Top performers use a two-stage selling technique to present viable solutions to buyers which involves first questioning and then moving on to presenting.
Stage one (questioning) may take several sales calls depending on the size and complexity of the sales opportunity. As a rule of thumb: the larger the sale, the longer the process. When concluding stage one, top performers use a transition statement to gain incremental commitment to move the sale to stage two.
You might feel ready to start presenting solutions once you have uncovered a buyer’s needs and problems; but be careful. You understand the buyer’s situation, but does s/he? More importantly, does the potential buyer feel that his/her company’s needs and problems warrant spending money, time or effort?
There is a test and a tool in sales called the transition statement. It is a test because it forces a salesperson to evaluate his/her sales performance, and it is a tool because it helps a salesperson to demonstrate, to a buyer, that s/he has listened and understood the buyer’s needs and problems. The transition statement is a bridge from questioning (stage one) to presenting (stage two).
A transition statement typically has three steps. First, recap your understanding of the problems and consequences as stated by the buyer. Second, let the potential buyer know that you can help to reduce or eliminate the gap.
Don’t go into too much detail at this point, unless you are ready to make your presentation – you are ready to present only if you can finish the following sentence: "based on what you told me…" And finally, obtain commitment to the next logical step(s) in the sale.
Take a look at the example in box one, which uses the problem of glare on computer screens to demonstrate an effective transition statement during a stage one meeting.
The salesperson recapped his understanding of the problem and told the buyer that he could help solve the problem. He strengthened his case by stating that he helped customers with similar problems. Finally, the salesperson gained an opportunity to present a solution by asking, only, for a second appointment.
When you return to present a solution, be prepared! Every word is important when you make a sales presentation, so memorise what you need to say.
"I don’t want to sound scripted," is a common complaint I hear from the sales coach. A planned presentation, which is factually based on the needs and problems of a customer, is absolutely essential in presenting solutions.
The best actors and actresses rehearse the lines of a script until each word is spoken as if for the first time. Similarly, the most spontaneous-sounding sales presentations come from the most rehearsed scripts.
Just like the transition statement, an effective presentation includes some basic steps: Restate and agree on the problems and their consequences. Explain the appropriateness of your solution. What features and advantages will eliminate or reduce the problems and their effects? Explain how the customer will benefit from your recommendations. And lastly, ask trial questions (reality check) to confirm and assure clarity.
Take a look at box two demonstrating stage two selling. The salesperson in this example begins by restating the problem that he uncovered during his stage one meeting with the buyer.
The salesperson learned, through tactical questioning, that the problem of glare was causing other problems: eye fatigue, additional breaks, lower productivity, overtime expenses, costly errors, upset customers.
If there is a time gap between stage one and stage two, then it is especially important to remind the buyer about his/her problems or needs. The buyer, after time, forgets the nature of problem. Take a look at box three, where the presentation example continues as the salesperson uses a transition statement. The salesperson presenting X Brand Antiglare Filters appears to have listened to the buyer, understood the buyer’s needs and problems, developed a viable solution, and prepared a seamless and confident presentation.
It is now time for a reality check, the trial question – "Does that sound like it would be helpful?
Congratulations if you ask that question and the buyer’s answer is "Yes!" You have yourself an order and you also have yourself a customer. And don’t panic if the buyer’s answer is "No."
The door is not shut for you and the deal is not over; I’ll explain why next time in Negotiating through objections. Until then, practice your script!