When Buyers Interrupt You

One of the primary frustrations in selling is when buyers interrupt you. Granted, you are there to serve their needs. However, as a pro, you’ve pre-planned a presentation that will both educate and motivate your buyers. It has a certain flow to it that builds from one point to the next, right?

I do teach that we need to be flexible when giving presentations by sharing only what the buyer needs to hear rather than giving the exact same presentation to buyers with unique circumstances. That doesn’t mean you let the buyer run the show. As a pro, your job is to gain and maintain control of the entire presentation. By not taking control of interruptions, you’re letting the buyer control the sale. You must do your best to stay in control with the methods I’m suggesting here and by asking questions that direct the presentation back on course.

One of the ways to prevent interruptions is to set the stage in advance of your presentation. Consider giving your potential client a pad and pen. Explain that there’s a reason for the flow of your presentation, and that is to provide information and answer questions that typically arise. Suggest that he jot down thoughts that come to him during your presentation and at the end you’ll both look them over to see if you’ve covered everything. This allows you to take control, but also allows them to feel all of their questions will be answered. It will lessen their desire to interrupt you.

If you are interrupted say something like this: “I can appreciate your question. Let me make a note of that and cover it at the end of my presentation. The information I’m about to share might just answer all of your questions as we proceed.” Then go on with your presentation. You have sidestepped their interruption but honored their need to have something specific addressed. And, you have retained control of the flow of your presentation.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

Learn more about this strategy and others like it by reading When Buyers Say No.

Automotive: The Profile of a Top Sales Person

If you’re not already the top sales person in your company, you may have some pre-conceived notions about what that person is like. When you hear the phrase, “Closing the Sale,” what comes to mind? Aggressive? Intimidating?  Persuasive? I feel “Closing the Sale” is helping people make decisions that are good for them.  The key words here are “good for them.” If you plan to be in the automotive business any length of time, you’d better get a handle on that point or your career will dead-end quicker than you can say, “lickety-split.”

We have a tendency to think that everybody closes sales in the same manner. This is not so. In fact, many salespeople who close sales are not even sure how they do it. Some earn tremendous incomes and can’t really pinpoint why they are so successful. I’ve visited with top salespeople in many fields and I’ve asked them, “Tell me how you close the sale?” They’ve replied, “Well, I just do,” or “It just happens.” That’s not true, but they’ve never sat down and analyzed what it is they do that has made them so successful.

I’m going to outline some tactics and strategies that have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to work for everyone when you adapt them to your personality, when you adapt them to the way you speak, and to your style of delivery.

The profile of great closing sales people

The very first thing is they have committed themselves to become students of techniques. What does that mean? It means they commit to selling and make it a part of their lives so that every day they are students. They constantly search for new techniques by attending seminars, reading books, listening to audio programs and then striving to incorporate at least one new technique or concept they have learned into each selling situation.

Another part of closing sales is that you must have the ability to get people to like you and trust you. If they like you and trust you, they won’t fight the sales process. However, if they don’t like you and trust you, not only will the strategies not work, they’ll backfire and your clients will feel you are getting pushy. Radiate empathy, but also have the ability to call for a decision and close the sale.

Top salespeople have confidence. Have you ever lacked confidence? Have you ever been wary of meeting new people? Sure! Everyone has. We overcome this by learning certain phrases, learning to ask the right questions and by doing this we can build our confidence–just by using the words and making them our own.

Do you know what the greatest closing tool of all is? It’s one word and that word is Enthusiasm–enthusiasm for what you do. I don’t mean the type of enthusiasm that is outward, bubbly, ranting and raving–but the enthusiasm that you have inside that people feel you have for your industry, your product and your career.

To build your enthusiasm, commit to living by the four P’s.

  • The first one is Preplan. Preplan every presentation.  Before you meet your clients, preplan. Before you demonstrate a vehicle, preplan. Before you handle an ad call, preplan. All professionals preplan–they don’t wing it! They don’t just get in front of a qualified decision-maker and start talking.  They know exactly where they are going and have their strategies and techniques planned out in advance.
  • The second P is Practice. What were all of us taught? Practice makes perfect. I’d like to change that to Perfect practice makes Perfect. There are many people who practice what doesn’t work.  They watch an incompetent salesperson, not recognizing the incompetence, and they start doing the same thing. The key is to find a professional who has done what you want to do, set your goal to practice what he or she does and then perfect it.
  • You must always work to Perfect what you do. If ever you feel you know it all, you are in trouble.  The more you know, the more you need to know. It’s just like your income. As you sell more vehicles and therefore, increase your income and expand your clientele, you’re going to need to increase your knowledge level. Remember, there is always a better way of saying it–and a better way of doing it. Don’t allow yourself to plateau.
  • The fourth P is Performance. You are putting on a performance with every client contact. This doesn’t mean you are phony. It means you are saying the right words the right way to get the end result that is in the best interest of your clients. So, when you talk on the phone, when you meet people in the showroom, when you go on a test drive, it’s a performance. Everything you say and do is part of your performance.

Become a student of selling, study the four P’s I have listed above. Watch what the top people in your dealership are doing, and search for new techniques and you’ll start closing more sales!

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

The 4 P’s of Presenting Products

When presenting products to prospective clients, think of yourself as a match maker. Before this point, you’ve met and gotten to know both parties. You know what they’re looking for in a match. Now, it’s time to introduce them to each other. Granted, when presenting products, they rarely have opinions about where they end up (except in some service businesses). Your goal is to help the buyers see how nicely the product will fulfill a need in their lives or in their businesses.

So, the presentation is a big deal to the buyer. It needs to impress them, educate them, and it doesn’t hurt if there’s a little fun involved with it. To help you prepare a dynamic presentation–one that wins over prospective  clients more often than not, I suggest following the four P’s of presenting products.

  1. Prepare. Be ready to meet the expected challenges in introducing new buyers to your product or service. This involves knowing your product inside and out; knowing the industry; and knowing what the competition has to offer (and is saying about your product.)
  2. Practice. Knowing what to do and doing it are entirely different things. Musicians, athletes and all other professionals practice what they’ll do, say, and play when they perform. Why shouldn’t you? After all, your income depends on your ability to help buyers see the value in owning your offering. Practice with a partner and be willing to accept constructive feedback. No partner handy? Practice in front of a mirror, record yourself delivering the whole presentation (no shortcuts!).
  3. Perform. This is especially important when you’re new to sales, or if you’ve not given any presentations in a while. Practice is great … and important … but nothing beats delivering your presentation to a living, breathing, qualified client. Your friend, your mirror or your video recorder won’t be investing in your product. Get some real-life experience and feedback.
  4. Perfect. The top pros never stop learning from their experiences or from the experiences of others. They are constantly on the lookout for those little nuances or even major overhauls that could provide a better experience for the buyer and better results.

Real success in sales doesn’t require any special God-given talent. You already have the talent. All you need is drive, commitment, discipline and heart.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

Selling Value vs Price

As a sales professional, please realize the difference in selling value vs price. If you are selling a value-based product against a price-based product, trying to compete on price is a recipe for an unfulfilling sales career. People who make purchasing decisions primarily on price will encourage a bidding situation between competitors.

When selling value, you can avoid bidding situations by establishing your value proposition early in the sales appointment with a discovery question about their intentions: “Is the lowest investment your only consideration, or is quality also important?” You want to hear the buyer say something like “Price is important, but we also want the quality to be good.”

Later in the sales process, if the buyer hesitates on the investment for your product, you simply refer back to their earlier statement about value. “I’m sorry, I thought you said earlier that you were interested in both pricing and quality.”

“Well…yes.”

“Do you feel it is reasonable to pay the same for two different levels of quality?”

“Um…”

Remain calm because that earns you more negotiating time with the buyer. Sincerely ask about the buyer’s previous statement with the intention to understand. You want to discover what she is thinking at this point. If your buyer suggests your value-based product should be priced the same as your price-based competition, then you probably didn’t persuade her very well about the value of your product during the presentation.

The second way to avoid a bidding situation is refuse to participate. Let’s replay the example above. The buyer says, “Your bid is at $4,100 and your competitor’s bid is at $3,600. Match the competitor’s price or I will buy from them.”

You respond with, “I’ll be glad to see what we can do for you about lowering your investment. However, to ensure getting you the highest-quality product, I may not be able to match the competitor’s bid.”

Many buyers are so conditioned to deal in price, they are caught off guard. “Well, uh…why not?” your buyer asks.

That is your opportunity to affirm the value of your products. “Because there are too many ways to cut corners when the money is tight. We don’t believe in cutting corners. We charge enough to do the job right the first time.”

You’ve just planted a seed of insecurity in the buyer’s mind. She starts to wonder what she’ll lose in quality by playing the price game. You just reset the focus of the conversation from price back to value. If she is still in the conversation, she will probably say, “How low can you go?”

“I’ll check on it and get back to you as quickly as possible.” What you’ve just done here is to stall her from purchasing from the competition. If she’s really interested in how low you can go, she will wait for your answer before making any decisions.

The buyer may decide that value is a more important factor after all. Or the buyer may go ahead and buy from the competitor. But one thing the buyer won’t do is bid down your company and negatively affect your ability to move your product at a higher amount with other potential clients. You opted out of the bid-down situation, protected your margin structure, and made a powerful statement to the buyer about the value of your products. More important, you have made a powerful statement to yourself about the value of your products. Most salespeople “talk the talk” about the value of their products, but their actions betray their level of conviction when buyers squeeze them on price.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc. and Tigran LLC.

Excerpted from When Buyers Say No. Order an autographed copy here for less than Amazon charges for the book: http://www.tomhopkins.com/p/1590.html 

The Five Skills Every Sales Person Needs

AA018442While the business of selling requires many skills, there are five skills every sales person needs. And, most of us will need to develop these on our own.

You see, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is that no one else is going to look out for you as well as you will look out for yourself. To become and remain a professional in business, you must recognize that you are in charge of your own training and act on that fact. Build on your strengths and correct your weaknesses. If you aren’t sure of what to work on first, there is certainly someone in your life who will gladly assist you – your manager, your spouse, your children, a trusted friend.

Here are five skill areas that I strongly recommend you consider developing or strengthening as they have made all the difference for me and my students:

Negotiation

Do you consider yourself a trained negotiator? Trained negotiators can quickly and effectively analyze the details of situations and determine the best route to resolution. If that brief description doesn’t fit you, make an effort to find a book, audio recording or seminar on the subject. Then schedule the time to learn from it. I cover some basic negotiation skills for selling situations in Chapter 16 of my latest book, When Buyers Say NoLook for my recent blog posts on the subject here.

Voice

Since your clients choose to own your products or services based on what you say and how you represent them, doesn’t it make sense that you train your voice to give the highest level of professional presentation? If you’ve never considered voice training before, record yourself giving a portion of your presentation. Then listen to it. Most of us hate the sound of our voices. Just imagine how our clients must feel when listening to us. To project your message with clarity and power, consider at least one session with a voice coach. They can be found in your local yellow pages.

Public Speaking

Many sales professionals find that giving short speeches in their communities helps build their name recognition and their business. Public speaking is also a great way to build your confidence. Try your skills out by speaking to your child’s class about what you do or a hobby you have. Teachers love it when the students can learn first-hand about careers. Join Toastmasters International. There are local chapters in just about every city. They provide excellent opportunities to hone your skills and meet other business professionals with whom you might do business or share referrals. To learn how I prepare for presentations myself, go here >> http://www.tomhopkins.com/p/4207.html.

Memory

Having a good memory is critical to anyone in today’s world, but especially so to those of us who meet many new people every week. I have learned to make a game of it in my career. I challenge myself to remember as many people and their stories as I can. There are some great courses and books written on this subject. Even if you learn and use only one small strategy, I guarantee you’ll reap the benefit of having done so.

Math

Don’t cringe at this. I know that there is a large percentage of people who hate math. However, in business, you need to know some basic math skills really well. How does it look when you take too long to calculate figures? Do you think that will raise any doubts about your competency in the client’s mind? Of course it will. Also, when clients toss out figures in their projections, you have to be quick on the uptake in understanding what that means in your business – quantities of supplies they’ll need, projecting delivery dates and times, and so on.

Practice your math skills. Every time you hear or see a number in a conversation or even in a bit of advertising, take a moment to work with the number and see what it means. Compute unit costs for grocery items – $1.29 for a 2-liter bottle of soda. Convert it to ounces, then figure out how much per ounce the soda is. I know the favorite computation of every salesperson who works on a fee basis is to determine their percentage of every sale. Don’t stop there. Play the numbers game often and you’ll get better at winning.

Choose just one of these five areas and dedicate yourself to improving in it this month. Then, next month, choose another. Once you get started on this journey of self-education, you’ll be amazed at what you learn and how simple things can have a powerful impact on your overall success in life.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc. For reprint permission, contact Judy Slack – judys@tomhopkins.com.

How do you know when it’s time to start your presentation?

clockHow do you know when it’s time to start your actual sales presentation? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was specific time such as 12 minutes into the conversation? You could set a timer on your phone to vibrate in your pocket when it’s time to move into the presentation. If only it were that simple. But it’s not.

We’re selling our wares to people. And no matter how much scientific knowledge we have about human beings, no two selling situations will be identical. Therefore, we have to feel our way along during some of the stages of the sales process. With experience, you’ll get to where you make the transition intuitively. But until then, it’s wise to use a mental checklist of what needs to be accomplished before you’ll have enough information to proceed.

Here’s a list of what I recommend. It’s time to move into your presentation when:

  1. You’ve established a comfortable level of rapport with the potential clients. This could happen quickly in retail situations. It could take up the whole initial visit if you’re selling high-end products.
  2. Your buyers have told you about their basic needs regarding your product.
  3. You have discovered that you’re speaking with people who can make ownership decisions.
  4. The funds are available for a purchase to be made today.
  5. You know which your buyers are most concerned about: value or price.

The last four items above are all part of an effective qualifying process. If you’re in doubt about how ask for that information without seeming abrupt or pushy, you’ll want to read chapter 8 of When Buyers Say No. The information you’ll have gained when all five of those things have been accomplished will tell you how you might need to adjust your presentation, or your product offering, and what negotiation points to expect to use when it’s time to close the sale.

If you jump into your presentation before gaining this knowledge you may end up presenting a product or solution that’s just not right for the buyer.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

Planned Pauses

Planned pauses make excellent additions to your presentation tool kit. They will help you control the sales process and control your own enthusiasm at the same time. Using planned pauses is nothing more than a matter of pausing at appropriate times during your sales conversations. These pauses, however, are a little longer than your typical conversational pauses.

There are a couple of good reasons to use them:

  1. Planned pauses create a noticeable silence that draws the buyers’ attention back to the sale (in cases where you can tell their minds have wandered). If you just stop talking, they’ll notice and wonder what’s going on. Hence, you gain their attention back again.
  2. Planned pauses allow you to slow yourself down and use the appropriate pace for each sales conversation. This is especially important if you normally talk at a somewhat fast pace (perhaps because you’re excited about your product). If your buyers speak more slowly, pauses will help you to converse at a slower pace that’s more comfortable for them.

The pause has been recognized as having a high value ever since the early days of human communication. Even Menander (342 BC) is quoted as saying, “Silence is often advantageous.”

Planned pauses are also helpful to use after hearing the answers  to questions you have posed to your buyers. Rather than jumping right in with another question or presenting a point based on their answer, build in a pause. If your buyers are like most people, your silence will be deemed a “thoughtful” pause. You will be giving yourself a moment to gather your thoughts — evaluating what the buyer has said before making the next move. And the buyer won’t feel like you’re rushing them.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc. For permission to reprint this post, contact Judy Slack (judys@tomhopkins.com) at Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

Real Estate Concerns: “We wanted another bedroom.”

Real estate agent with coupleWhat do you say when you hear this one? “The home is very nice, but we  really wanted another bedroom.”

When they say this, what does it really tell you? They don’t need that extra room. They were really hoping for it, but the odds are good, since you did a good job of qualifying that both you and they know they can’t afford a home with that extra bedroom.

Your job now is one of asking questions to help them gain a more realistic view of their situation. Try these words, “John and Mary, I know when we first talked you were hoping to find a home in this neighborhood where you could possibly have an extra bedroom. Knowing inventory the way I do, I’m afraid there just isn’t one available in your price range. If you’re open to considering a different neighborhood, or school district for the children, I might be able to find a nice home with the extra bedroom. I would be happy to research that for you, but have to ask, what will you base your final decision on: having that extra bedroom or having your children attend the schools you (and they) prefer?”

In most cases, the quality of the children’s education will far outweigh having that extra room that they were “hoping” for. Of course, if you work in an area with an open enrollment, perhaps the parents would be happy to drive their children to the better schools and live a little farther away in order to have that extra room. [Read more…]

Arouse Emotions in Auto Sales

What is the emotional process that leads to the purchase of a new vehicle? It begins with a new development in the buyer’s self-image. That is, the buyers see themselves in a new way — as the owners of that new car, truck, van, or SUV and all the status it affords them.

If the projected vehicle purchase is small in relation to the buyer’s income, the self-image change need only be small. But if the purchase is a large one, the change in self-image that makes the purchase possible will be large. Such a change can come about very quickly. It can take place within a few minutes, or even within a few seconds.

Champion automotive salespeople are adept at spotting these changes in self-image as they occur during sales presentations. They are quick to reinforce the buyers’ realization that they can have, enjoy, deserve, need, and are worthy of the marvelous new vehicle they like. Do that, and they won’t just like it; they’ll want it, need it, and realize they can’t get along without it — then they’ll buy it. [Read more…]

Less is More

Most people think that in order to persuade others, you have to be a real good talker. You have to have “the gift of gab,” “a silver tongue,” or be a “natural born salesperson.” The truth is just the opposite.

The true professionals—the successful people in sales are great listeners. What are they listening to? Their potential clients telling them their wants, wishes, needs and fears…and what they want to own. Yes, people will pretty much tell you what they want to own, if you’ll only give them the chance to speak. All you need to do is get them started. Then you simply guide the conversation along the lines you know it needs to take in order for you to determine needs, qualify and close the sale.

[Read more…]