I read an article recently, which asked the question, ‘Why do salespeople fail?’. The top two reasons on the list may be familiar to you:
- No listening skills
- Don’t understand value-based selling
Both issues fall squarely in the realm of sales interview techniques. In exercises that we use in our training courses, we regularly find that an interview skills gap exists, leading salespeople to fail to marry customer needs to product features and benefits. In his book, Integrity Selling for the 21st Century, Ron Willingham identifies the fallacy of selling to the customer rather than helping the customer buy from you.
In this article, we’ll introduce the sales interview technique that Ron Willingham’s book prescribes, and you’ll learn six tips that will help you put the integrity selling interview process into practice.
The sales interview process is simple yet complex
Ron Willingham says that:
“People are silently begging. Don’t try to sell stuff to me. Listen to me, value me, understand me, and let me know that you want to help me.”
At its heart, this is an easy-to-understand concept. The objective of the interview is to discover your customer’s needs, values, beliefs and motivations.
To encourage the customer to buy, you must empower him or her to realise the benefits of your product or service. The most effective strategy to do this is to help the customer identify the current vs. desired situation gap, and then position yourself as a partner who will help him or her close this gap. It is in the execution of this strategy where the complexity lies.
Four steps to help the customer make a buying decision
The core interviewing strategy can be described in four steps:
- Ask questions that encourage the customer to discuss the current situation
- Ask questions that encourage the customer to discuss the desired situation
- Help the customer identify the difference between the two states (the situational gap)
- Encourage the customer to discuss the consequences of not moving from the current situation to the desired
Only after this sales interview process has been completed should the salesperson begin to position himself or herself as the professional to help the customer achieve the stated goals. It is now that the features and benefits of your services can be discussed in a framework that identifies the ability to close the situational gap.
Salesperson interview tips to uncover the situational gap
These six tips will help you focus on the customer, as you discover the situational gap that will compel a buying decision:
1. Remember the purpose of the sales interview
You want to encourage the customer to talk about his or her situation and goals.
2. Ask questions that make you listen
Ask open questions designed to give maximum airtime to the customer. Position your questions to help the customer come to a self-realization of the issues that your product or service will address. If your customer isn’t talking for 80% of the time, you won’t have enough information to move your customer forward in the sales process.
3. Ask questions that confirm the situational gap
Your customer will have divulged a wealth of information during the interview. Closed questions can be asked to summarize the customer’s hopes and fears, needs and wants. These closed questions are also positioned to gain customer agreement.
4. Create a sense of urgency
There are two major forces that compel a customer to move forward: the first is the hope of gain; the second is the fear of pain. During the interview, and especially when discussing the features and benefits of your product or service, a skilled salesperson will ensure that these two motivators are in play often.
For example, the salesperson will evidence how a product may help the customer to look good, earn extra money, gain a promotion, or increase sales. He or she might also discuss how the product will reduce or eliminate risk, avoid expenses, cut costs, or eliminate personal pressures.
The sooner gains can be made and pains can be eliminated, the sooner the desired state can be achieved. The salesperson may prompt the customer to reiterate the costs of not moving to the desired state as rapidly as possible.
5. Discuss features and benefits only when needs have been identified
Features and benefits of a product or service should only be discussed when a customer’s needs and wants have been identified. Doing otherwise runs the risk of describing features that the customer does not need, wasting precious time, and losing the customer’s interest.
6. Avoid a discussion about price
The best salespeople avoid all discussions about price until the customer shows that they believe in the value of the product or service being discussed. At this time, there will be less chance of the need to offer discounts. The customer has already made up his or her mind to buy.
Our Integrity Selling Course will help your sales team onboard new skills, embed methods of identifying customer needs, and hone them to perfection. The result will be a high-impact sales team on an exponential sales curve. Contact us today to discuss how to propel your sales team to qualified success.