"The real pros understand the value of controlling the playing field and that is why they would do exactly the same thing each time; win, lose or draw. No matter what the outcome of the first sale, your goal should always be the same; to control the playing field for all subsequent sales. "
The art of successful sales is actually very simple. There are only three variables when it comes to a sale:
To me, selling is that art of managing customer perceptions about what's important in a
relationship. If the customer has a need, they can select from either your offering or the offering of the competition. The customer will likely select the product or service package that they believe best suits their needs. Because customers are matching their needs with their perceptions of the product offerings in the marketplace, we have a great opportunity to enhance our chances of success in the sale cycle.
- Customers' needs
- Your Offering
- Offering of the competition
Sales is an Education Process
The great opportunity lies in the fact that "sales is a process, not an event". This implies that your sales effort is ongoing, and as a result, you have an ongoing opportunity to work with customers to help mold their perceptions about what is important in a relationship. In order to mold customer perceptions, you must constantly work with your customers and prospects to educate them as to the best possible options for their business situation.
If you are not the best possible option for their needs, I would encourage you to consider the evidence and help the customer find a better solution. A short run gain, in this instance, is going to hurt you over the long run.
However, more often then not, you are the best option for your customer. When you are, you must work with the customer to help them understand this. Here is where the education process comes in. If the customer understands what you understand as it relates to your product offering, you will have a sale. If they do not, you will likely lose. Therefore, you must constantly work with your customer to educate them about their choices in the marketplace. If you do this, you will ultimately win them over to your side.
First to Customer
Setting the playing field or managing customer perceptions about what's important in a relationship takes time. You are more likely to be able to control the playing field or manage customer perceptions; the earlier you enter the sales cycle.
If you enter the sales cycle late, you have very little opportunity to work with customer perceptions and set the playing field. You are likely going to be playing on someone else's playing field. This could be the competition, in which case they have worked with the customer to determine what is important in a relationship. In this case, the competition's strengths will have a much greater chance of aligning with customer perceptions of what is important in a relationship and they will likely win the sale.
If you enter the sales cycle late, you could also be working on the customer's playing field. More often than not, the customer's playing field is going to be price. Customers have a tendency to view most vendors as purveyors of a commodity product or service with the major defining characteristic in the transaction being price. They do this because it is the easiest way for them to compare two or more competing organizations. Price may be the one apparent common denominator in two or more completely different product or service offerings.
How about the middle?
If you arrive in the middle of the sales cycle, you will have some ability to work with customer perceptions and help set the playing field. Unfortunately, the customer will also have had some time to either set their own perceptions or work with the competition to set their perceptions.
Here, we are clearly in a better position than we were when we entered the playing field late. However, we are still going to have a tough go of it since we are not the one who clearly controls the playing field. We are just one of many on the playing field and while there will be some opportunity to differentiate oneself, price will still be a major element in the decision making process.
You Have a Choice
Our best opportunity is to enter the sales cycle as early as possible. The earlier you enter the sales cycle, the more likely you are to have an impact on the playing field and therefore, the more likely you are to win the sale.
The great learning point here is that you have a choice as to when you enter the sales cycle. In the first sales cycle, where you enter the cycle is determined by chance, as much as anything else. However, once a sale takes place, a new sales cycle starts and here is where you have a choice. You can always enter the sales cycle at the beginning of the second cycle.
When most of us lose a sale, we sit around and lament our loss for 364 days and hope things will be different the next time around. When most of us win a sale, we pat ourselves on the back for 364 days and expect to win the sale again. This is not how the real pros do it.
The real pros understand the value of controlling the playing field and that is why they would do exactly the same thing; win, lose or draw. No matter what the outcome of the first sale, your goal should be the same; to control the playing field for all subsequent sales. If you won the first sale, you have 364 days to make certain you control the playing field for the next sale. If you lose the sale, you have the same 364 days to make certain that you control the playing field for the next sale.
The art of selling is really the art of managing customer perceptions about what's important in a relationship. You have the opportunity every day of the year to position yourself and your company in the eyes and minds of the marketplace.
As you work towards controlling the playing field, keep in mind the three traits of all great sales professionals:
- Great sales people are proactive in the creation of their own success. It is up to us to manage customer perceptions. This is not something that customers are going to do for us.
- Great sales people are strategic thinkers. Customers will not always understand our first approach. As you work to control the playing field, think strategically so that each approach to your customer provides them with new and valuable information.
- Great sales people are extremely customer focused. As you manage customer perceptions about what's important in a relationship, you will likely be more successful if you have a strong customer focus every step of the way. Let our success be derived from the success of our customers. This is the best way to build a successful sales career.
About Paul Goldner
Go to About Paul Goldner for more articles by him.
Health Club Sales & Marketing