Understanding your customer’s problems requires you to not focus on your product or service.
If you haven’t read it already, then have a look at our Tips from a Sales Trainer Part 1 – Rapport building – A game of chance or a key skill to develop?
Typical sales training has a focus around understanding your product or service, what it does, how many bells and whistles it has as well as how to position it with a client with the assumed expectation that they will salivate uncontrollably as the slickly honed patter is trotted out by the sales person.
If we take a step back for a moment however, how much training time is devoted to understanding the customer themselves, and the problem or issues that they need to solve?
This is commonly overlooked as sales people focus on pushing the often unrelated benefits and product “can do’s” and then find it difficult to understand why the customer fails to engage other than with multiple objections, never mind committing to buy.
Even where training looks at the customer perspective, the first stage is often building rapport; but is there a step that goes before this as we here at Clemorton believe there is?
Understanding your own personality traits and style is critical, as the odds are 3:1 that your customer is a different social style to yourself, which doesn’t lend itself well to making a natural and engaging relationship initially, especially if these differences are not quickly recognised and adaptions made accordingly by the sales person.
Setting a clear verbal agenda is also critical once a relationship exists, indeed an agenda that is entirely relatable to the customer in terms of understanding how you can help them by focusing on them, thus giving them a clear reason of why they may want to listen and engage collaboratively.
This is primarily based on the skilled questioning and active listening skills that are vital in needs identification. Herein though lays a familiar problem seen in even the most seasoned sales professionals.
It’s true that sales training covers the concept of these core skills with non-verbal communication thrown in; however, understanding the difference for example between an open and a closed question is a long way away from actually being able to avoid too many default closed questions and instead practice skilled and open cascading to the point of buying motive identification?
It is at this point only that the product comes to the fore, and rather than prescriptive features and benefits that were learnt parrot-fashion on the training course, what about relating them to the issues you have just uncovered. Then seamlessly and naturally tying them in to demonstrate how they will take away the customer pain points.
In our experience this is more about giving your customer a justifiable reason why to buy as opposed to crossing your fingers and reeling off lots of different angles about your product and service in the hope that one resonates with the customer by even throwing the kitchen sink at it.
This creates multiple opportunities to close each identified issue in a natural way where the customer is inclined to agree, as opposed to waiting until the dreaded sales close where a significant percentage of sales people fear the rejection and instead opt out and suggest sending a quote, or allowing then to have a think about the offer amongst another 100 examples.
So what does all this mean? A sales process is indeed key, but so is the ability to understand people and behaviour as after all it is an individual or group that need to be convinced; so personal adaptation is key – as well as the ability to demonstrate skills in practice with confidence and credibility?
So, if you are really thinking about understanding your customer’s problems you need first to understand your current process and how much focus do you put on the person in front of you?