When to present during sales calls.
Traditionally, every sales call contains three essential components:
· presenting product knowledge (“Telling”)
· qualifying the buyer (“Asking”), and
· closing the sale (“Closing”).
While Telling (T) - that is, talking about features, advantages and benefits has been, and will continue to be, an integral part of the sales call, the single most important factor about Telling is the order in which it occurs in relation to Asking (A) and Closing (C).
There are three specific combinations of Telling, Asking and Closing in the progressive stages in the evolution of the history of the sales call.
· TAC (Beginner Level)
· ATC (Intermediate Level)
· ACT (Advanced Level)
Beginner Level: TAC
Many salespeople begin their careers doing TAC. During meetings, they launch into Telling all the wonderful features and benefits that their product(s) have to offer. At some point during delivery, they may or may not Ask the buyer whether they have a need for any such a product.
Then when the buyer begins to resist, the salesperson immediately brings out their bag of Closing tricks in an attempt to secure the sale.
TAC salespeople spend as much as 80% of their time in the Telling phase, little if any time in the Asking phase, and the remainder of their time trying to Close.
Tell Ask Close 80% 5% 15%
Intermediate Level: ATC
ATC is a giant stride forward in the sales profession. It recognises the importance of qualifying the buyer by Asking them questions to determine whether they are a viable candidate for making a purchase. The truth is that ATC is the method of choice for the majority of salespeople today. However, there are two problems with adopting this outdated approach.
First, most salespeople who use ATC are qualifying for the buyer’s needs, typically by Asking a series of predetermined questions. “Needs” are only a small part of what constitutes PAIN*. One could “need” an operation because their appendix is infected; but their PAIN lies in their fears about what happens if they don’t get the operation. The point is what often passes for Asking in ATC is superficial.
Second, once ATC people have qualified the buyer with their questions, their next step is to Tell about their product knowledge, which is often premature because it ignores the importance of contracting first. The buyer now has the option of using product information against the seller to evade making a commitment. This leaves the salesperson in the same position of using Closing tactics that are often perceived as “high-pressured” by the buyer. Though more time is given in ATC to the Asking process, still the majority of time in the sales call is spent in the Telling phase.
Ask Tell Closing 35% 50% 15%
Advanced Level - The Leadership Selling Way: ACT
Leadership selling is fully grounded in the ACT approach. One could say that a true professional using ACT is pro-ACT-ing in the fullest sense of the word!
The idea is to Ask questions of the buyer in order to discover their PAINful feelings as opposed to simply gathering facts, as happens in ATC. Having accomplished this, Ask open-ended hypothetical questions so that you can contract towards a Close by means of getting incremental commitments along the way. Again,
Never tell unless you first have a clear contract about what will happen when you do.
Only after they have admitted PAIN and they have given you a commitment to buy if you can solve it do you Tell how your product(s) will remedy their problem. Telling, then, is simply icing on the cake to finalise the sale.
Ask Close Tell 80% 5% 15%
The key to the ACT approach is to make sure that the product knowledge that you present addresses the specific PAINs that the buyer has revealed.
Said differently, if your product has, let's say, fifteen features and benefits, but you have discovered that the buyer has only three specific PAINs, then you would present only the information that pertains to those three PAINs, and nothing more.
When you give more product knowledge to the customer than that which relates directly to solving their PAIN, you invite the perception that you are more interested in talking then in being sensitive to their dilemma.
Nothing frustrates a buyer more than being forced to listen to product knowledge that is not relevant to their situation. Not only might this offend them and dampen their interest in purchasing your product, but you might inadvertently give them
Products knowledge that empowers them to find new reasons why they should not buy your product. Consider the following example:
Buyer: “Show me what you have.”
SR: “I have a product that is better than anything else out there. It is easy to use, pays for itself, on average, within 10 weeks and involves very little user training. We can offer such a deal because of our merger with….”
Buyer: “It sounds like an excellent opportunity, but I prefer not to do business with companies that have merged with ….”
SR: “I don’t understand why you would have a problem with mergers. More and more companies are merging these days. As a result, they can bring you more benefits at competitive prices. So why not give this some serious thought.”
Buyer: “You have a point-let me talk it over with my colleagues and I’ll get back to you” (never to be heard from again).
Here is a case where the salesperson is telling the buyer information that was later used against him. There is some specific PAIN in the buyer about mergers that the salesperson did not uncover and that PAIN is blocking the buyer from considering the product seriously. We can’t know for certain what the PAIN is unless we ask vertical questions as to the source of the PAIN. Remember,
Only Tell your buyer about the product knowledge that is specific to their PAIN.
A word of caution about how to Tell when you are officially in that phase of the sales call. By this point you have narrowed down the product knowledge that you will present to the information that is specific to the buyer’s PAIN. Even so, it is best not to reveal it all at once because if you do, you will have relinquished to use some of that information in order to secure the sale.
It is far better to pause on-half or two-thirds of the way through the Telling phase to “take the buyer’s temperature” concerning their readiness to make a final commitment. While you have information yet to give, ask the question, “Are we getting closer or further away from what you wanted?” If they say “closer”, then ask, “What else must be done to take care of your concerns?” Whatever they say, if at all possible, do it.
If on the other hand, the buyer says, “We’re getting further away,” then you can be certain that you haven’t yet found his PAIN. Remember - no PAIN, no sale. Therefore, you must go back in the formula to Ask and repeat the process until you get a “no” or a clear indication to move forward.