Author and sales expert Mike Schultz outlines the three levels of selling that differentiate those who make a sale and those who don't.
- Winners in the sales industry exhibit a set of key behaviors to boost their profits. These three processes are referred to as "connect, convince and collaborate."
- Psychology is a big part of the sales process, with prospects wanting their feelings validated before they make a purchase.
- Tools like customer relationship management (CRM) software can aid in the sales process by helping you get to know each client better.
No matter how well you market your products or services, or how much attention your brand receives, you won't reap the benefits if you aren't generating sales. You might persuade consumers to check out your products or services, but how are you locking in the deal? Are they following through with transactions, or are your items just sitting in their cart for weeks on end?
In sales, there is a big difference between finishing first and second. First-place finishers make the sale and pocket the money, while second-place finishers leave empty-handed.
To understand the characteristics that distinguish sales winners from the rest of the pack, Mike Schultz and John Doerr, of the sales training and consulting firm RAIN Group, studied more than 700 business-to-business purchases made by buyers responsible for $3.1 billion in purchasing power for their book Insight Selling: Surprising Research on What Sales Winners Do Differently (Wiley, 2014).
"What we learned from these buyers is that winners sell radically differently than second-place finishers," Schultz told Business News Daily. "We also found that winners exhibit a specific combination of behaviors to achieve better outcomes than other sellers."
Schultz, co-president of the RAIN Group and sales expert, said he and Doerr discovered in their research that the way winners sell can be characterized by specific behaviors at three different levels. The authors outlined each level and explained how sales professionals can incorporate these behaviors into their current strategies.
Level 1: Connect
According to Schultz and Doerr, winners connect the dots between customer needs and company solutions. Their products and services exist to fix consumer problems. In the study, buyers revealed that winners both listened to them and connected with them personally more than the sales representatives of other companies.
Focusing on customers' needs and showing them that you care is critical to winning the sale. Don't just robotically secure a transaction and then move on to your next target; treat each person with respect and importance, and assist them throughout the sales process if needed. You need to consider their reasons for seeking out your product or service.
Psychology is a big factor in closing the sale. Think about the things that have led to the prospect to seek you out. A lot of times, price is the driving factor for the buyer. According to the National Association of Sales Professionals, there are three types of buyers. One type is the buyer who has a problem and know they need a solution to that problem. The second type is the buyer who is somewhat aware of the problem but doesn't know how to resolve it. The last type is unaware they have a problem.
Level 2: Convince
Schultz and Doerr said that winners convince buyers of three ideas: They can achieve maximum returns, the risks are acceptable, and the seller is the best option available. Many sellers struggle to convince buyers of such notions, and some won't even make the effort to do so. When they can and do, however, data shows they win more sales. Focus on the problem that the person has over anything else. Although price factors into their decisions, buyers are also interested in how the product and service can solve their problems better than any other available solutions.
Level 3: Collaborate
The study found that buyers perceive winners to be responsive, proactive and easy to purchase from. Further, buyers feel that by purchasing goods and services through first-place finishers, they are collaborating with the seller to achieve mutual goals. This collaboration is integral and helps consumers feel supported and understood throughout the sales process. One of the biggest reasons that people make the switch from prospect to buyer is the feeling of validation. The buyer wants confirmation that you understand their needs and will do what you can to meet those needs.
Keep the three C's in mind to find the most success. Also, consider investing in customer relationship management (CRM) software to better manage and grow your business's client list and leads. [Need help choosing a CRM for your business? Here are our best picks.]
Editor's note: Need a CRM solution for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.
"Those who apply these three levels as a systematic approach to selling – and apply it well – not only see themselves in the winner's circle more often but also maximize client loyalty and generate the most referrals," Schultz said.
Schultz and Doerr also discovered that, out of 42 factors, educating buyers with new ideas and perspectives was the one that separated winners from second-place finishers the most. By doing so, Schultz said, winners share concepts and insights that have a major impact on the buyer's goals.
"We call this opportunity insight," Schultz said. "Buyers typically don't know alternative opportunities exist until sellers take the time to share them, but once they do, it influences the buyer's agenda for action."
He said that doesn't mean sellers should just throw ideas out left and right to see if something sticks; they need to transfer their drive, passion and energy for the possibilities to their buyers' minds.
"To win today, you must also focus on differentiation, ROI and collaboration," he said. "Do so while leveraging ideas and you'll win significantly more often."