Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Investigative Selling

Often the best way to approach a sales opportunity is the way a detective approaches a crime scene, by learning as much as possible about the situation, the circumstances and the people involved.

The 5 principles of Investigative Selling:

#1. Don’t just find out what the customer wants, find out why they want it!
Spend less time trying to persuading the customer of the need for your product or service and spend more time gaining a deeper understanding of the customer’s situation, from their perspective. Your understanding of the customer’s current position will give rise to new possible outcomes and this is when the sale really begins.
#2. Seek to understand and minimise the customer’s constraints.
Customers always have constraints and often these constraints can lead him/her to act in ways that don’t seem rational and that reduces trust which can destroy the sale. Smart investigative sales people attempt to discover the customer’s constraints and then help overcome them, rather than dismissing them as being unimportant or unreasonable. Never view the customer’s constraints as simply their constraints. These are your constraints also. Therefore, your job is to uncover their key constraints and work with the customer to eliminate or minimise their impact on the sale.
#3. Interpret objections and demands as opportunities.
Objections are indicators or sign posts that point us in the direction of a successful outcome. Instead of responding directly to the objection, focus on what the objection or demand reveals about the customer’s thinking, and expectations. When a customer makes seemingly unreasonable demands, often sales people adopt a defensive mind-set. Investigative sales people confront difficult demands the same way they confront any customer statement and ask themselves the following question: “What does this objection or demand tell me about the customer’s real needs and interests?”
#4. Create common ground with all members of the customer’s decision making team.
Understand that the customer’s needs are complimentary and not competitive to your position. Those who view their relationship with a customer as one dimensional – transactional – forgo opportunities for value creation. Whereas, investigative sales people appreciate the complexity of the customer relationship, explore areas of mutual interest and are able to find common ground.
#5. Continue to investigate the sale even after the deal appears to be lost.
Never assume that because the customer has rejected your offer that the deal is dead. Many times “lost opportunities” can be brought back to life by simply asking why your proposal was rejected and explaining that an answer could help you improve future proposals. Seek to gain additional information about the customer’s reasoning and decision making. Then explore alternative ways to re-position and/or re-price your offer accordingly. Always ask: “Based on this information, I am confident that we could have beaten ‘their’ offer. Would you consider a revised offer?” Or “What would it have taken for us to reach agreement?”

Investigative Selling requires a total focus on the customer’s interests, priorities and constraints. Building a value-maximising deal often depends not so much your ability to persuade, as your ability to: 1) ask insightful questions and 2) listen deeply to the customer’s response. Investigative Selling is an information game. Those who know how to obtain maximum information perform better than those who don’t. Investigative Selling requires mental toughness to always challenge assumptions, probe below the surface and avoid taking no for an answer.


Charles1234 said...

Thank you very much for sending me this post about sales psychology. Your ideas are certainly very useful for selling apartments.
KHS, Paris

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, I am sending it over to my people, we can all learn from this.
Antoine Songy, Washington DC

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