Many Advisors are passionate about what they do, but struggle with confidence when it comes to selling what they do. A great first step to building both skill and confidence is getting familiar with the overview of the conversational journey that happens in every sales interaction. Once you know the signs on the road, it’s easy to get to where you’re going.
There’s no such thing as the ‘perfect words’ to get to a close.
There are essential steps you can take in every sales interaction that will guarantee you more sales. Review these steps several times, then do a diagnostic assessment of your own sales conversations. If you’re not happy with your closing rate, you’ll probably recognize in here something you’re skipping or skimming over too quickly.
How do you navigate your sales conversations?
Are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of sales professional? Or are you a follow-that-script-come-hell-or-high-water type? Many of us fall somewhere in between.
First, let’s differentiate between script and structure. A sales script is literally what you say in the conversation. Scripts have often been designed to include exact rebuttals to any and all sales objections. Every part of the conversation is prescribed.
For large firms with huge call centres and hundreds, or even thousands, of sales reps, scripting makes sense. A company needs to ensure that their products are branded and sold consistently.
On the other hand, for Consultative Selling, a script is more like a straight-jacket that impedes relationships and erodes trust. Your potential client can tell immediately whether the questions you’re asking or the offer you’re presenting is canned, or authentic.
Because of this, many sales professionals ‘wing it’. Sometimes they are ‘in the zone’, and they close big deals. But just as often, they are having an off-day or even an off-month.
Does this sound familiar? You were flying high, all your calls and meetings were flowing, you felt confident and in control, and you were makin’ rain, Baby! But then somehow, your winning streak ended. Now you’re panicking, because you can’t seem to get it back. And since you don’t really know how you did it, you’ve got a serious problem.
Every day that your sales are in the doldrums, your confidence takes another hit. It’s getting harder and harder to feel good about yourself, and the thought of picking up the phone is almost unbearable.
This is the problem with wingin’ it. There is no predictability of success. Which is why serious sales professionals understand the value of following a Map – a solid call structure.
Instead of the straight-jacket of a script, structure gives you freedom and predictable success.
Here’s an overview of the Roadmap of a Sales Conversation:
80% of success happens well before the meeting starts. Your intention to succeed starts here. Add value and demonstrate care and respect by investing time in your preparation. Learn what you can about your client, their company, their interests and their industry, before sitting down with them.
Engage and Connect
A lot needs to happen in the opening minutes of a sales meeting. This is the opening of your conversational journey. If you invest the time here, it pays out big dividends later.
In the Engage and Connect phase, you must work to establish a genuine connection – to capture their attention so they’re excited about embarking on the conversation with you. This includes building rapport in a way that complements your client’s style and needs. It includes establishing credibility and delivering your value proposition in a conversational way and giving them a sense of your motivations – what drives you to do what you do. Finally, you must articulate a clear and compelling purpose for the meeting.
By far the most important milestone of any sales conversation is your discovery process. If your sales are not where you want them to be, look here first. In your Discovery, you must uncover a compelling need for the client. If you don’t, no sale. It’s that simple. But the process of getting there, isn’t.
Mastering discovery questions takes practice. Look to uncover a deep understanding of where they are and where they want to get to. Avoid asking questions that are directly linked to your offering. This is manipulation, not discovery. Focus wholly on your client, and through this questioning process, you will likely uncover not one, but several ways you can help them.
Once you’ve uncovered one or more compelling needs, you have ‘arrived’ at this milestone of the journey and can now move forward to the next: Advise and Recommend.
Advise and Recommend
Based on the needs you’ve discovered, you can now share your expert advice, present options and make recommendations. Remember to link your recommendations directly to their need, so that the client sees exactly how this will improve their situation. Always aim to provide two or three options and then allow them to choose which one feels best for them. When making recommendations, use the WIIFM filter, (‘What’s in it for Me’ – ‘me’ being your client, of course!), and compelling language that makes the solution real in their world.
If you’ve done a good job uncovering a need and advising them, your prospective client will ‘test drive’ your solutions internally, thinking and feeling their way through them, to see if there’s a fit. Objections will surface. This is a good thing; it means they are taking your recommendations seriously. You have now reached your next milestone: Addressing concerns and objections.
Address Concerns and Objections
Concerns and objections are a normal part of your client’s buying process. Therefore, they are a predictable part of your sales conversations – something to manage, not fear! At this juncture, your client’s emotions are just as important as the facts. You will need to stay present, acknowledge their concerns with empathy and probe to be sure you understand any root causes of their concern. Do all these things before offering a response.
The other important element to manage at this stage in the journey is your own emotional state. When someone offers an objection and we feel that the sale (our livelihood, our survival) is threatened, we can react by shutting down, trying too hard, getting defensive or giving up. Keep breathing and stay focused on the client. When they see that you are supporting them in their buying process and not trying to rush or manipulate them into a decision, they will instinctively trust you and be more likely to say yes.
Once you’ve successfully addressed their concerns and objections, you’ve completed this milestone in the journey. You’re ready for the next natural step: The Close.
Closing is not about the perfect closing words, but simply a result of executing the previous parts of the conversation successfully. If all the interim steps have been accomplished and your client has agreed with your recommendations, then this is the time for you to take the reins and make your offer. When you get a Yes, close the loop and maintain momentum by committing to next steps with a clear timeline.
These six elements create a strong, dependable structure – or Road Map for your calls. They will give you both the freedom to let fly your best instincts, and the sturdiness to harness your talents into predictable success.
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Kira Callahan is an expert sales conversation coach serving the financial industry. Her private clients typically experience 30% – 100% increase in appointments and business booked. Click here to find out more about Kira.