Perfecting Your Sales Approach
- Scott Holland, Regional Sales Manager
You’ve heard the saying: “We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” -Epictetus (Greek philosopher and the most interesting person of his time). When you apply this time-honored axiom in social settings you learn more; when applied in a sales setting, you sell more. Sounds easy, right? The concept couldn’t be simpler; it’s the application that is so daunting. But if it’s so simple, why is it so hard? Human nature.
So often we listen to respond when we should listen to understand. You’ve been there. Your friend tells a story of how they recently went through a health scare and had to have this or that procedure. As interesting as that is, or isn’t, you can’t wait to chime in and talk about your recent brush with death. “You had a hip replacement? Well, I had a triple bypass!” And on and on. It’s ok, it’s human nature. We want to share our expertise on any number of subjects and that’s a good thing when we use it to our advantage with sales.
Sales as a Conversation
Think of sales as a conversation and start the conversation with your name, “Hi, I’m Susan, may I ask your name?” Why is this important? There is nothing sweeter to someone than the sound of their own name. Use their name throughout the conversation but not too much. It should flow naturally. This will show the customer that they are important to you and will also help you keep them engaged (you must be sincere). Building rapport is important as it helps build trust and customers want to do business with those they trust.
Most people are not window-shopping for storage or boxes. If they’re on the phone or in your office, they likely need your product. Begin the interaction by determining their needs. Stand, smile, and greet the customer and ask qualifying questions. Then listen to understand. Sales is simply listening to what your customer needs, determining if you have what they need, and offering the appropriate solution. “You need storage? I have the perfect unit for you. Do you need boxes? I have all the boxes and moving supplies you will need to make your move as easy as possible.”
Always ask permission when starting with qualifying questions: “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions to help me determine the best storage options for you?” By asking for permission, you are getting “buy-in” from the customer at an early stage, and this will help close the sale.
Continue with open-ended questions like: “What are you storing?” and “Where are you currently in the moving process?” Why is this important? If they are in the beginning stages, there are additional questions to ask about moving supplies and rental trucks. Conversely, if they say their moving truck is in the parking lot (yes, an attentive manager has already noticed this) then the questions go right to their storage needs and you are much closer to the sale.
Once you have determined the best unit for them, show them the unit (don’t forget to bring a lock). Demonstrate how the keypad and gate work, the elevator, where the pushcarts are located, and review office and access hours (highlight whatever features and benefits your particular property offers). Establish value before presenting the cost.
At the unit have them hold the lock while you open the door and have them visualize their items in the unit (more buy-in). Attempt to close the sale at the unit. “Will this unit work for you?” If yes, have them secure the door with their lock and head back to the office to complete the paperwork. Or answer any objections and show more units, if necessary. The key is to close the sale at the unit.
If they object to the lock let them know the maximum-security lock was designed for the hasp and is the lock, they need to secure their belongings. It’s always good to have several objection responses at the ready. “Our locks are designed for maximum security” or “This lock has a seven-year manufacturer warranty.” If they continue to object, move on. Renting the unit is most important and is what keeps the lights on.
Once you’re back at the office recommend the appropriate boxes and packing supplies: “Based on what you’re storing you’ll need ten small boxes, a queen mattress cover, and a roll of tape.” Overcome any objections and continue with the rental. Remember the goal isn’t to sell as much as you can; the goal is to sell the customer what they need. If you sell them what they need, they will be back. If you sell them more than they need you will lose them as a trusted customer.
If your store offers tenant insurance or a tenant property protection plan mention it in the office as you’re completing the lease. This is a good place for the option close: “We have protection plans at just $15 a month or $14 a month. Which limit would you prefer?” Less is more. As Joe Friday said in Dragnet, “Just the facts.” Don’t get into the coverage or what-ifs as there are strict rules with insurance in most states (refer to your state for specifics). You can always direct them to the insurance website or phone number for specifics.
Many managers present their product hoping the “objection” doesn’t come and while there are few guarantees in life, there is one sure thing in sales: the objection will come. Instead of hoping it doesn’t, it is better to prepare for the eventuality. Preparation is key. Would you jump out of a plane and pack your parachute on the way down? Of course not. So why would you attempt to make a sale without preparing first? Many of us think we can wing it and be successful. And that may be true for some but imagine how much more successful you’ll be when you prepare. Memorize some objection responses and apply them in your own words. And practice, practice, practice. The more you overcome objections the more confident you will become and closing the sale will be second nature.
Increasing your close rate with phone sales is similar to in-person interactions. Listen to understand. Sound familiar? Determine the caller’s needs and respond with the appropriate options. When talking on the phone, apply the same techniques as when speaking with someone face-to-face. Stand, smile, and use inflection. Mirror the customer’s statement. This does several things: it demonstrates to the customer that you are listening, it helps you confirm what they need and, as you repeat it back, it helps you remember what they said. Use their name. Set a date and time for the customer to come to the office and look at the unit. Close rates are much higher when the customer commits to a date and time. Make a reminder call the day before the appointment. Customers are much more likely to show up when they confirm the appointment the day before. And be prepared for the objection when they arrive.
Improved listening skills will enhance your ability to understand and communicate. It will also make the experience of speaking to you more enjoyable for others. And while you are becoming the most interesting person of your time, you might just improve your sales.