There are many different selling formats and yet all of them that have been successful are based on the problem – solution idea. First, crystalize the problem that the buyer is facing and get agreement to the problem and then offer your solution, which is of course based on your brands. At Procter & Gamble this has been honed to a fine art by salespeople. They call it the Persuasive Selling Format. At Clorox, it is called SIERE. At other companies it may be called the 5 Selling Steps. But they all are virtually identical.
All sales people have these 5 steps memorized and I can still recall them now after 30 plus years. In fact I can recall when I skipped a step and lost the sale too. Here is how it works.
Summarize the Situation – After the opening ice breaker chat, identify a problem that either has been identified by the buyer on a previous call or is generic to their situation. You can also share key facts, information or industry trends to set up the discussion. It is important that the problem be easy to agree with and not be controversial. You do not want to spend a lot of time on the problem. You need to sell the solution. This set up gets the buyer nodding in agreement with you and hopefully you can keep that happening as you work down to the order.
State the Idea - Tell them a brief statement of the idea that you are recommending as a solution to their problem in a way that makes it compelling. Keep this brief and get a quick nod that they understand your idea. They may not agree with it YET but they must at least understand it.
Explain How It Works – Once you’ve clearly stated the proposition, provide details of the recommendation. Typically, this includes information about the product, the promotion, the support being provided, the pricing and the execution timing and logistics. Provide the information in “layers”. That means, give them the summarized version of each element of the information and if they require more provide what is necessary. Many, many sales have been lost by clouding the issue in the buyer’s mind at this point or providing so many details that they tune out and you lose them.
Reinforce Key Benefits – What’s in it for them? How does this really solve the problem they are having or the opportunity upon which they want to capitalize? What are the key reasons that they should accept your idea and recommendation and move forward? Experience shows that there are always three solid reasons to offer to the buyer. That provides enough strength and doesn’t cloud the issue with weak support. It causes you and the buyer to focus and be memorable. The buyer should be nodding agreement to each of the benefits as they understand them.
Suggest Easy Next Steps –The Close, the Close!!!! The most effective method to work into the Close is to suggest an easy next step that makes the buyer continue to nod agreement. To some extent this calls for an assumptive close, where you assume the buyer is going to agree with the basic proposal and now you are ironing out some small detail. It can be as simple as asking, “Do you want this Wednesday or Thursday? Do you want this in red or blue?” Once you have agreement to that easy next step just write up the order.
This works. Take it from my personal experience and the experience of tens of thousands of others as well. This doesn’t apply only to selling products to buyers at companies. It applies to all selling situations. I know that the technical folks will say that the B2B sale is different. Yes it is, but the same idea works there as well. I have used this technique in many different situations.
If you want more information on this lesson from Procter & Gamble or on any of the others in this series, contact us. We will be happy to help you.
Maver Management Group