Preparation key in sales

Jason Cannon

March 5, 2013

One of the oldest adages in business is “people do business with people they like.”

You’ve heard that before, probably more than once.

That’s called Relationship Selling.

The ability to get close personally to customers is a critical sales skill.
However, that will only carry you so far.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you know your customer’s daughter plays shortstop on her high school softball team, or if the customer’s mother recently fought the flu.

What matters most is whether or not the customer has confidence in your product knowledge and trusts you as an authority.

Every business owner wants to brag on their business just as much as their children. Do you know your customer’s industry as well as their family tree?

What industry challenges keep Truck Buyer John awake at night?

Maybe John is having a great year but a key supplier just gave him some bad news that will complicate his business a few weeks down the road.

In an NTEA Work Truck session held Tuesday, Bob Aquaro, Vice President, TARA Commercial Vehicle Consulting Services, said you should know as much as possible about your customer and their industry before the first sales meeting.

The first sales meeting will validate that information and you’ll learn new information that will later affect the negotiation process.

On your first sales call, dress similar to your customer, and grooming is important. If you can’t find out your customer’s dress code, Aquaro says err on the side of your Sunday best.

“You can’t go wrong in a suit and tie, for both men and women,” he says. “You can go wrong in jeans and a t-shirt.”

He says salespeople are the most important part of the deal. They establish customer confidence and trust.

And you do this by knowing what you’re talking about – being prepared.

Part of the preparation is understanding your customer, and understanding them is not the same as getting to know them.

Aquaro offered four essential steps in sales.

1. Sell yourself first. People buy from people. You want them to say, “Why should I buy from this guy and not from other people.”

2. Sell your company second. This is essentially an extension of the first directive. Why should they buy from you, and what makes your company better than others? Always refer to your company as “we” or “our” not “they.” Make yourself an authority for the company.

“Mr. Customer, I would like to tell you a little bit about my company.” This should only take about 30 seconds. “How do I tell my story in about 30 seconds,” Aquaro asks.

3. Sell your product third.

Then, present your price and be prepared to negotiate.

In negotiations, don’t forget the most important part: Asking for the business.
Aquaro says he is consistently amazed at the number of sales negotiations that fail to wrap up with asking for the order.

Sure, that’s implied. Why else would you be there? You’re there to make a sale.
However, asking for the order is the easiest catalyst to jumpstart negotiations en route to the close, Aquaro says.

Once you’re in front of the customer and working on negotiations, don’t say this: “I will have to talk to my boss and get back with you”

Say this: “I will have to study that proposal and see if it’s the best decision for both our companies.”

You’ve essentially said the same thing, and you’re still going to back up and talk it over with your bosses, but you’re taking ownership in the decision process and preserving your authority in the negotiation process.

You don’t “get” business, you “earn” it.

Understanding how to earn it can easily pave the way to earning more of it.

Jason Cannon is Online Managing Editor of Successful Dealer. He can be reached via email at Follow him on twitter at @By_Jason_Cannon.

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