Q: I am a small business owner and want to increase my sales revenue. What coaching tips might help me and my employees get better at selling?
A: Let’s begin with a question or two: What is selling? Is it more than providing a well-defined product or service solution to an ill-defined problem?
Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Everyone lives by selling something.” Yet most people don’t understand the sales process and their part within it. Business owners constantly worry about the selling function and how it affects their ability to manage the firm’s cash flow.
As a business coach, I don’t sell “coaching” but do sell the results or benefits of engaging in a coaching relationship: improved business management, sales & marketing, planning, productivity/effectiveness and leadership. I do sell the value of brainstorming with, being accountable to, being listened to, receiving encouragement from someone who brings an independent viewpoint to the conversation.
Just like me, you have to come up with how you help your customers get better at what they do (or want to do) through satisfying customer wants and needs. When you do, you will know what selling is for your business.
This is not a trick question. It takes both a buyer and a seller to make a sale. That means the sales person can’t make a sale without finding a prospect that may buy what is for sale. When the buyer is ready, willing and able to purchase what you sell, you want to be sure that your business is on the prospective customer’s short list of places to shop. To do this you must first establish a market presence that is attractive to the prospective buyer.
The next question is, “Why do sales people fail?”
There are two main reasons why most sales people fail:
1. They think they can get away with “winging it.”
This expression comes from the theater; where it alludes to an actor studying his part in the wings (the areas to either side of the stage) because he has been suddenly called on to replace another. First recorded in 1885, it eventually was extended to other kinds of improvisation based on unpreparedness.
Being prepared for the customer interaction is important. Knowing what action you want the prospect to take based upon this sales interaction allows the sales person to focus. Having a strategy of what to ask, what to show and tell helps to move the prospect to taking the desired action. Anticipating obstacles to the sale will allow you to plan how to go around or over potential “road-blocks” in accomplishing your sales objective.
2. They don’t understand the impact of their personality on specific buying styles.
This shows up in not really listening to the prospective customer and, instead, filling the sales interaction with sales talk. They don’t answer questions well because they don’t listen for the assumptions/beliefs that’s behind the prospect’s words. Their presentations are not in line with what the prospect wants to know. Being out-of-touch with the prospective customer’s personality style insures that the inability to communicate will sour the sale.
To improve your sales people’s ability to sell well, train and coach them on a proven sales methodology that allows them to prepare for every major sales interaction. Provide them an understanding of their personality’s strengths and weaknesses and how they can “read” their prospect’s buying style. Usually a sales person’s weakness, in the buyer’s perspective, is an over extension of a strength and can be toned down through self-management by the sales person.
Knowing how to read people is dependent upon picking up on and interpreting hidden cues. Studies show that the brain processes four primary codes of communication. Two of these (speech and vocal codes) are processed auditorily, while the other two (facial expression and body language) are processed visually. When assessing people, we must interpret all four codes of communication — observing how they move, how they comport themselves, how they sound, and what they say.
The body language code (the combination of movement, gestures, and mannerisms) communicates a lot about people — such as: are they lying or telling the truth, do they like you, and do they actually mean what they are saying.
For example, people who lean in towards you are showing that they are interested in you and what you have to say. This is also the case if someone copies your body language (e.g. crossing legs in unison, clasping fingers, etc.). People who feel powerful and confident usually take up more physical space while people that stand too far away are being arrogant, snobby, or simply showing that they don't like you.
As you and your sales people improve your ability to read people, you will know much more about those you deal with and make better decisions on how to approach them.
John Agno: Can't Get Enough Leadership (ebook $2.99)
John G. Agno: Can't Get Enough Leadership: Self Coaching Secrets (paperback $28.99)