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How to sell: Learn. Ask. Listen. Repeat (until Understanding). Sell, Don't Tell!

How to sell
Being able to close sales with prospective customers is the single most important determinant of the ultimate success of an entrepreneurial business. Few entrepreneurs feel they possess the necessary skills to accomplish that task and achieve that success.

Too many make the process needlessly complicated, driven by their lack of confidence, fueled by their lack of sales experience. And complex just increases the degree of difficulty.

For me, I like simplicity. Like the simple directions on a shampoo bottle ("lather, rinse, repeat").

Wouldn't it be great if we could apply the same simple directions concept on a shampoo bottle for everyday activities like washing our hair, to simplify more complex business activities like closing sales?
"It ain't brain surgery!"
What? Equate closing sales with washing your hair. That's just stupid! Can't you simplify sales? Not possible; mastering sales is complicated stuff that requires years of training and unique kinds of verbal and presentation skills, right?

Wrong. But, while I don't want to suggest that it's as simple as washing your hair, it also ain't "brain surgery!" Entrepreneurs just make it more complicated than it needs to be. So humor me. Let's try simple.

Learn. Ask. Listen. Repeat (until you understand). Sell, Don't Tell.

How to sell.

I'll break each of these down for you.

Learn.

Learn as much about your market and potential customer as possible. Dig into industry trade associations' websites and publications, blogs, etc., that are talking about the issues, needs and problems most relevant to industry players.

Dig into key prospect websites and social media to learn as much about their business as possible, including their history, management team, products/services and to determine how your product or service can best help them in their business.

You can learn a lot about their personality/culture (and every company has one) by reading their "about us" page and, especially, their press releases. It tells you how they want to be perceived by their market.

Ask.

Let's assume you qualified the prospect already (and if you haven't, here's how). Get in front of them. People buy from people.

You can email or Skype to do some preliminary work, but you have to "see the whites of their eyes," to get into their heads.

Have a set of questions that you want to get answered, prepared ahead of time. At the outset, get them comfortable. Maybe talk about something you picked up from their website about the company or about the individual you're talking to (something on their desk, in their office, etc.).

Ask them initial questions that are easy, but relevant to how they run their business. Make following questions more relevant to how they might use your product - without ever mentioning it.

For example, "how do you do 'x'" today, where "x" might be one of your product's key features/functions.

Listen.

Don't just hear their answer, listen to it. What you are listening for are clues to their unique needs, problems or issues. But they won't give you a litany. Your questions will bury them in answers. Let them talk (which says make your questions open-ended, so they will).

Through your listening create rapport. Don't fill every period of silence with words. Let the silence let them know you are thinking about their answer before you ask the next question.

Repeat (until Understanding).

Through your listening, continue to learn, so that you can ask better questions based on what you've learned. Ask a lot of "why" and "what did you mean when you said..." follow-up questions to answers that they give. It will cause them to think more and give you more information.

Don't start selling until you feel you have a basis to connect their needs, problems or issues with the core benefits of your product - Understanding!

It might mean that you do this in multiple meetings; where one or two sessions are data gathering to understand the prospect and their needs better, and then there's the selling meeting.

And tell them that. They will have a new respect for you. And yes, it will take longer, but it will increase your odds of success.

Sell, Don't Tell.

What this means is that you are not delivering a "drink from a fire hose" presentation of all of your product's features and functions, but a tailored presentation that describes your product at a high level and focuses on the benefits it delivers to them.

These benefits address the specific needs, problems or issues you uncovered in your previous steps.

If you do it right, and your product does meet their needs, then it isn't a question of whether they buy, but when and how. You'll still have to ask for the order, but it should be a "fait accompli" by then.

While closing sales with prospective customers are the single most important task in the ultimate success of an entrepreneurial business, it doesn't have to be complicated.

There are simple directions to make the process easier with more success. These simple instructions work whether you're trying to close your first sale or hundred and first sale. Keep it simple. Follow the directions.

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!

Do you have some simple steps that help you better close sales? Include the story in your comments. It will help other entrepreneurs!

If you like this post, by all means, share it with your networks and colleagues.


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