Conversion of prospects to clients

My last columns discussed lead-generation strategies any business can implement. So, with your “prospect funnel” full, let’s talk about the conversion of these prospects to clients, or sales. A good definition of sales is: professionally helping others to buy.

My last columns discussed lead-generation strategies any business can implement.

So, with your “prospect funnel” full, let’s talk about the conversion of these prospects to clients, or sales. A good definition of sales is: professionally helping others to buy.

Becoming a successful salesperson comes down to one thing — training. Selling is something everybody can learn to do well.

Renowned sales trainer Zig Ziggler said it best: “You can have anything you want in this life, as long as you help enough other people get what they want.” The key is to focus on the needs of the prospect and not yourself.

Generally, there are four types of salespeople: the order taker — reactive, merely wait for someone to ask to buy; the product pusher — talks about nothing more than the product they are selling; the over-seller — the stereotypical salesperson that promise the world just to get the sale; and finally, the problem solver — genuinely has the best interest of their customers in mind.

When I first started in sales, my approach was to list and describe the products I thought my prospect may want.

A normal response was if they ever needed anything from my list they would be sure to call me.

Guess how many phone calls I received.

I assumed that I already knew their needs. I certainly didn’t come away with a good understanding of the prospect’s business or themselves. I was a product pusher.

These days, prospects have often done their homework before walking through the door. A problem solver asks relevant questions to uncover the real needs. The questioning process also helps to educate customers on possible options.

The end result should be the best match-up of what the business offers in order to solve the need.

The prospect will often arrive at their own conclusion; they sell themselves.

The old way of selling was not interested in building relationships or follow-up after the sale.

The salesperson’s main focus was on the actual selling process. This is why sales still has the stigma of being a pressurized process to this day.

The new way of selling is just the opposite.

Most activity is centred on building rapport, product/service education and client follow-up. Very little activity is focused on the selling process.

Learning to ask relevant questions takes some practice. Ask open-ended questions, not ones that can be answered with a straight yes or no.

Start with a general question and then become more specific and ask for more details as you progress. Eventually you can begin to offer suggestions.

At this point, check their temperature and see if you’re on the right track before getting down to details. Use questions like “What would that look like. . .” or “What would it feel like to. . . ?”

People base their buying decisions not only on functionality or suitability, but predominantly on emotion.

These types of questions bring emotion to the process. It is important to realize that approximately 80 per cent of a sale is based on emotion.

Educate your clients. The more your clients are educated, the more they’ll believe what you have to say and trust the business enough to make a purchase. They are usually your best clients.

Remember that the average sale is based on not only 80 per cent emotion, but 20 per cent fact. Education addresses that 20 per cent that can surface several days after the actual sale and is called buyer’s remorse.

Moving on to the next part of the process, you need to make sure the prospect is satisfied with what you have suggested for them. The type of question you may ask at this point is more direct: “Does that fit with what you had in mind?”

Talk less, listen more. Really listen. Engage in a two-way conversation with the intent of providing solutions. Some salespeople actually end up talking themselves out of the sale. Too much talk can turn off the prospect and often raise questions that they never had in the first place.

If your suggestions or choices don’t fit with what they had in mind, ask more questions. You probably missed something.

Or, you may not have the solution and can even suggest where they could try next.

The end result should be a satisfied customer. They have the solution they need, want and can afford, while you have a new client that will return to your business many times.

ActionCoach is written by John MacKenzie of ActionCoach, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses and other organizations. He can be contacted at johnmackenzie@actioncoach.com or by phone at 403-340-0880.