Column from Florida Trend's Business Coach
How to create winning sales conversations
Marketing and sales have a language of their own. The purpose is to get attention, generate interest, and stimulate action.
Yet, all marketing and sales conversations are not the same. It all depends where your prospect is in the buying cycle. And if you try to jump too quickly ahead of where they are, your chances of closing the sale will go down.
Conversations consist of talking and listening, but most never go as you planned. That’s because of the way our brains process information. Marketing and selling conversations are no different.
It starts with the four key questions that must be answered in the mind of a prospect, in this order:
- Do you work with companies like ours?
- Do you understand my problems and the issues I struggle with?
- Can you solve my problems with compelling results that sets your offering apart from competitors?
- Is this true, can you offer proof?
Use the buying cycle rules to your advantage. First recognize that people are just naturally skeptical. Even though you have a great solution that really solves your market’s problems, it’s difficult to short circuit the marketing and selling cycle. Next, realize that this cycle has a marketing phase and a selling phase -- with a transition between the two.
There are five steps to the buying cycle, which I refer to as the FastPath Customer Cycle -- visibility, attention and lead generation, relationship development, conversion, and retention. These steps are heart of the process I outlined in a previous column titled "Follow these simple steps to grow sales"(March 5, 2012) and can be seen in steps 4 through 8.
Here’s a guide to the conversation rules and how to navigate your way around the FastPath Customer Cycle.
Marketing Conversation. This stage is all about opening your prospect’s mind to new possibilities. Ask questions to get their initial attention and to initiate a dialogue, spending more time listening than talking. Find out more about their problems and what will drive them forward. Weave your marketing message into your statements while answering the four questions above, before they ask. No details about your solution at this point, just results -- if they ask, just say that you’d like to know more about them first to make sure that your product or service is a good fit;
Sales Conversation. This is where you shift to the opportunity at hand, but only when it’s certain that you have their attention. Strike an even balance between talking and listening. Now it’s time to explain your product or service -- but no confusing details because they’re not sold just yet. Tell stories to illustrate the outcome they can expect;
Close. Think of this as another phase of the sales conversation. Except here is where you can present all the details of your product or service, how it works, what happens then, and what the prospect gets. In this stage you are doing more talking than the prospect is, leading them to the close.
Retention. Now that your prospect is a customer, the conversation changes to how you keep your customer happy -- so happy that they tell others and buy more of what you have to offer. In this stage you are doing most of the talking but it’s important to solicit feedback on a regular basis - ask questions and then listen. Don’t forget to use your marketing message here too;
Follow-up. This is an integral part of marketing and selling conversations. It’s not a last step before the sale, but ongoing throughout the FastPath Customer Cycle. Who does the most talking and listening depends on where your prospect is in the cycle.
By understanding the rules of the buying cycle, you’ll know how to control each marketing and sales conversation -- guiding it in the direction you want to go in. This is the only way to be in the best position possible to help the person you’re speaking with, who is reading your written material, or is visiting your website.
Ron Stein is the founder and President of FastPath Marketing (www.marketing-strategies-guide.com). He has more than 20 years experience in sales, marketing, and business development, working positions ranging from salesman to vice president of sales and marketing to CEO of startups with industry leaders such as Motorola, VideoServer, Paradyne, and SercoNet. Ron is a member of the advisory team at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a nationally recognized entrepreneurial and startup accelerator for the state of Florida. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or Ron@FastPathMarketing.com