In his bestselling book ‘Spin Selling’, author Neil Rackham says:“Successful salespeople must build up the perceived value of their products or services. The building up of perceived value is probably the single most important selling skill in larger sales…The reason why the customer wouldn’t buy was that she didn’t see enough value to justify so large a decision.”
Only people in sales can truly relate to the feeling of helping to guide a potential customer to a “yes” decision. For anyone who professes to be in sales, this paragraph should ring truer than the sound of the sweetest bell while at the same time, irritating them like nails on a chalkboard. You may be thinking, “Is that really all that this is about?” And the answer is yes! Absolutely!
Your prospect will not buy until they can see that what you offer is something of value that is of benefit to them. If you’re finding this hard to believe, reflect on your own personal buying experiences. Didn’t they all have benefits that you’d willing to exchange resources for - provided those benefits outweighed the costs?
To help systematise that process, we developed what we call the SMART Selling Process.
This process focuses on four types of questions, to build up perceived value from the customers’ perspective: Situation Questions, Problem Questions, Implication Questions, and Need-Payoff Questions.
This process is only relevant for organisations who are not relying on closing on the first call. It’s about major sales, the types with multiple calls, meetings, and interactions with a customer and it works by turning implied needs into explicit needs and thereby building value.
Of the four questioning types in the SMART sequence, the INVESTIGATING portion is the most critical to success in large sales. This stage has the strongest influence on your overall call success.
The investigating stage centres around the questions that you are asking the prospect. Uncovering needs that the customer wants to solve and needs to solve is the goal at this stage. While this is not a new or revolutionary concept, this process of moving from implied need to explicit need is one that is often not done and what separates successful sales reps to those who simply do it for a living.
This difference in the two needs comes from your prospect’s overall perspective. An implied need is just an admission of a problem, a difficultly, or something they’re dissatisfied about. “It could be better - but it’s not the end of the world” is something they might say.
An explicit need is a specific want or desire a prospect has like stating they need a 4wd diesel five seater – for a new car .
So success with a large sale depends, more than anything else, on how those implied needs are developed, and then converted into EXPLICIT needs that you can help the customer with.
Pre-call planning will make all the difference
Before I call a prospect, I ask, ‘What problems can I solve for this person?’ and the clearer I can get about this, the easier it is to ask the right questions during our discussion
This planning stage is something often neglected by salespeople, because they are by nature, hard-charging people who tend to fly by the seat of their pants. It takes discipline and can make all the difference to the outcome of the call.
To develop some implication questions for your next call, I suggest the following 3-step process:
- Write down a potential problem you believe your prospect will have that relates to your solution.
- Think of the difficulties that will arise from this problem and write down at least four.
- Then write a question for each difficulty that you can use in the call.
This will get your mind thinking in terms of “implications” that are giving your prospect problems, and allow them to tell you those, giving you the explicit needs that you can then solve!
Dealing with objections
Contrary to popular belief, objections are created by the salesperson more than the customer.
There is a common misconception that the salesperson should raise objections and deal with them, rather than leave them for the prospect to discover later themselves.
I disagree with this approach. Rather than teaching salespeople how to handle objections, I believe we should teach them to prevent objections. We do this by going back to the value of explicit needs in the sales process. The prospect will raise the objection because he didn’t perceive there was sufficient value in the solution you gave them.
If objections are being raised in your sales process, you need to go back to investigating and asking questions about the customer. The better you do this, the better you’ll be at developing implied needs and turning them into explicit needs that you can then solve for the customer.
You turn what was potential into something real – giving them something of practical usefulness instead of just theoretical elegance.
A word of caution, when you begin incorporating the SMART selling process into your sales system, you do not charge in and expect instant success. Instead, just pick one element at a time, master it, and then move on to the next.