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Master the Skills to Engage Customers and Close Sales
CONVERSATIONS THAT SELL
Collaborate with Buyers and Make Every Conversation Count
Excelling at selling is challenging—especially in a world where everyone has instant access to expert information and abundant options and no one needs to be, let alone likes to be, “sold to.” Yet even today, sales can be a rewarding career path, and not just financially, for professionals who excel at and truly enjoy conversing and collaborating with people who could well become their delighted, loyal buyers.
A former reluctant salesperson who’s now a champion of the profession and a sought-after sales trainer, Nancy Bleeke has developed an effective, efficient, and genuine approach to selling that starts with a focus on the buyer and leads to collaboratively working the buyer through the sales process. In her new book, CONVERSATIONS THAT SELL: Collaborate with Buyers and Make Every Conversation Count with a foreword by Jill Konrath, Bleeke shows salespeople how to build the skills and the will to capture the attention of prospective buyers and engage them in conversations that identify their problems, opportunities, wants, and needs so they can make their solution relevant to the buyer, work through their objections, and secure not only their business, but also their trust.
A Q&A with Nancy Bleeke, President of Sales Pro Insider, Inc. a training and collaborating firm and author of the new book Conversations That Sell.
Based on Nancy’s experience through decades of hiring and working with selling professionals and her personal sales success, Nancy outlines the what, why, and how of productive sales conversations.
You say your approach to sales, which is what your book is about, goes beyond “yesterday’s consultative standard” and eliminates the small talk that can stall sales or disengage the buyer. Can you explain what you mean? How is it different?
I firmly believe that buyers need sellers who will use their conversation time productively by doing their homework, not wasting time with irrelevant discussion, and being a value-add during the conversation.
Consulting has been the norm – build relationships, identify the needs and then use your expertise to show them how your solution fits. You are the “expert.” It worked well.
But there’s been a shift and today’s buyers have access to more information than they know what to do with. This overload of information makes it harder for many people to make decisions– not easier!
What they need is a collaborator – someone who is knowledgeable and prepared to use their expertise not to consult—but to collaborate and work together. They value that buyer’s experiences, knowledge, and goals in working through the selling process. A selling collaborator guides and helps their buyer make a decision or take action.
Why do you focus on the conversation when the world is increasingly focused on e-commerce?
E-commerce is effective for many products. But not everyone can get everything they want or need online.
Selling at it’s foundation is simple. Selling is helping someone else do or decide something.
Often a buyer needs a professional salesperson t engage them in conversations that honor and respects their ideas and helps them make the decision – whether it’s a solo decision or an internal process they need to navigate.
Today’s buyers appreciate someone who helps them decipher what is and isn’t relevant and focuses them on what they need to get the solution.
The sales conversation that is collaborative moves away from the “push” or “pitch.”
You have three key principles to collaborative selling. Can you tell us about those?
- Sales conversations should be driven by and approached with a focus on “What’s in it for Them.” This focus allows us to be collaborators and problem solvers. When we focus every action, word, question, and information given on “What’s in it for Them,” we engage the buyer and make the conversation count because it is relevant and value-filled. This focus starts with preparation for every conversation.
- You count as much as, or more than, your solution in decisions so don’t hide behind your product or ignore the value you bring to the buyer.
- Win3 (win-cubed) is the goal. This is where the buyer, the seller, and the company all benefit from the sale and relationship. We need to help our buyers succeed in their role and in their organization as well as matching our solution to a specific problem, opportunity, want, or need.
How will readers benefit from the information you share in Conversations That Sell? What are the actionable ideas readers can extract?
Readers will find:
- A five-step guide to their conversations makes them consistently productive and moves the buyer through the process efficiently.
- How to collaborate with the buyer and focus on What’s in it for Them to make the conversation (and the seller) relevant and valuable to the buyer.
- The Tribal Types model”—Achiever, Commander, Reflector, or Expresser—and how to modify their selling strategies and style to suit that type’s preferences
- Tools to prepare efficiently, set goals, and identify the communication or work needs of the buyer.
- That sales success is not all about skills. The Success Drivers model helps describe potential internal barriers to sales success.
- Specific examples that can be adopted and adopted for your conversations from start to close.
- How to stop trying to “handle objections” and work through them collaboratively.
Most of us know how to conduct a needs analysis, you propose that we need to seek more from our buyer, why?
The needs of buyers is too narrow. Buyer’s wants, which are the emotional factors are just as important. Yet that still may not be enough to get buyers attention and willingness to make a decision. We need to approach them prepared to discuss and address the problems and opportunities we can help them with. Instead of needs, think of discussing and discovering problems, opportunities, wants, and needs—POWNs, an acronym p-o-w-n.
In your book, you have a chapter dedicated to working through objections with your Stop, Drop, and Roll strategy. Can you tell us about that?
Objections are a challenge for many sellers which is a shame. Often objections are an opportunity for education. Maybe the buyer needs to learn something to help them or you, the seller, need to learn something more about the buyer and situation.
The problem in working through objections often begins with the sellers’ reaction to the objection. We are wired to react with the fight or flight reaction when we feel under pressure.
Instead, we can train ourselves to react collaboratively and keep the focus where it belongs – on problem solving with the buyer.
I propose a strategy that is a lesson from our youth, if your clothes are on fire—Stop, Drop, and Roll. While hearing an objection doesn’t set our clothes on fire, it may make us feel like we are under fire so we should (mentally) stop, drop, and roll.
- Stop – stop your mouth and engage your mind. Pause to listen.
- Drop – assumptions, egos, agendas, and emotions. All “mental” dropping of course.
- Roll – roll with your words with Acknowledge, Ask, and Answer.
- Acknowledge that you hear them. Let them know it is safe, you won’t attack or avoid
- Ask open ended questions to clarify. Even if the concern or objections seems obvious, because you’ve heard it before, let them talk through it. Often they’ll talk themselves into the answer.
- Answer with appropriate information.
Stop, Drop, and Roll is easy to remember and has kept thousands of sellers from blowing a sales opportunity.
Is there anything in particular you’d like to share with our readers?
Don’t get caught up in the hype that buying is only about price these days or that salespeople aren’t as relevant or necessary as they once were. YOU matter – the value you bring to your sales conversation and buyers is the key differentiating factor that separates you from your competition.
Don’t hide behind the product push; insert YOU in your conversations and in the value you add to your product or service!
And…though it may not be sexy and seem boring – if you want to be more successful – PREPARE!! Make the time to consistently prepare for your conversations and you’ll achieve the outcomes you seek. Preparation aids you in keeping the sale about Them – and making the conversations more collaborative.
What kind of resources have you provided for readers?
The Conversations That Sell website has many of the tools introduced in the book available for free download.
I’ve also created a quiz for sellers to pinpoint what sections of the sales conversation they may benefit from strengthening . Following the quiz are tips for building those areas that can be immediately put into action.
Newsletter or Email Suggestion:
Ideas that can be adapted to your audience:
Possible Subject Lines:
- You’ve Nailed Lead Gen, Now What?
- Your Lead Gen is is Working, Do Your Conversations Capture Those Opportunities?
- Make your Conversations Count for Your Buyers…and Yourself
- Tips, techniques, and tools to make each sales conversation count
- Are your conversations full of small talk or value?
What happens when you finally get that hard earned meeting with your buyer? Do you consistently move them to the next stage of your buying process and the sale?
Too often the conversation comes and goes without maximizing the time and money it took to get there. We lose the opportunity to collaborate through the sales process with the buyer, and lose our opportunity to help them get our solution.
We’ve all done it. We get the buyer’s time and attention and then don’t maximize our time and efforts. We have a great conversation with one buyer and then are mediocre at the next.
To ensure you make the most of the precious time with your buyers and clients, my friend and colleague Nancy Bleeke recommends that you put as much time and energy into that conversation as you did to get it.
Nancy’s written a book that we all need – whether we are new to sales or not, whether we sell to business buyers or consumers. In Conversations That Sell, she shares specific tips, techniques, and tools that you can immediately put to use to ensure your conversations drive sales, strengthen the relationship, and help you meet your quotas.
Not only does Nancy share these ideas in her book, she’s put together valuable FREE resources at the Conversations That Sell site. Take the Do Your Conversations Count Quiz to see if your conversations are as productive as they need to be. You’ll find valuable free tips following the quiz.
If you’re ready to increase your close ratios and open your sales opportunities, check out the Conversations that Sell book and FREE resources.
[insert your closing]
P.S. Make sure you read Chapter 4 of Conversations That Sell. It provides you with information on how to communicate and sell with Different Types of buyers more successfully.
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