Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Knowledge - Your Most Valuable Sales Tool

Having the right look, the right speech pattern, using the right buzz words will all lead to some degree of success in the short term. Real working knowledge of what you're selling will lead to lasting relationships and a lucrative career.

Speaking as someone who is approached by more than his share of salespeople, nothing turns me off faster than a well-rehearsed sales pitch. When presented with one of these I immediately ask a question that addresses my concerns, not a set-up for a manufacturer's talking points. Invariably the salesperson will attempt to redirect the conversation, either because they don't like, or don't know the answer.

If you want to make quick sales, get employee of the month, win the latest office competition, stick with the schtick. If you want to establish and promote your own reputation and build lasting relationships and long term accounts, get to know your product and how it can best be employed by your potential customers. Listen to their questions, their comments, their criticisms. If you don't have answers, find them. If you do an objective analysis and determine your product is not suited for a particular prospects needs, don't waste their time and yours. Thank them for their time and input and move on.

Remember, talking points provided by management, manufacturers, service providers are just starting points. They are the best guess by the various marketing departments as to what your prospect might be interested in and respond to. Don't try to adjust your prospect's state of mind to fit the talking points. Adjust your talking points to the reality in the field. Let the prospect tell you what their interested in. Listen, learn, evaluate, then respond. If necessary, take notes and set up a second meeting for when you're better prepared to answer questions. Don't go back and get advice on how to "hook" the client. Go get real answers to real concerns.

Don't think of yourself as a salesperson. You're a solution provider. Behave like one. The benefits of this approach are at least two-fold: Better customer retention and the opportunity to gain knowledge and insight into a variety of businesses and models. Every sales call should be seen as both a challenge and a learning opportunity.

Knowledge is an asset. The positive deployment of knowledge is wisdom. If you pass up the chance to gain some of both on the job, you're missing out on a big part of your potential compensation.

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