Monday Mornings with Madison

Sales 2014 – Part 2

The Search for a Customer’s ‘Hot Button’

There are four basic elements that impact whether a sale will close.  First, a salesperson must connect with the prospective client and be able to step into his/her ‘shoes.’  Second, the salesperson must determine the prospect’s needs… the factors that will motivate or drive him/her to listen with the intent of purchasing.  Third, the salesperson needs to understand how much weight the prospective client assigns to the product or service being sold or its benefits or time frame.  Lastly, the salesperson needs to gain the potential client’s trust, projecting credibility while removing doubts.

It is the second factor which is often most important in driving the sale.  The salesperson must identify the potential client’s needs and determine what is driving his/her underlying desire to purchase.  In the sales process, a salesperson may discover that a potential customer has a long list of needs, but there is usually one factor that will get the person to buy.  That is the customer’s ‘hot button.’   The hot button is the trigger that provokes action.  It is often an emotional, rather than a practical, need.  So how does a salesperson identify a potential customer’s hot button?

Fear and Greed

It’s been said that the sale of non-essential products and services (in other words, things other than food, water, and basic shelter and clothing) is often driven by either greed or fear.  While those words often conjure very negative images, in this context they are not meant with any negative connotation.  Typically, greed underlies purchases of products or services that help a person to look good, feel good or be successful (or be perceived as successful).  While people buy a vehicle in order to get from point A to point B, a specific customer might be inclined to buy a more expensive Mercedes Benz in order to communicate and project a level of success to others.  On the other hand, fear drives the purchase of products or services that are designed to help avoid a problem or bad outcome.  In that scenario, a specific customer might be inclined to buy a Volvo because of the vehicle’s long-standing safety record and a desire to put his/her children in the safest car.

So how does a salesperson figure out what a prospective client’s specific hot button is?  It is uncovered during the sales process.  Here are some practical steps:

1.  Build a genuine rapport.

While many salespeople want to get right down to business, and most prospective clients seem to want that too, it is important to build a rapport with the prospect first.  That starts long before the sales meeting.  It starts with the salesperson doing some homework.  With LinkedIn, it is easier than ever to find out if the salesperson and prospect have any colleagues in common.  Does the prospect share similar interests in hobbies, sports, charitable groups or business organizations with the salesperson?  Has the prospect’s company been in the news lately?

During the sales meeting, it is important to then get to know the prospect further. Insights gained into the company and the individual can be the foundation to build a genuine rapport.  This process should not just seem genuine but be genuine.  Nothing is worse than someone who is clearly pretending to care or be interested.

2.  Ask lots of questions.

Once a rapport is built, it is imperative for a salesperson not to jump into a canned sales pitch.  The best way to sell is to ask the prospect questions and see where it leads.  The questions must be carefully constructed to eventually uncover the prospect’s needs related to the products or services that the salesperson provides.  To do that, the questions must be open-ended, requiring more than yes/no answers.  Questions should also be focused on the individual and the business, not just cost, price or technical matters.   The questions should seek to understand the prospect’s problems and needs, and the decision-making processes. If the customer expresses a feeling or emotion, ask the why behind those feelings.

3.  Listen actively.

Salespeople who do all the talking generally lose the sale… and are usually pretty boring to boot.  The prevailing wisdom is to follow the 70/30 rule.  A salesperson should listen 70 percent of the time and talk 30 percent of the time… while resisting the urge to interrupt.  While it may be tempting to interrupt to share something vitally important, a good salesperson will resist the urge unless for a very good reason.  The interruption may stop a prospective client from sharing information that could lead to a deeper understanding of his/her motivations, needs and problems.  When the time comes to speak, the salesperson should ask a question and then be silent.  This will prompt the prospect to keep sharing and afford the salesperson time to read body language and take notes.

When a prospect expresses a need, such as a need to cut down on turnaround time, a typical salesperson might reply by explaining how the product or service meets that need.  Instead,  it is better to probe deeper with more questions to elicit details.  Asking for even more information – and listening to the answers – puts the salesperson in a better position showcase the product/service and meet the need.

4.  Take detailed notes.

Active listening allows the opportunity for the salesperson to take copious notes.  It is important to take notes and not rely on memory later.  A salesperson that meets with multiple prospects in a day may end up confusing details or forgetting vital information.  These notes can also be helpful during the presentation to hit upon key issues.  It is especially important to write down objections. This allows the salesperson to specifically address those objections.

5.  Address objections with personal emotions.

Objections should be addressed with empathy, such as stating “I understand how you feel. A lot of our customers felt the same way until they realized…..”  Prospects not only want to be understood, but they also like to hear about others who have been in similar situations.

6.  Find the hot button.

Typically, a person’s hot button is an emotional, not practical, need, and it is usually revealed during the process of the conversation.  A top notch salesperson will ask enough questions to get to the root of what is really driving the prospect’s decision-making process.

To know a customer’s hot buttons, ask questions that address how to streamline, fine-tune, and simplify the business. A salesperson should ask simple questions like:

  • What are your biggest concerns?
  • What keeps you up at nights? (related to business only!)
  • What is the driving force behind this project?
  • What is your pet peeve?
  • What is the biggest drawback of what you are doing now?
  • What would simplify your business process?

7.  Eliminate objections.

When faced with objections, it is important for the salesperson to first express empathy and concern.  The salesperson should let the prospect know he/she understands and feels for their issues, and then address the objections in order to narrow the focus.

  • Offer a choice –  Is it the delivery time or the cost that most concerns you?
  • Pinpoint the main objection – What specifically concerns you most?
  • Offer possible solutions.  – If we are able to handle the transaction within five business days, would you be willing to try us?

Every salesperson should have a list of common objections and ways they have been successfully addressed.

8.  Ask for the sale.

At this point in the process, armed with insightful information, it should be relatively simple for a salesperson to close the sale from there, if a need exists.  The next step is to actually ask for the customer’s order. Many salespeople make the mistake of not asking for the final decision.  Many a sales have been lost that way.  It never hurts to ask.

Asking the right questions that reveal a prospect’s needs and hot button(s) is the key to getting the sale.

Quote of the Week

“The questions you ask are more important than the things you could ever say.” Tom  Freese

© 2014, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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