do.

There are definitely a lot of fears around selling. Appearing salesy. Or too pushy. Talking money and negotiating. Rejection. Dealing with someone who says ‘I’ll think about it’. Even being confident about the basic handling of objections and being able to counter them.

I advise clients to work hard to create a structured approach that leads customers through; understanding their problem in detail; helping them understand the implications of not solving it; explaining how you can help; and finally ‘asking for the business‘. This means preparation and practice – not winging it. 

Redressing the power balance

The image that often gets brought up in my sessions is one where the buyer seems to have ALL the power. And the poor ‘li’l old salesperson’ is scrabbling around waiting to pick up scraps that fall from the buyer’s table. The power balance is simply all wrong.

You’ve heard it before – but it MUST be a WIN-WIN deal with two equal partners in the deal. If the benefit is skewed to one party, then the deal will fail; too cheap and you’ll get poor quality or service from the seller – you may even drive the supplier out of business; too pricey and the customer will feel exploited and won’t come back, plus they’ll often tell their friends about their exploitative experience.

The HUGE advantage of an organised and structured sales process is that it re-balances that power struggle. If you’ve ever come across the concept of ‘transactional analysis’, it means we move from an imbalanced ‘parent to child’ scenario, to a more equally balanced ‘adult to adult’ conversation. This is critical.

This equal, empowered state empowers you to ask critical questions – like, what is it they are REALLY looking for? Can they really afford what you do? Are they ready and willing to buy?

And, importantly, questions allow to properly assess the full situation and to even walk away if the deal isn’t right – you might not be the right business to solve their problem and business at any cost is NEVER the goal of sales.

How slick is your presentation of ‘the solution‘?

Finally, you need to be really clear about your ‘solution’. Regardless of how good your sales build up, if you don’t present your solution slickly, it will all just fall apart. So many times I’ve seen people get to crunch time, only to start bumbling and stumbling around with ‘I’ll need to think about it … it all depends’ type explanations.

You must be ready with an easy-to-explain first step to scoop up that prospect and get them converted into a customer.

So, go back and review your sales process – are you doing your marketing justice by closing the deals with your brilliant sales skills?

If you’d like help with filling your ‘sales skills gap’ book in for one of my ButtKicker Focus Calls here>>