The theme ‘sales’ only seems to apply to the retailer or (wholesaler) trader. But whether you have your own business or a job, we are always selling something, consciously or not: ourselves, our business services and products. So even salaried employees can learn something from sales knowledge. And even in private you can learn to avoid certain pitfalls, such as an unfavorable impression at a networking drink. Sales trainer and advisor Ronald Swensson on the burning question: how do you sell it? Ronald Swensson is a sales trainer and advisor at the renowned Jan Wage Association. He is also the son of a hairdresser who won the Golden Rose in the 1960s, and can therefore use the hairdressing industry as an example. Ronald Swensson: In my opinion, there is no doubt that there is a certain tendency within the industry to promote services and products. The comedian Wim Sonneveld once depicted a pushy hairdresser in a comic sketch: Would you like some more cream, sir? A shampoo? Besides the fear of such a situation, there is more going on. Hairdressing was once a beautiful craft, but with the arrival of gurus such as Vidal Sassoon, the emphasis shifted to true artistry. You no longer cut, but created. You no longer listened to wishes but decided for yourself which hairstyle would suit you best. Of course I’m exaggerating, but that’s the core of the problem.”
Whoever the shoe fits…
Whoever fits the shoe, wear it, is what they say, and so other industries can also learn something from these observations. A news item recently appeared on MKB-Net that certain customer groups are in danger of being left out, especially the baby boomers. Not because they don’t want to spend, but because salespeople have somewhat arrogantly switched to autopilot, assuming that the customer would come anyway. This makes sense, because before the recession hit, it was often a piece of cake to attract the eager customer. Now it’s a different story, so it’s time for awareness of our direction – and our areas for improvement. Ronald Swensson: “We simply don’t listen enough, the so-called customer focus is missing. But if you want to retain customers and improve revenues, which are ultimately requirements to keep your head above water from a business perspective, then your attitude has to change. The basis is anticipating the wishes and , often still hidden, needs of customers. This process is called selling. Apparently we have difficulty with that word. However, I would rather be a rich salesman than a often – poor artist!
Aiming for a win-win situation
Can selling be learned? Ronald Swensson: The main focus is on so-called customer-oriented competencies. Can I make a click? Am I able to identify wishes and needs? Can I listen actively? Can I show what I have to offer in an enthusiastic way? Can I translate wishes and needs into the benefits of my services or products? All these elements should be carefully trained, preferably through the training that people follow for a profession. You can of course always follow (additional) training in communication and sales techniques if applicable. But anyone who focuses on the above questions in practice can learn and gain a lot.
What are the biggest possible pitfalls? That is starting with an enthusiastic soliloquy without checking whether the listener is on board. Another pitfall is coming up with standard stories without listening to or responding to the customer’s response. The key concept is constant interaction, or lack thereof. Surprisingly enough, a pitfall that even the old hand in the trade can fall into, based on habit or the statement that it has always worked! Mr Swensson: If such things are lacking, should I be surprised that my customer says no to my offer? We will have to learn to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. What are his wishes and desires? What would that person want to change? That requires training. You have to change old behavior and upgrade skills. This can greatly increase customer satisfaction and customer returns. The much-needed interaction applies not only to personal contacts, but also to print and website. Invite you to come by for orientation and submit any questions or comments!
Look at ‘live’ examples of people selling something, look at advertisements, and you’ll notice one thing. People often communicate with the most beautiful superlatives, but something is missing. There is a lot of bombshell language, but little information. Does that work? Ronald Swensson: No. Ultimately, our customer is only interested in whether what is offered meets his needs, and also his wallet. With such language you put unnecessary pressure on the relationship. You are seen one-dimensionally as a provider, and not two-dimensionally as a relationship and seller. Moreover, you run the risk that services or products do not meet sky-high expectations. Finally, something about the specter of marketing products and services. Roland Swensson does not really believe in the statement that customers are afraid that things are being sold to them: “Every customer is happy when a product meets a wish or solves a problem. This is where selling starts: being convinced that you are doing the customer a service by to offer your expertise, services and products!
How do you sell it? Tips and tricks
- Continue to take care of the customer even after the purchase.
- To inform is to sell. Not only the advertising talk, but also the facts communicate.
- Contact first, then buy. In other words, anyone who only communicates when there is something to gain loses goodwill.
- Above all, listen carefully to the customer. The most brilliant sales technique or presentation immediately loses out over simply giving the customer the feeling that they are heard, that they are taken seriously, that we want to know what we can do for her or him.
- Be positive about services and products (and make sure there is reason to be!) but also realistic. Avoid too high expectations. If a customer becomes disappointed, he tells friends, acquaintances and interested parties about his experience.
- Don’t feel shy about publicizing your product or service. You are not a beggar, there is no one-sidedness in the sales process. Above all, realize that you are not ‘just’ a person who wants to sell something to a customer, but that you have much more to offer: vision, professional knowledge and product knowledge.
- Focus on the bond with the customer, not on one-off scores. The annoyance about the impossibility of contacting gigantic companies such as Het Net, UPC or Ikea is increasing rapidly. There are opportunities here for those who focus on personal, reliable service – even after the purchase has been closed.
- Note the interaction. Does the customer continue asking questions, or does he secretly shuffle to the door? Adjust efforts accordingly. Persuasion is not a good sales trick!