WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE SUCCESSFUL SALES CALLS
By Michael Radick, Xeros Learning Systems
A team of professionally trained observers monitored and analysed more than 500 face-to-face sales calls of 24 different sales organisations. The products and services sold ranged from high technology computers to industrial refuse disposal.
The observers recorded each interaction as it occurred in each call for example:
What did the salesperson do?
How did the customer react?
THE AVERAGE SUCCESSFUL CALL
What, then, was the statistical profile of the successful sales call? The average successful call was observed as 33 minutes long. During that call the salesperson:
* ASKED 13.6 QUESTIONS;
* DESCRIBED 6.4 PRODUCT BENEFITS;
* DESCRIBED 7.7 PRODUCT FEATURES.
On the average successful call, the customer:
* DESCRIBED 2.2 DIFFERENT NEEDS;
* RAISED 1.04 OBJECTIONS;
* MADE 2.8 STATEMENTS OF ACCEPTANCE;
* ASKED 7.7 QUESTIONS.
In addition to analysing behaviours during the call, we noted factors such as age, sex, and experience of the salesperson and the effect of interruptions in the call. Remarkably, these factors made no significant difference in the result of the call.
It does not appear to matter whether the salesperson is 28 or 48 years old, whether that person is male or female, or whether that person has two years experience or twenty. What does matter is the ability of the salesperson to use certain skills and to avoid common errors.
COMMON SELLING MISTAKES
1. Telling a customer how a product or service might be of value instead of asking questions to uncover the customer’s needs.
2. Over controlling a call by asking too many close-ended questions instead of encouraging a customer to freely reveal needs.
3. Responding to customer needs with statements of product or service features instead of explaining to the customer how those features will satisfy his or her needs.
4. Responding to every customer stated problem with a solution instead of first making sure the customer desires or wants a solution.
5. Failing to recognise or have an appropriate strategy for handling customer attitudes of objection, indifference and scepticism toward the product or service being sold.
6. Failure to recognise when or how to close or making weak or unrealistic closing statements.
WHAT SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE DO
There are several important generalisations about successful sales call that derive from the Xerox Learning Systems research project. In general, differences in sales success are not due to experience, but rather, to knowledge of the selling process and the ability to take appropriate action during the sales call. Low performers seem to be unaware of the skills available to them. They tend either to over-structure the call, fail to establish a smooth dialogue, or to lose control of the call. Average salespeople know what to do but tend to do it inefficiently. They ask the good questions but sometimes fail to listen effectively and make full use of the answers.
Successful professionals exhibit efficient sales behaviour. They make frequent and extensive use of the most powerful selling skills. They establish dialogues with their customers easily and control a sales call subtly. They also remain alert to closing opportunities throughout the call.
How is the bridge from a poor or average salesperson, to a successful salesperson, made? It involves learning – and using – each of the following skills.
• Asking questions skilfully to gather information and uncover customer needs.
• Recognise when a customer has a real need and showing how the benefits of the product or service can satisfy it.
• Establishing a balanced dialogue with customers.
• Recognising and handling negative customer attitudes promptly and directly.
• Using a benefit summary and an action plan requiring commitment when closing.
In summary, selling today requires a high degree of sophistication. The research reveals the importance of subtleties in selling and the importance of understanding precisely the need satisfaction sales dynamic. Critical skills make a difference and the successful salesperson knows how and when to use them effectively.