My three-step framework for selling with confidence
I gave a series of sales training seminars recently to a cross-section of bank staff and as I asked the delegates to share what they wanted each day, invariably, they asked for “more confidence”, “how to deal with rejection” and “new techniques to close the sale”.
Successful selling with confidence isn’t just one transaction in which the client bought: it’s a system in which each step builds on the previous one.
Selling with confidence: develop confidence to
start from a place of strength
One key request, especially from more junior sales people, is how to approach selling with confidence. Real confidence comes from taking this diagnostic and building on the areas where you can improve:
1. How confident are you that your product offering suits the market? Do you know who the product is for? Equally as important, do you know who the product is not for?
2. How confident are you in revealing the needs of the customers? This requires practiced listening and communication skills, and asking very clear questions that elicit positive answers.
3. How comfortable are you in mapping the customer’s need to the product you are offering? This comes with focus, experience, and acknowledging that this is a key stage in any sale.
4. How confident are you in your knowledge of the product?
As you strip confidence down to these four sources, it becomes easier to identify how you can improve and then execute a plan to achieve this.
Collect data to know where to focus your efforts
An amazingly effective strategy I have been using for years is to collect data in a structured spreadsheet and then subsequently into our CRM. This allows me to check for patterns and do more of what works; it’s also a reminder tool that lets me see at a glance where I am at with each lead and what to do next, as well as a client file with contact details.
It’s simply a fact of life that if you are in a selling role you will have to face rejection, an unpleasant psychological fact that can sometimes lead to procrastination. The following exercise solves this for me because it removes emotion and breaks sales into their component steps.
The model I use has five tabs: sales outstanding, opportunities, accepted, unaccepted and “long shots”. The “outstanding” tab is the first one I see when I open the file: for each lead, it states the name of the company or organisation, the name and contact details of my contact at the company or organisation, the source of the sale (a referral, a networking event, advertising, repeat business, my blog…). This first batch of data shows me how much repeat business I have, and what channels are bringing in the most business. This tab also contains a second batch of practical data: the price I offered, the content of the deliverable, the date when I last followed up and what my contact and I talked about on that date.
The “wider opportunities” tab contains information about exchanges and transactions that are not necessarily sales per se, but might become channels for future sales: people I’m collaborating with on a project, etc. The “accepted” tab allows me to keep track of the progress of each sale: is the work booked, has it been invoiced, delivered, paid. This tab is more about administration and makes it very easy to keep on top of things.
The “unaccepted” tab is essential. I list the reason why certain sales didn’t work out, or, in some instances, why I turned down business. When the sale doesn’t happen, sometimes it’s down to me: I didn’t follow up quickly enough or my price was too high. However, sometimes it’s not something I can control: the company didn’t have a budget or some other issue. This tab makes it easy to calculate my conversion rate: if I know that I close two deals out of three, each rejection then simply becomes part of the numbers’ game. Each “no” brings two “yes” responses closer.
The “long shot” tab lists inspiring ideas that don’t look like a quick sale but are still worth pursuing. Some of my favourite projects started life in that tab!
This spreadsheet is my “Sales Central”, a compact dashboard that makes selling seamless and easy.
Closing sales is the natural outcome of being
confident and collecting data
There isn’t any magic bullet or secret trick that will suddenly make selling with confidence easy, or make you successfully close all the sales you initiate. Closing a sale is a systematic process. It simply means getting a definite “yes” or “no” from the customer and proceeding to the transaction or moving on to the next prospect. It becomes a purely logistical issue.
To do this I follow a five-question framework that allows the sale to progress steadily to its natural conclusion:
1. “What do you think at this point?” puts the seller in a listening mode again, preventing them from rambling after they’ve done their pitch, and puts the ball in the customer’s court.
2. “Shall we make a start on the paperwork?” asks the customer whether they want to commit, without directly talking about money. In my own business I ask a slightly different question: “Shall we put a date in the diary?” when referring to a training contract or speaking event.
3. “So, are you ready to move forward with this?”
4. “Is there anything in particular holding you back that I can help with?” is a great question to find out about objections that haven’t been addressed yet, if the above questions aren’t bringing you to a conclusive close.
5. “So what would you like me to do to progress our conversation?” ties up loose ends and makes sure the sale process doesn’t stall.
I’ve had to push myself over the years to ask these questions, whilst often reminding myself that a closed sale isn’t just a purchase, but a satisfactory end to a conversation that leaves the door open to new opportunities. Whose life can you improve today?
Are you on the list?