I have read many books on the art of selling and everyone seems to have an opinion on the best sales strategies for getting and retaining clients. Although their strategies are varied, they each provide interesting insight on how to convince customers to buy. However, I believe that successful selling and client retention are based on the same core principals, regardless of the industry.
Here are my Top 5 Tactics for Strategic Selling:
- Listen. Listen. Listen. Successful salespeople are known to have excellent listening skills. They tend to listen to their clients first. Overwhelmingly, when they lose an opportunity, it is because, they tried to sell the client something they didn’t want or perceive they needed – not really listening to the client. A salesperson often gets wrapped up in the excitement of the sale, and they don’t listen to what the client really wants or needs. The key is to stop selling and start listening. When one determines the needs of the customer, then they can successfully find a solution that is a win/win for both them and the client.
- Provide value. People pay money for goods or services they perceive provide value. A successful salesperson will listen to the client and try to uncover what the client would perceive as valuable. As the old saying goes, “You can’t push a rope.” You simply can’t force someone to buy something that they do not value. Even if they are able to persuade a potential client to buy something on impulse, the salesperson won’t keep that client unless they demonstrate value.
- Return Phone Calls and Emails. Have you ever gone into a doctor’s office, utility company or other organization and felt like you’re just a “number”? Well, no one wants to feel that way. Clients want to know that they are important and that they have your attention. Successful selling involves paying attention and making each client feel that they are your most important. I wrote an insured about 10 years ago for $3,000. I called him a couple of times a year just to “check-in”. Three years later, he went to a new company and because I was top of mind, he handed me an account worth $1.5M per year. Although, the $3,000 account didn’t yield a return, fostering the relationship was very fruitful.
- Invest in the relationship first, the sale will come later. People buy from others that they “Like, Know and Trust”. I heard that term at a conference, but later read it in a book called The Go Giver. I don’t know where the term comes from, but I do know it’s true. It’s too much work for potential clients to find trustworthy vendors. They want to feel comfortable with their buying decisions and trust plays a huge role in their decision-making. For many years, I’ve attended conferences, written articles and referred business to other clients. I almost never start the conversation with “listen to what I have to sell”. I simply spread the word and develop the relationship. We sell professional liability insurance; however, we don’t sell every type of insurance and can’t sell to every type of client. We decided to begin selecting reputable companies that we knew we could refer the business to. We never even told these companies what we were doing and didn’t ask for anything in return. One day, the President of one of those companies called me and asked me why I kept referring business to them and I just told her that we knew they were a good company and we couldn’t use the lead. Three years later, she called me and now is a very large and important client to our Firm. The relationship was developed long before we ever discussed a sale.
- Communicate Your Expectations Clearly. Have you ever spent all week working on a sale and the entire time, you felt it was going to be a waste of time? In most cases, it probably was a waste of time. This often happens when the salesperson doesn’t clearly set expectations. Some people just aren’t buyers and other people just want confirmation that they are paying a good price for the product they already have. We clearly ask our clients for their specific objectives and then we aim to accomplish and gauge their expectations on what they revealed to us. You have to know when to walk away from a bad deal.
We have many clients a day who call us looking for
errors and omissions insurance coverage. Often, these clients already have good coverage in place. Although, we could try to compete with their coverage or pricing, other than our expertise, we can’t always improve on what they have. Rather, than go through the quoting process, we simply tell the clients that we would be happy to help them, but our pricing and coverage would be comparable to what they currently have. I had a potential client call and we simply could not improve upon his current coverage. He thanked me anyway and said he would keep my information handy. About three months later, I received a call from a much larger company that ultimately became a client. As it turns out, the person I couldn’t help out was very thankful for my honesty and referred me to this friend and that ultimately lead to a sale. When you clearly communicate your expectations, the customer has no choice but to respect your honesty and deem you as a credible resource.
A successful sales strategy is simple, listen, provide value, communication expectations clearly, invest in relationships and return phone calls. You can buy a book or just pay attention. Good luck!