Edition: February 2002 - Vol 10 Number 02
Author: Brian Sullivan
How many reps do you know who, when they open the door to their customer's office, have no clue how they're going to approach the sale? Instead, they put a smile on their face, cry out a jaunty ''hello,'' and rely on their razor-sharp salesperson's instinct to guide them through the call.
That's not enough, says Brian Sullivan, South Central region manager for Welch Allyn, who gave a presentation on precision selling at a HIDA 2001 Product Training University. ''We used to think it was enough to have a great relationship with our distributors, who had great relationships with their customers,'' said Sullivan. But many of the company's reps lacked a real selling plan. ''We needed to give our reps the skills to evaluate themselves after a sales call,'' he said. ''But you can only do that if you have a set pattern to your calls.''
Sullivan compared it to the basketball player, who has a set routine for free throws and never deviates from it. With free throws as with sales calls, ''If you do it the same way each time, your chances of improving are better,'' said Sullivan.
The Triangle Approach to Selling
What makes a great salesperson? Think of it as a triangle, said Sullivan. On the bottom is attitude and enthusiasm. Most sales reps know that if they show a good, positive attitude, their customers will like them. ''The problem is, there are a lot of people out there with good attitudes,'' said Sullivan. So, how do you distinguish yourself from them?
The second side of the triangle is product knowledge. ''You can crack the best jokes, but when your customer asks you a question about a product and you say, 'Let me get back to you,' and you do so three days later, what value are you to that customer?'' asked Sullivan.
The third and most important side of the triangle is ''question, listen, present,'' he continued. ''Your ability to ask the right questions, to shut up and listen to what the customer has to say, and then to give a precision presentation based on what they want to hear, will make you better than 95 percent of the people out there,'' said Sullivan.
What separates the true professional from the others is his or her ability to take the customer from the initial point of contact to that customer's owning the product not by talking all the time, but by listening and asking questions, said Sullivan. The true professional allows the customer to bring out on the table things that the rep might never have thought of. ''Good salespeople make the customer say things they never thought they would,'' he said.
Not only does the true pro have the ability to ask the right questions, but he or she can design a presentation based precisely on how the customer answers them. ''The salesperson is in control, but he or she lets the customer give all the answers,'' said Sullivan. ''You can only do that by listening and questioning.''
Welch Allyn developed a formula that ''changed the way we do business,'' said Sullivan. ''We talk less, and we speak only about things that the customer is concerned about.'' The formula is called ''NEADS.''
The ''N'' stands for ''now,'' meaning that the rep should begin the call by asking the customer what kind of procedures/products he or she is performing and using now. (By the way, said Sullivan, the good rep writes down notes as the customer talks, because there's no way he or she can remember everything that is said without writing it down.)
The ''E'' stands for ''enjoy,'' meaning that the rep should ask the customer what he or she enjoys or finds effective about the products he or she is currently using.
''A'' stands for ''alter.'' Taking into account everything he or she has already heard, the sales rep should then ask the customer what he or she would alter if they could.
''D'' stands for ''decision-maker.'' If the rep doesn't already know, he or she needs to find out who makes the decisions about new equipment or supply purchases.
''S'' stands for ''solution.'' At this point, the rep is ready to launch into a ''precision presentation,'' recapping what the customer has told him or her, and showing how the vendor's products or equipment can address the customer's problems.
Some reps shy away from asking questions, because they feel pressured not to waste the customer time. But, said Sullivan, by asking pointed questions and delivering a presentation based on the responses, the rep will actually save his or her customer's time.
By Asking pointed questions and delivering a presentation based on the responses, you will actually save the customer time.