My first job in sales was about 20 years ago working for a (fairly well known) brand of vacuum cleaner which was sold door-to-door. I was young, inexperienced, and full of chutzpah (a kind of smugness only the young can truly pull off without them realizing how ridiculous they seem). My sales approach? This is the best vacuum cleaner in the world. Buy it, and it'll be the last one you ever buy in your life. It shampooed, it could do carpets, drapes, bed mattresses, couches, and it even had massage attachments... The end-all-be-all of vacuums.
I walked into a house and commenced with selling. I told the customers the benefits, the features, I showed them how wonderful the product was and how easily it could be purchased regardless of income and financial situation. I didn't sell a single one. I sold and sold and sold, but never closed on a sale. The problem? I was selling a solution where there was no problem (my current vacuum is fine). I didn't bother to take the time to listen to a client and see what it is they needed as opposed to what it is I wanted to sell. My vacuum cleaner sales job didn't last long, but I learned quite a lot from it.
As Charles Darwin showed the world, a species has to adapt to survive. Salespeople are no different. Regardless of what a salesperson is thinking when they walk in the door, they need to adapt to the situation in front of them. Find the real heart of the problem the customer is experiencing (many of them won't even realize they have a problem until they speak with the right salesperson), and then provide the solution to their problem.
I like to have a notebook and pens handy when meeting with a client. Ask them open questions (what's working for you with your current solution and what could be better?). I love to learn about a business (how did it start, how did they join the business, what was their best month/year and their worst and why). For Digital Signage, this helps establish the earning potential of the business and qualify if your solution will fit their need.
Typically, a client will mention a few points where they wish things could be better, but haven't found a way to make that happen. This is where you identify the areas to focus the conversation around. You're not selling, but clarifying the concerns, issues, desires of the client at this stage: So you're current advertising is ok, but you can't be sure it's really reaching people? You advertise, but aren't sure if you're reaching your target market... What do you mean when you said, "I have a lot to say, but nowhere to really put my messages to reach people,"?
This is where you can start laying the foundation for your main point. The difficult component of ADAPTing a sales pitch is that it's no longer a pitch. This method isn't a script to be memorized, but rather an honest conversation with a client to isolate the problems and work with them to find a solution. Using the key points of interest (i.e. unsatisfactory advertising campaigns, desire to reach out to the community, slow days with low sales figures or event attendance, etcetera). Discuss how poorly "traditional" advertising often performs. The declining newspaper readership, increasing numbers of people using satellite radio or CDs as opposed to listening to radio stations, a conversion to online entertainment (i.e. Hulu, Netflix, and others) as opposed to traditional TV or cable access viewers. Show the client how difficult it really is to reach out to the community.
Now you've worked with client to illustrate how difficult it really is to reach out to the public, you've verified their fears the advertising campaigns they're using aren't likely reaching the audience they intended. You've shown them how outreach in a modern age is VERY difficult. Don't go back to their initial points of interest, but work them into the discussion. Unsatisfactory advertising? - discuss how on-premise advertising reaches the direct community of people in their area. Reaching out to the community? - What better way than a system to put messages directly in front of the local community? Bring up the points using illustrations of previous clients, discuss how dynamic digital signage controls work and how simple it is to manage content so it's targeted to the organization's interests.
Ask them to picture driving down the road and seeing an LED Sign with their message on it. Do they read the messages on LED Signs? Would they react if a special promotion or opportunity were on the board they were interested in? Get them to visualize the solution in place and how effectively it can reach out to the people passing by their location every day.
This is where you bring the conversation back around to the start. Show how you've addressed the client's concerns brought up in the beginning. Quickly review how your solution addresses the needs they've expressed and how you can work with them to ensure they get a system in place to achieve their goals (whether it's a return of investment with business growth or community outreach).
This is where you bring the conversation to a wrap and ask the client what the next step will be and when they want to proceed. Are they looking for follow-up information? References? Is there something the client needs to get you to proceed further? Do they want a quote and, if so, when do they expect to be ready to move forward. Gauge the client carefully and don't push, but rather lead and see where they're willing to go and where they're holding back. Knowing the earning potential of the business (the high/low swings) you can establish a baseline for cost of the system and see if it will (over time) be capable of netting the return the client is looking for or not. A majority of the time, the solution will net a solid return but in the few instances where it won't, be honest with the client (and yourself) and know when to sell and when to recommend exploring alternatives.
By dropping the desire to control a conversation or situation and really adapting to what the client needs, you'll quickly see interest increase and the client's willingness to work with you. Instead of telling a client why you have the answers, let them come up with the need and all you have to do is demonstrate how your solution meets that need. By ADAPTing, we learn, grow, and succeed within an ever-changing and challenging sales environment.
*Please comment here and/or email me directly with requests, questions, or follow-up at email@example.com. Vantage LED has white paper resources and more educational material on the website (http://www.vantageled.com), please check it out when you have a moment. Note all posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically noted.