Today, selling skills are increasingly important for everyone and can provide an advantage in finding jobs, partnering, and even in dating. Have you ever stopped to wonder what makes a good sales person? Is it the good looks and charisma? Superior golf skills? The confidence to convince others? The ability to extract extra dollars through intense negotiations? Yes, all of these attributes are helpful in selling. But there’s more to selling than just good looks, golf, and confidence.
The process of selling has some similarities to farming: the initial stage of planting is followed by nurturing, and ultimately leads to a crop that can be harvested (see our commentary onbusiness harvesting). Likewise in sales, there is a period of cultivation (relationship development) followed by harvesting (closing).
Rapport and trust are key aspects of relationship development. First, identify the decision makers as well as the key influencers. Your job up-front is to build rapport–as first impressions do make a big difference. Ideally you are able to do some research up-front to find common ground (i.e. you both went to the same school, have kids, or are a fan of the same football team). Bring positive energy, confidence and a smile, but don’t go over the top. You want to make sure that your decision maker has a chance to shine in your conversation.
At this point they like you, but do they trust you? Trust is a lot harder to gain as it is based on credibility and earned over time. You can establish a base level of trust by offering your perspective on issues and sharing stories of your other work. If you aren’t asked, you’ll have to figure out a clever way to weave it into the discussion. If you have a savvy buyer, you’ll want to avoid generic empty claims such as “we are so much better than our competition.” If this is true, use facts and stats such as we have 100 clients and they have 50, or we’ve won an award. Your savvy buyer can’t argue with facts and stats, but they may dismiss empty claims.
Once you have built rapport and trust, the next step is to close the deal. Hopefully you have been closing little-by-little along the way by getting them excited about a future that includes you (you really can help them and it will be a positive experience for everyone!). Ultimately, to close the deal, you need to move into discussion about deal specifics such as deliverables, money, and timing. If you haven’t done so, you should take a negotiations class (it might pay for itself the next time you negotiate a house or car). The biggest lessons learned in negotiations is that it is actually ok to propose a deal as you get to anchor the conversation (this may be less true in job searches). When you begin the negotiation, you should already have your parameters in mind so that you understand your negotiating window. Ultimately, you will need to determine the long-term opportunity and how much, if any, you want to leave on the table.
Let me share a story that illustrates how important it is…
To read more about relationships and the art of selling, go to Sparxoo, a digital marketing, branding and business development blog.