For the past two decades many SMEs have been advised to adopt a ‘client-service’ model to build their business. On the surface, this sounds reasonable, but in reality, it might be sending those same SMEs broke. Today, probably more than ever, every business owner, as well as their sales and service staff, are faced with the ‘sameness syndrome’ which is created by increased competition. In other words, regardless of what is being sold to your clients, chances are that they could probably get the same product or service somewhere else, for the same price and quality. When customers have choice, but can’t see or experience any real point of difference that is of value to them, they will more often than not, simply be making their buying decision based on price.
So how do Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Compete?
Unfortunately, because of the misplaced ‘client-service’ focus, many sales and service staff take the fastest route to differentiation by playing the discounting game, which simply creates a commodity market that is on a slide to lower and lower profit margins. Some businesses even intentionally promote the game with advertising slogans along the lines of “our prices aren’t the real price… everything is negotiable”! If you’re competing in the kind of industry where the big players are cutting the price and margin from beneath you, then it’s time to stop serving and start selling. Profitable sales are possible for SMEs when the sales and service staff are confident and feel comfortable providing advice and make informed recommendations; as opposed to merely serving by asking ‘May I help you?’ or discounting when the client asks ‘Can you do this at a cheaper price?’
So how do SME owners and managers keep their sales staff skilled and motivated to sell and not just serve?
Sales and service skills for most businesses come down to the need to find clients, win clients, keep clients and solve problems creatively. While sales training might well be part of the answer, it’s rarely the only component of the answer, and the investment required for current world class sales training and coaching may be out of reach for some SMEs.
Your 6-step Sales Process
One of the often neglected, and yet main skills development areas for sales and service personnel is that selling is a process. Following are six core steps that will help SMEs develop and implement an effective sales process, along with some ‘quick tips’ that will benefit every sales and service consultant.
- Build rapport – this is a combination of attitude and skill; and the quick tips are to demonstrate a genuine willingness to help and understand each clients individual circumstances.
- Ask questions – often the poorest skill demonstrated by sales and service personnel. It requires a combination of information-based and value-discovery questions that have the capacity to engage and motivate the client.
- Show value – rather than just going through the product or service features and benefits, skilled sales and service people discuss and demonstrate their product or service’s direct value-matches with each individual client’s specific situation.
- Identify obstacles or objections – by asking clients for their feedback on each value-match, clients are less likely to raise obstacles or objections because the discussion is based on factors that are important to the client.
- Confirm the sale – instead of 101 ways to ‘close a sale’ there are really only two ways:
- Ask for a buying decision, or
- Make a confident and genuine recommendation about what the customer needs to do to experience the value they seek.
- Stay in touch – this is not always easy, but what happens after the sale often builds more rapport with customers. A simple phone call, thank you card, or enquiry email just to check that the customer is happy with their purchase will suffice.
Successful selling for SMEs starts with an attitude of confidence in the sales and service provider. When you sell a product or service, create value for each and every client and just as importantly, ensure that each and every client will feel comfortable and confident that they are making a wise buying decision.