Did you know that 71% of sales reps blame their inability to close deals on their lack of knowledge? Yes, knowledge!
So here’s the deal. If you want to master the type of sales techniques that blow up pipelines, make yourself a cuppa and work down this list because what made it is simply dynamite.
Let’s get philosophical: Socratic questioning
“I know that I know nothing” is one of Socrates’ best-known quotes. Perhaps that’s why the remarkable teacher and philosopher, credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, was so alarmingly skilled at asking probing questions.
In fact, he was so good that a separate method for asking questions the right – Socratic – way was developed. In a nutshell, Socratic questioning is disciplined questioning that is often employed to pursue and explore complex ideas, get to the bottom of things, uncover assumptions, and so on. It’s a systematic, disciplined technique that is based on the practice of thoughtful dialogue.
But can Socrates teach you a thing or two about sales? Doubt him not, the man’s game is still strong.
A sales professional is only as good as his questions. To overcome buyer objections, eliminate wrong assumptions and fears, and craft personalized solutions that solve your clients’ headaches, you must know where it hurts. Simple as that. Can a doctor treat someone if they don’t know the cause of their pain? Well, they can, but it most likely won’t work. Think of the last time you went to consult your GP – did she offer you a spoon of coughing syrup or a shot of vitamin B12 (it’s crucial for a healthy brain, by the way) before you even sat down? No, she didn’t. She asked you loads of questions, and then some more.
To move a lead from the solution-gathering stage to a solid close, a sales person needs to approach the sale methodically, ask the right questions at the right time, and actively listen. Now, it sounds simple, but making assumptions about a client’s needs is a classic mistake. And while the leading salespeople have upped their game with the help of robust CRMs and smart tools, appropriate questioning techniques remain the main gun in their arsenal.
So hear it from Socrates. Here are his five types of questions devised to control the discussion and unlock the truth.
Questions to clarify your clients’ thinking: could you elaborate? Why do you think/say that? What exactly does this mean?
Questions to challenge your their assumptions: why do you think that this assumption holds here? You seem to be assuming that… What would happen if…?
Questions to probe their evidence/reasons: What would be an example of…? Why do you say that? Is there a reason to doubt this…?
Questions to explore their viewpoints/perspectives: what are the alternative ways of looking at this? What if you compared… and…?
Questions to uncover implications/consequences: How does… affect…? What would happen if…?
You will need different questions at different stages of your sales process, but mastering the Socratic technique will give you the means and the confidence necessary to lead conversations towards the desired outcome.
When you’re an expert, and you know it
It’s no surprise that deep product knowledge almost always means more sales. To effectively address clients’ needs and craft tailored solutions, a salesperson must know the product inside out.
If you ask your sales team to describe the value your product or service create, you’re likely to get a whole array of different answers. Some of them will be compelling, leaving you wanting more, others will hardly make an impact. What a salesperson knows about a product, drives how he sells and what he’s able to achieve.
41.3% of sales organizations identified “difficult competitive differentiation” as one of the barriers to success, according to this CSO report. Showing a customer why she should spend her money with you instead of going next door is a crucial step in the sales process. It requires a detailed understanding of the product’s key features and benefits to the customer as well as the ability to recognize opportunities when emphasizing certain solutions is appropriate and beneficial.
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A Richardson Training whitepaper states that “Sales Professionals who prepare and deliver meetings of high value to a buyer win deals 3.6 times more than their peers.” It’s down to the fact that buyers are increasingly knowledgeable about the products they are planning to purchase and only accept meetings or seek assistance from sales reps that they believe can provide valuable insights. In fact, as much as 57% of B2B buyers have done their research and know what product they want before they even speak to a sales rep. This represents a great challenge to sales teams as they’re left with little negotiation room and some serious assumptions to tackle.
To get to a deal faster, you must make your prospect feel that your product is the best solution on the table, refraining from making it a race to the bottom. It can only be possible if you speak about your product fluently, leaving no trace of doubt, and exude confidence and enthusiasm.
Focusing on Value vs. Cost
Practice shows that sharp decreases in prices typically lead to only modest increases in sales. How is that possible? The truth is, customers, want cheap, but not too cheap.
Prices that are significantly lower than the industry standard signal that something is potentially amiss and put customers off. Turning to cost-based pricing with hopes to attract more leads can only be effective if the discounts are controlled and kept within industry norms. Otherwise, your products might be perceived as cheap imitations of your competitors’ produce.
The point of focusing on value vs. cost pricing is that it creates a fantastic opportunity for a company to make healthy margins. Value-based selling is a pricing strategy which sets prices according to the perceived value to the customer rather than the cost of the product.
It’s all about how much your customers are willing to pay for your product and how much they think it is worth. Utpal M. Dholakia, the Professor of Marketing at Rice University, offers a reliable definition of value-based pricing:
“Value-based pricing is the method of setting a price by which a company calculates and tries to earn the differentiated worth of its product for a particular customer segment when compared to its competitor.”
He also states a few important conditions that can make value-based pricing model the right option for your business:
- It’s targeted to a single market segment. The same value-based price should not be implemented in all segments. Instead, you should focus on choosing a different value-based price for each segment.
- There is a competitor in a segment. Expect this pricing model to be effective only if your target audience in that segment have an alternative, i.e. a product from your competitor. The value of your product will be determined based on your competitor’s product. If there isn’t one, the value-based model won’t work.
- The differentiated feature is unique. The feature can only be available in your product, and you have to understand its perceived value to the customer.
- Assign a monetary value. Now that you understand the differentiated value, it’s time to assign a monetary value to it and determine the final product cost.
It sounds great and all, but value-based pricing can only be successful if there is full support from a sales team. If a salesperson is unable to explain the value to the customer without justifying a higher price with higher costs, then it won’t work.
Value-based selling rests on a sales rep’s ability to understand and reinforce the reasons why his offer is valuable to the buyer.
In the classic sales book SPIN Selling, Neil Rackham reveals four phases of successful selling:
- Understanding the situation;
- Defining the problem;
- Clarifying the short-term and long-term implications of that problem;
- Helping the buyer internalize how much they need your help, and the ultimate financial and emotional payoff of working with you.
Discovering customer pain points early in the conversation will give you the opportunity to emphasize just how beneficial your offer is and explain its value in terms your customers will understand and appreciate.
Highlight the Opportunity cost
What’s an Opportunity cost? Investopedia offers a simple definition:
“Opportunity cost refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up to take another course of action.”
The value of Opportunity cost in business is in helping decision makers decide which business opportunities to pursue. If the principle is applied correctly, every option gets an equal, fair assessment and the one with the highest ROI or the greatest value wins.
For a sales rep, leveraging the Opportunity cost is a chance to deliver a tailored pitch that addresses the potential client’s biggest concerns and solves unique problems. Making your prospect realize that the value of your product is too great to pass on is a surefire way to close the deal fast. This hugely depends on a sales rep’s ability to highlight the top benefits of a product in a way that proves its superiority over the competition.
Besides that, employing the Opportunity cost can help you tap into the buyer’s feeling of FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out.
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To invoke feelings of FOMO, marketers and salespeople rely on several proven tactics: creating urgency, cultivating exclusivity, showcasing success stories, and keeping their customers in the loop on the latest offers and product developments. But we’ll cover this in more detail later on; let’s come back to the Opportunity cost.
Although a crucial element of a buying process, opportunity assessment does not come naturally to all decision makers. Many tend to make up their minds based on a few criteria, such as budget or the speed of implementation, without scrupulously researching the pros and cons of their decision. Your responsibility as a sales rep is to ensure the prospect realizes the potential opportunity costs when they’re nearing the decision time.
Instead of focusing on “this is what you get if you work with us,” try to stress all the benefits that a prospect will lose if they went elsewhere.
Be generous with your extras and bonuses
Make your offer so good they can’t ignore it.
If you think it’s easier said than done, you haven’t played the “enormous bonuses” card yet. Yes, it does come with higher costs and commitments on your side, but giving your prospects an additional reason to say “Yes, I want it” can make the closing of the deal that much easier.
As a tried and tested call to action, “Buy now to get [insert an offer that matters to your customers]” can help you tip the scale in your favor, especially when a prospect is leaning towards a no. It’s a simple but effective tactic to increase the perceived value of an offer without incurring many costs.
Some of the most popular extras that help to win clients over include:
- Free consultation
- Free coaching
- Free implementation support
- Free lifetime support
The thing about the word free is that it is incredibly compelling and we irrationally value free things. It doesn’t make any rational sense to queue for an hour to get a free ice cream, but people happily do it. Capitalizing on the power of “free” can help you bring a deal to a close faster, so if you have something interesting to offer – do it!
Scarcity is your best friend
Scarcity is one of the most effective tactics to invoke FOMO. It’s about how much of something is offered and that there’s never enough of that something to satisfy everyone’s needs due to high demand, limited production, or restrictions on the time or place you can acquire them.
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Salespeople can take advantage of scarcity to close more deals, too. The best way to create the urgency-to-buy effect is by showing your prospects that if they don’t move now, they will miss out. Limited availability reinforced with a set deadline can be a hugely effective incentive for buyers to make a decision sooner rather than later. Other kinds of incentives a sales rep can offer to a hesitant buyer include:
- Offering a discount: “If you make a decision within (the next x days/weeks), I can secure an x% discount for you, which will save you x dollars!”
- Offering special features or higher tier plans. Instead of lowering the price, try to increase the value of your offer. For instance, offer the premium version of your product for the price of the basic plan for a limited time only.
Most people are naturally risk averse. In fact, people would rather avoid loss than acquire gains, which means inducing a feeling of FOMO can yield better results than offering a bunch of free stuff.
Consider, for example, the tactic used by many maturing businesses. When their product grows and improves, and they offer even more value, companies often choose to increase their prices.
Announcing your price increases well in advance to existing customers and hot leads can be a wonderful incentive for them to beat the price increase by making the buying decision quickly.
If you tame the FOMO tactics, getting to a yes will be easier than ever.
The simple truth about closing is that there is no silver bullet. What works with one lead, might be completely ineffective with another. However, the key to nailing your sales techniques every time is in working your leads methodically, monitoring their behavior and learning to recognize certain triggers. It’s much easier to do if you’re using a CRM because it does all the legwork for you, but putting a robust sales process in place can also make a difference.
So if there’s anything you take away from this article, let it be these 6 lessons:
- The right questions will help you progress and qualify the leads faster – use the Socratic questioning method to learn everything that can help you close.
- Be the expert in the room. Your leads might have excellent googling skills, but you have the product knowledge that will help you beat their reservations and match your product to their needs.
- Understand and reinforce the reasons why your offer is so valuable to the customer.
- Make your leads realize the Opportunity costs early in the conversation – it’s what they’re missing out on that pushes those buying buttons.
- Include enormous bonuses and extras to tickle prospect’s compulsion with free stuff.
- Don’t underestimate the power of FOMO – induce the urgency to buy.