I am Neelam, from the Digital Strategy team here at Happy Marketer, the most-awarded data-driven digital marketing agency in Singapore. We provide the full spectrum of digital marketing services, namely Analytics, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, Performance Marketing, CRM & Loyalty Marketing, Digital Transformation & Digital Training to clients across the region. So as a member of the sales team, we are supposed to sell these services to prospects.
However, unlike usual sales teams, we are more focused on solutioning than selling. Sure, we sell our services but that’s just a small part of what we do. The core of what we really do is understanding how different digital channels work together, and since organizations usually work on them in a silo-ed manner, we come together to stitch that journey together for the organization so that they can see a flow between the different digital marketing activities.
Before you decide to click on that close button or move away from the article, let me give you a disclaimer that this is not an article talking about our company or the sales team. You can read more about that on Happy Marketer’s website or social media channels. Today, what I really wanted to focus on is what I have learnt in the last few months about ‘Selling’.
Recently, I read Subroto Bagchi’s book, ‘Sell: The Art, The Science, The Witchcraft’. Man, what an insightful book it was. And the best part was that even if you don’t enjoy reading, this book changes your perception of reading. An example is right here, ME! He delved into short stories by sharing the encounters he had with people at different periods of life to share how to tackle salesmanship.
After reading the book and looking at how my seniors and peers use this skill, I concluded that selling is ABSTRACT. The 8 key takeaways below may not cover everything, but these are just some of the things that I identified are essential especially when you are a beginner like myself.
1. ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS
Have you seen the 5-year old kids who are always so curiously questioning everything in life? They have a true interest in understanding how something works, why something is important or how someone thinks.
Similarly, when selling, we need to have a genuine interest and curiosity about our prospect and their organisation. And how do we do that? Engage with them in a conversation, ask them questions but don’t make it sound like an interview. Asking questions from a sales script will only tend to limit the conversation around how our product or service can help their brand. And by asking insightful questions and framing them around the ongoing conversation, we can learn a lot more that is unrelated to the sales pitch, giving us an idea of what the prospect is looking for.
But don’t have the misconception that the questions would have to be complex. They can be as basic as “What are your short-term objectives?”, “What are your long-term goals?”, “What does success look like to you?”. Sometimes we try to make our questions sound smarter by making them complex when really simple is the way to go.
Usually, the questions we ask are mostly categorised in 2 different scenarios:
- Gain information or knowledge
Usually, we ask the prospect open-ended questions to get them talking to provide a better understanding of ‘What is going on in the organisation?’, ‘What are the current business challenges?’ and ‘If they have identified what are their immediate needs and future desires?’.
Instead of focusing on the symptoms, not only do these questions help us to address the root of the problem but they also push the prospects to think differently. When we start asking them more questions, we are questioning why they are thinking in a certain way. Only then as the solution-er can we propose to them the best possible solution.
- Validate information or assumptions
So it is normal human nature to make assumptions during the research phase or during multiple courses of discussions. So this is when we want to rule our assumptions out or in by probing the prospects to share more information. It shows that we have done our homework prior to speaking with them and have taken an interest in their business.
2. BE THE CONSULTANT THEY NEVER HAD
As the years have gone by, the role that we as salespeople play has evolved into more than just selling the product or service. What I have noticed in the last few months is that the best salespeople don’t focus on selling, we need to act as consultants advising the prospects and bringing the relevant teams together to create a unique solution for the prospect’s problem. They value the consultative advice we give them.
As a consultant, our primary focus is not on selling the product or service right away, but instead to sit down and have a conversation with the prospect to understand what is it that keeps them up at night. When we understand the business and its functions, we will get a clearer picture of the business priorities as well. Our starting point is listening to the prospect’s point of view and then tailoring our advice and providing them with innovative solutions accordingly. To build our credibility and demonstrate our expertise, we tend to share insights on how we have helped similar companies address similar business challenges.
3. SELL THE STORY, NOT THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE
Selling stories instead of the product or service has its own set of advantages. The product or service we sell cannot be tailored to suit our prospect and their needs but a story most certainly can speak to them and connect with them on an emotional level.
Hence why as salespeople, we can play a vital role as storytellers. Because let’s be honest, our prospects are not really interested in how different our products or services are especially in the beginning stages of our conversations with them. What they truly care about is themselves and how we can help them address their business challenges that will make them look good infront of their bosses.
So, we need to demonstrate to them that we understand what is the big picture problem they are dealing with within the organisation or industry and then weave in our product or service as the solution to that. Before going in for a coffee or a meeting with the prospect, we need to do our homework to understand the organisation’s challenges and how our solution will make the individual stand out in front of their bosses. It is about showing them that our solution will drive a Return on Investment (ROI).
4. THE ART OF PERSUASION
What is the difference between the terms, ‘convincing’ or ‘persuading’, you may ask? There is a huge difference between the two. The biggest one being that when we are convincing someone, our end goal is to just change their mindset whether or not they take any actions thereafter. However, when we are persuading someone, the main focus is to change their end action. Therefore, using the art of convincing someone of something can be done easily but persuading them to take an action after that is not an easy task as you think it to be.
When persuading a prospect, we have to ensure that we keep them at the center of our discussion always. What will get them to take action post our persuasion is to show them that we understand their motivations and pain points. We need to show them that we are here to ease their struggles – how can we help them to increase revenue, reduce costs and save their time so they can focus on other things. Painting the big picture around these 3 things is the trick. Hence why they say the art of persuasion will get the prospects or clients to take the action we want them to.
5, REJECTION IS INEVITABLE
This is something that every salesperson has been through whether the prospect says they are not interested or that the product or service being offered to them is not what they are looking for. There are multiple reasons why a prospect turns us down. And sometimes, it takes a toll on us especially when we have worked hard on trying to get them to convert as a client. But don’t be too harsh on yourself because rejection is inevitable, and in fact every rejection brings you 1 step closer to success.
There are 2 main things I have personally learnt from rejections:
- Remain professional
No matter how frustrated we feel, especially after putting in a whole load of effort, it is important to maintain our calm and be polite when speaking to the prospect. The prospect will most definitely appreciate your professionalism in the future should they require the product or service in the future.
- Ask what went wrong
Sometimes, we might be doing our job in our comfort zone but never really had anyone critique us. In fact, this is something the CEO & Founder of Happy Marketer, Rachit Dayal, believes in. If we make that extra effort to ask someone else what we did wrong, we can get so much feedback on how to improve ourselves. Maybe it was something in the proposal that turned the prospect off or maybe they were impressed with the innovative ideas but just felt another organization had more experience in a certain area. Any kind of feedback is always a good starting point for the next time you are selling.
6. ALIGN WITH YOUR PROSPECT’S BUYER JOURNEY
A little bit of context here for those of you are unsure of what I mean by ‘Buyer’s Journey’ here. It refers to the process that we as buyers go through when purchasing a product or engaging with an organization for a specific service from the awareness stage to the consideration stage to the decision stage.
The awareness stage is where the prospect is beginning to realize or has identified a need or challenge that needs to be solved. The consideration stage is where the prospect starts researching on the available options and gathering information by speaking with us, the providers. The decision stage is when the prospect decides who to purchase the product or service from.
Keeping these 3 main stages in mind, we need to align our sales process to include messaging and content that resonates with the prospect depending on which part of the buyer journey they are at. For example, a prospect who is at the awareness stage would require a different kind of messaging targeted towards them versus someone who is in the decision stage and knows what they kind of want. When tailoring the sales process to the prospect and which stage they are at, it makes a difference in the outcome.
7. CLARIFY, DON’T ASSUME
Sometimes, it’s very easy to get trapped into assumptions when it comes to selling, especially assuming that we know what it is the prospects want. When we have such assumptions, it’s very easy to get into a conversation with the prospect and start asking them specific questions from the start even before understanding how they got to the current point. Never assume the prospect knows how we operate. Yes, they might have heard of us before through social media, websites, friends, family, recommendations, etc. but the reason why they have come to us is to hear more about who we are and what we do before even discussing the next steps.
So in scenarios like these instead of assuming that we know what they want, we should clarify with the prospect what it is that they are looking for. We need to be able to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
8. THE SUMMARY POST A CONVERSATION IS A MUST DO
I used to think, do prospects really value reading a summary as a follow-up post -conversation? They would have noted their key takeaways as well. My seniors and peers told me that it was a good habit to cultivate when I started this role, and so I started doing it for that reason. And boy, was I so wrong!
Prospects absolutely love the summary we send them after a conversation because this allows both of us to remain focused on the value from our previous conversations. And now, this is actually one of my favourite follow-up items as it shows the prospects that their needs have been heard and it would be incorporated into the further discussions as we go along. Basically, we keep ourselves in check and on the same page.
So there you have it. These are the key 8 things I have identified and experienced in one way or another. I would like to end with this video by Subroto Bagchi. Please feel free to share any other key points that you personally use to sell!