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Sep 05
2006

Building Effective Sales Steps

Posted by: Steve Marr

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Most business leaders are actively looking for more business. The cost of selling, both in management time and time spent by salespeople, is expensive. A recent study of customers by the Forum Corporation gives some insight into how we can improve our sales efforts. The study identified the biggest issues buyers had with salespeople. By exploring these issues we can improve how we connect with our customers.

Interestingly, pricing was not one of the top factors. The biggest issue was not following the company’s buying practices. Amazingly, more 25 percent of the respondents said that their biggest complaint was that vendors failed to follow their preferred buying process. We need to ask, and understand, how our customers want to be approached.

 

Each customer has a preferred pattern. Solomon said, “For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter” (Ecclesiastes 8:6, NIV). Once we understand our customers’ preferences, we need to ensure that we work within those parameters. The Lord told Moses, “See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain” (Exodus 26:40, NASB).


Margaret had purchasing responsibilities as part of her office management job. She clearly communicated with her vendors that she preferred to schedule meetings and receive phone calls between 10:00 AM and 2:30 PM. At other times of the day, she was focused in other responsibilities. She also asked vendors follow up first by using e-mail. Despite the clear guidelines, salespeople would still often stop in or call during her busy hours. When she explained her preferred times, she often received an answer such as, “I follow up when I have time or when I’m in the area.” To Margaret, as the customer, these violations of her procedures were a negative factor in choosing her suppliers. “If vendors fail to honor my wishes when pursuing my business, why would they be any more responsive after an order is signed?”

 

The second biggest issue in the survey was not listening to customer needs. King Solomon wrote, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13, NASB). Studies suggest that most people spend 75 percent of their listening time thinking about how they are going to respond, which causes them to fail to listen effectively.

 

Our customers are the best source of business information. We need to listen carefully, watch the customer’s body language, and then carefully respond based on what the customer has said. Brenda, who buys computer software, is amazed at how poorly many salespeople listen. “I give them my complete specifications,” she says, “but I regularly receive proposals that fail to cover the needs that I’ve clearly communicated. When the proposal is off target, I don’t go back to the sales rep; instead, I just trash the proposal and move on to those proposals that do hit the target.”

 

When you’re on the sales end of the transaction, ask good questions, clarify what your customers want and need, and then target your presentation to match what the customer wants. Often, we try to shoehorn our products into niches where they don’t fit, but that’s a tactic that doesn’t work very well.

 

Failure to follow up was the third biggest issue, and one that should be easily remedied. Paul wrote, “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Corinthians 14:40, NIV). Establish an orderly process for following up with your customers, and then do it! Even if you fail to get the business, you can establish a stronger relationship for the future. Prompt, effective follow-up sends the message to your customers and potential customers that you are interested in their business and will serve them well in the future. I have been amazed when out looking at cars, for example, by how often the salesperson never took my contact information, and never followed up.

 

When we adjust our sales techniques to meet our customers’ preferences and needs, we improve our chances of bringing in more business.

Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach

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