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Common Questions and Answers
Salespeople come from all different walks of life and can have many different personality traits. So naturally they have developed many different ways to sell. Most salespeople don’t adopt a “pure” form of the basic five approaches; you probably have a way of selling that combines attributes from two or more approaches. The best way to sell is the one that feels comfortable to you and is effective in winning you sales. If your current approach is cozy but you’re not getting the sales you need, it may be time to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
The Instant BFF
Prospects will be more willing to buy from someone they like; that’s why this approach works. Salespeople who use the BFF approach are warm and friendly, asking questions and showing interest in their prospects. Their first instinct is to try to connect on an emotional level with the other person.
This approach can be very effective, but only if you mean it. Prospects will be able to tell if you’re faking friendship, and the whole approach will backfire on you. You’ll also need to do some follow-through to demonstrate that you’re in earnest. For example, if you chat about the prospect’s daughter’s upcoming recital, you should later send him an email or note asking how it went or even attend the event yourself.
Salespeople who prefer a more logical and less emotional approach often approach a sales job by becoming experts in everything they can find that’s related to their industry. They turn themselves into problem-solvers who are able to answer any question and resolve any issue that the prospect lays before them.
The guru approach requires plenty of time and energy to learn the relevant information and also requires ongoing effort to keep up with changes in your industry. But if you’re willing to put in the time it takes, you can be very successful both in selling to your prospects and in generating referrals. Once customers realize what a great resource you are, they’re quite likely to direct friends and co-workers who have questions straight to you for help.
This approach combines the guru and BFF approaches. The salesperson who prefers to use the consultant approach presents herself as an expert whose priority is helping the customer. She knows all about her company’s products and by asking a prospect a few questions about his current situation, she can then idenfity the best product for his needs.
As an approach that combines the best qualities of the of the first two methods, it’s extremely effective. But it can also be very hard work, because you must be both knowledgeable and able to make an emotional connection with your prospects. But if you can manage both of these feats, your sales will take off like a rocket.
Networking is a crucially important tool for any salesperson. The salesperson who chooses a networker approach takes it to a whole new level, setting up and maintaining a web of friends, co-workers, salespeople from other non-competing companies, customers and former customers, and anyone else he meets. A strongly built and maintained network will create an ongoing flow of leads and referrals that can potentially replace all other prospecting channels, even cold calling.
With this selling approach, you’ll spend a great deal of time cultivating people. It’s a highly effective technique for salespeople who enjoy attending social events, parties, and so on and getting to know new people. Just remember that when someone in your network helps you out in some way, you’ll need to reciprocate by doing favors and/or sending leads back to her.
The Hard Seller
Best described as “scaring the prospect into buying,” the hard sell approach is one of the things that gives sales a bad reputation. Hard selling means getting someone to buy a product even though he doesn’t want or need it. Methods range from bullying (“Buy this now or you’ll feel like an idiot later”) to manipulation (“If you don’t buy from me today, my sales manager will fire me”) to outright deception (“This product has a much better safety record than the competition”).
No ethical salesperson should or would use a hard sell approach. Sadly, there are still salespeople who do use these techniques, even though it inevitably results in customers who never buy again and, sooner or later, a bad reputation for the salesperson’s company. Stick with one or more of the first four approaches — all of them are both effective and ethical.
About the author
My first sales position was a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I continued through a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail sales for a storage company to selling bank products for a Fortune 500 financial institution.
As a small business owner, I now focuses on selling for my own company, Tailored Content, a website content provider. I write on a wide range of topics but my primary focus is sales and how to sell effectively.