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The Secret to Sales Success

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From time to time we get asked what the "secret" to sales effectiveness is. I interpret that to mean, "How do sell everyone every time" – or something close to that.

Well if you are looking for the secret to selling there is good news and bad news. Unfortunately, you do not get a choice which you get first; I'm going to give you the bad news.

Bad news: there is no secret.

The good news is that you dramatically increase the odds of selling more of your customers, more often, if you have a plan to do so. Now I know that sounds incredibly boring and not what you were hoping for, but sometimes reality is like that.

What's the plan?

Successful sales people understand that to be effective they need a plan that mirrors the process a person goes through to make a buying decision. They need a plan that actually leads the customer to a decision. Once they understand that plan, they stick to it consistently – they execute.

Sounds simple but is that what people do? One of the challenges we see in selling financial services is that many people dealing with the customers either do not have a plan to sell, or if they do, they do not follow it consistently. What is commonly perceived as a "sales problem" is really a "lack of a plan problem". This is shocking when you think about it - there is only one thing standing in between the company's products and the customers who have the potential to buy those products – the sales person!

No Plan

I was in Future Shop not long ago looking at TV's. A salesman came up to my wife and I and opened with the standard, "Can I help you?" Instead of the usual "No we're just looking" I said, "well not really we're just looking at TV's".

Well that was enough for this young, energetic salesman. He went off on a presentation of the TV we happened to be standing in front of and gave us some great information. Noticing that he seemed to know his stuff (and I don't) I took the opportunity to ask him a question every time he paused long enough from his sales pitch to breathe. He was great, he answered all of my questions and I walked away better informed. When we decided we had to leave he got all flustered and asked his first question (aside from "can I help you?") – He asked when we were considering buying a TV. When we told him it would not be until later this year. The poor guy dropped his shoulders, the smile left his face and he looked as though he'd just lost his best friend. He muttered something about when we were ready to please contact him and then he sulked away.

What's the problem – NO PLAN! He was winging it. Somehow he got it hooked up in his head that if was really good at explaining products to customers he would be a good salesman. Having good product knowledge doesn't mean success in selling anymore than owning an airplane makes you a pilot.

Would he have gotten the sale had he had a plan – maybe. We really were looking to buy later in the year but who knows. Stranger things have happened.

Hey, the people like us who were not ready to buy, usually will not buy unless there is exceptional value and urgency created during the sales process. The sales person can influence those things. The people who are there to buy (i.e. know what they want and where they want to get it), generally speaking, will buy regardless of your plan. The challenge is that most customers are in between somewhere. They have real questions, real hesitations when it comes to buying, and in some cases, do not even know they have a problem yet.

Lead Them to a Decision

The good news is that sales people have way more control over the sales process than most think they do! A solid sales plan moves the customer to the point of decision or to a next step – it is not just the imparting of product information and waiting for someone to decide to buy. That's what he was doing.

Buying a product is a logical, mental, emotional process. A good sales plan mirrors that buying process – it makes it easy for you to buy because it concludes with you making a decision.

Next time you miss a sale ask yourself if you were following a well thought out strategy to lead the customer to a decision. Were you going somewhere with the conversation or were you just imparting product knowledge and hoping the customer would buy? If you answered those questions with a no I can guarantee you can increase your sales effectiveness by following a plan.

The biggest step towards consistent success a sales person can make is to have a plan.

Kevin Neufeld

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