You already know that you have to sell yourself before you sell your product or service.
Once customers buy into “you,” they’re ready to hear you recommend effective solutions to their problems and challenges.
So what’s the most powerful way to sell yourself? Sales gurus Kevin Corcoran and Laura Peterson conducted research that identified three major factors that can help you stand out from other salespeople your customers deal with every day, and consistently improve your chances of selling yourself as a consultant:
1. Knowledge: Beyond products and services
Because customers today are under pressure to accomplish more objectives using fewer resources, they rely on salespeople to help them make effective decisions. Most customers don’t have time to educate you about their specific needs. They expect you to come prepared to discuss issues relevant to their organization.
This is one of the greatest challenges you face. To add value for your customers, you need to know a significant amount about the customer’s business before you even walk in the door.
The good news is that a lot of the research you need is a keystroke or two away. Some options available to you:
- Search trade publication or industry association websites to get a feeling for industry trends or hot issues prospects are facing.
- Use Facebook or LinkedIn for background on your prospect executive and other decision makers at the company.
- For further insight on “the lay of the land,” try connecting with other reps who sell into the same company.
2. Attitude: Beyond positive thinking
Skills can grow over time, but the right attitude has to be there from the beginning. The “right” attitude goes beyond positive thinking. For many customers today, your attitude and approach to problem solving is the most critical element in the sales process.
According to customer surveys, here’s what characterizes the most effective sales consultants:
- They are sensitive and perceptive – able to react and respond to subtle signals or nuances.
- They behave more like colleagues than salespeople, keeping the human needs of the prospect in mind.
- They are able to give up preconceived attitudes. Flexibility is their way of thinking.
- They are always enthusiastic. They think around the situation and know how to turn a problem into an opportunity.
- They have high integrity. They are ethical and professional.
- They help customers achieve goals based on their own clear vision.
3. Communication skills: Beyond persuasion
Communication skills are a must for every sales consultant, of course. No matter how brilliant and knowledgeable a salesperson might be, the information brought to the customer must be clear and valuable.
This is not simply the ability to use compelling words. Customers value salespeople who can ask effective questions, listen, demonstrate understanding and express themselves clearly.
Top-notch sales consultants never stop asking questions and digging deeper to uncover the real issues.
One of the most critical barriers to clear communication? Unexamined assumptions. It’s easy to assume you understand the customer’s business so well that you don’t need to check their assumptions at every opportunity. That’s risky. You can’t check in too often to make sure you’re in in sync. That’s especially true when developing solutions to business problems. It is particularly deadly to presume that a solution that worked for Company A will work just as well for Company B.
Source: “High Performance Sales Organizations: Achieving Competitive Advantage in the Global Marketplace,” by Kevin Corcoran and Laura Peterson, ISBN 0786303522.
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