Struggling to close a deal? To sell effectively and close a deal faster, it’s all about applying the right sales techniques that works for you. These six sales methodologies will get your sales team back on track.
What is a Sales Methodology ?
A sales methodology (or a sales technique) is the method of selling and includes all the communication and techniques used by a sales rep to generate revenue.
Sales techniques are different from the sales process that we’ve discussed in a past article. A sales process covers all the steps that an unqualified lead takes until they convert to a customer. A sales technique is the different approach you can take to help close the deal.
There are many sales techniques to close deals faster and sell more effectively that are thought out by consultants and sales experts over the years. This isn’t an exhaustive list but the article should have plenty of content for you to try.
6 Sales Techniques to Improve your Closing Rate
1. SPIN Selling
Popularized by Neil Rackham, SPIN is an acronym for the four types of questions designed to spark a prospect’s interest and push him or her closer to a sale. SPIN selling is all about asking the right questions to let the buyer do the talking. These questions identify buyer pain points and challenges to build rapport between the buyer and seller.
- Situation questions aim to understand the prospect and their situation and check whether your offering can serve their needs.
So a sales rep shouldn’t ask “Who’s your manager?”, but instead “What’s your decision-making process for new software?” to identify a decision-maker.
- Problem questions try to get to the heart of the prospect’s issue and make them aware of a problem that needs to be solved or identify problems that are overlooked. These pain-points will then be used to accelerate a deal.
“Do you have trouble managing all your leads on an Excel sheet?”
- Implication questions probe the prospect to think about the consequences of not solving the problem. They focus on the negative impact of issues and highlight the urgency.
“If you don’t implement a lead management software, how will you know which lead to call and when?”
- Need-payoff questions prompt the prospect to consider how the situation would evolve if their problem was solved.
“If you had a todo list with reminders on who to call, how would that impact your business?”
Rather than pushing a product or a service to prospects, the goal of the SPIN sell is to lead the prospect to the realization that the service would be a good idea.The recipe for success is to help the buyer specify the benefits themselves.
2. SNAP Selling
SNAP is an acronym that encompasses four directives for sellers: Keep it Simple, be iNvaluable, always Align, and raise Priorities. It’s a methodology that aims to bring salespeople to the prospect’s level.
- keep it Simple: the buyer is always busy, respect their time and remove all obstacles to adopt what you’re selling.
- be iNvaluable: rapidly build trust and showcase the value of your offering. Demonstrate that you truly understand their business, objectives, and priorities – and you’ll set yourself apart from the rest.
- always Align: align with your customers’ needs, issues, and objectives.
- raise Priorities: A buyer always has certain priorities. Being a successful sales person means understanding them and keying into them.
Before modern buyers make a purchase decision, they’re overloaded with information urging them to buy solution X or Y. This makes it hard to get buyers’ attention, since they are wary of salespeople and their tactics. SNAP selling focuses on the way customers make decisions: influence them positively, so in the end they feel they made the decision on their own.
And while most salespeople only think of the closing stage as a critical decision point, author Jill Konrath actually identifies three decision phases.
- First is allowing access : At this stage, you must keep in mind that prospects are bombarded with interruptions and distractions, and might think of salespeople as a pure waste of time. In order to earn access to their time, convey relevant information in every touchpoint — via phone, email, etc. Moreover, sending generic “just checking in” follow-up emails, doesn’t bring value. Focus instead on emails with tangible resources to educate and influence such as customer testimonials. To respect a prospect’s limited time, only ask for 5-minute minute-meetings. The less time you ask for, the more likely they’ll want to chat.
- Second is the choice to move away from the status quo. Once you get them on the phone, you need to demonstrate the value of your offering. Share resourceful and snackable research tidbits to provoke your prospects’ thinking. Guide them through the decision-making process with a straightforward overview of each step. Also, keep your ears open for any negative words such as “dissatisfaction, bottleneck, challenges, issues, frustration, trouble, concern”. They allow the salesperson to dive deeper into the problems and the opportunity to provide solutions.
- The third is changing resources. At this stage, prospects decide which products to choose; they’re looking for ways to justify their choice and try to minimise the risk. According to this principle, one of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is being too accommodating, so focus on helping the prospect make the decision: be flexible and willing to collaborate, but clearly draw the line about what they can or cannot expect from your offering. Sketch out the competitive landscape, make an overview of the pros and cons of you and your competitors’ offering and prepare yourself to combat objections.
SNAP selling helps you to focus on the way a consumer thinks. With these mini decision milestones in mind, salespeople can more effectively keep deals on track.
3. Challenger Sale
Co-authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson started “The Challenger Sale” by splitting salespeople into one of five personas: Relationship builders, hard workers, lone wolves, reactive problem solvers, and challengers. However, the most successful by far were the challengers — this one group represented 40% of the top-performing reps in the authors’ study. After an in-depth assessment, challengers are by far the most successful.
Salespeople can adopt this by using a three-part sales model: teach, tailor, and take control.
First, they teach their prospects— Challenger sales reps educate prospects on how they can overcome their challenge differently and uncover needs they didn’t know they had. They carefully observe to deliver insights that make customers re-think their business and their needs with astute insights. They don’t focus on the product or the service. Instead, they try to bring prospects to an “Aha” moment: the new or innovative approach is eye-opening.
Next, they tailor their communications to their prospects. They make sure their communication is in tune with both the organisation and your contact person’s individual concerns and problems.
Finally, they take control of the sale in a direct, yet nonaggressive, two-sided way. To take control, you need to talk to the right people and not be afraid of pushing back. The end goal is more important than being liked. The sales method shifts the conversation from price to value and challenges a prospect’s thinking.
|Concrete tips to put the Challenger Sale technique into action:
4. The Sandler System
The Sandler Sales Methodology is a sales philosophy that flips the role between buyer and seller. The Sandler methodology states that both parties should be equally invested. The buyer is almost convincing the seller to sell.
To reach that goal, it prioritizes building a mutual trust between the two. To get to this point, Sandler-trained salespeople facilitate an in-depth, heart-to-heart discussion moving beyond technical issues, and focusing on the impact of a challenge on a business. Rather than acting as a typical salesperson, the rep acts as an advisor and asks questions to identify challenges in the qualification process.
In order to get to this point, a seller should focus on three levels of pain points:
- Technical: the seller explores the very details of a technical issue and encourages the buyer to outline the problem on a business and personal level. This way, the buyer actually convinces the seller they should invest in their offering. First meetings with prospects are about discovering their needs.
- The business-financial impact: the solution actually needs to bring business value like saving time and money for other projects. This is when the Sandler Sales can really get the buyer’s attention.
- Personal interest: next, try to put these problems in a personal context. A potential buyer who can personally gain something from the solution (e.g. like being able to work less after hours or reducing work frustration) will be much more committed to the deal. The only way to get to this point is if a buyer convinces you, and more importantly themselves, that a solution is a very high personal priority.
Objections such as time or budget restraints often derail deals after a considerable amount of work has already been invested by both prospect and salesperson. But Sandler-trained reps strive to raise and assess the majority of obstacles in the qualification process.
If the rep discovers that their offering won’t truly address the potential client’s concerns, they won’t waste time convincing them that it actually does — they’ll simply abandon the process. In short, the Sandler Sales technique not only focuses on the technical aspects, but helps you outline the financial and personal impact a sale can have on your prospect.
5. Consultative Selling
Consultative selling is an approach that focuses on creating value and trust with the prospect and exploring their needs before offering a solution. The salesperson’s first objective is building a relationship; their second is providing the right product. The CustomerCentric sales methodology promotes meaningful conversations with prospects to identify their needs and find solutions that solve their challenges. The focus is on how the prospect feels when he or she’s talking to you. The goal: forming a long-term bond by putting the customer first.
1) Ask Questions but Also Build Credibility
The path to the sale starts by understanding the customer’s needs with careful questioning. Developing this detailed picture is beneficial to the seller because it’s beneficial to the customer. Offer insights along the way, which earns you the right to ask questions. Insights provide the rationale for the questions and build credibility. They also keep the customer engaged, which is important because it’s easy to disengage over the phone.
2) Be Reliable
Earning trust without face-to-face interactions is hard. Salespeople can overcome that with actions that are consistent with words. Sellers should try to deliver on at least one follow-up after the call. The nature of the follow-up is not as important as the opportunity to show the customer they are reliable. The point is simple: Prove you’re a person of your word.
3) Take Ownership of the Conversation
Dialogue is key to the consultative style. Be genuinely interested in your prospect and absorb as much information as possible. Identify what’s said, and more importantly, what’s not been said. Nonverbal cues like tone of voice are just as important too.
Let the buyer do most of the talking. However, sellers still need to guide the conversation. The customer needs to understand they’re partnering with someone who can guide them through the complexities of business challenges. In addition, the seller’s messaging must be concise— assertiveness will underscore their capability.
Taking ownership demonstrates credibility. The seller’s control of the conversation is a way to shape perceptions. But control doesn’t mean dominance; sellers must also be comfortable with using silence to emphasize key points and let their customers have a turn.
4) Allow Feedback to Guide the Process
There’s no such thing as bad feedback. Even the strongest customer objections offer an invaluable benefit to the seller. When a customer articulates a concern or disagreement, they’re clarifying their needs and indicating what they want to see to move forward. Ask clarifying questions like, “Can you expand on this?”, as well as summarize key takeaways from what your buyer said to avoid misunderstanding. Keep your ears open for what’s important to their business and their people. Take notes. Don’t be afraid to check with the customer that the solutions discussed meet their challenges.
Asking for the customer’s perspective demonstrates the seller’s commitment to a collaborative, consultative process. In some cases, gaining feedback will even offer an opportunity to expand the solution.
5) Research Customer Needs and Offer Relevant Findings
A phone conversation is likely to be shorter than an in-person one. Therefore, the seller needs to research the business and industry in advance. The goal is to become an expert in the buyer’s business as well as anticipate any questions they might ask. Gather all the information you can get about a prospect before you start a conversation to help you stack up on ammunition for your prospect qualifying process. Doing so equips the seller with the requisite base knowledge, allowing them to start with the most incisive questions first. By researching potential gaps and needs in advance, sellers can identify opportunities to create differentiated value. Once these differentiators are understood, sellers can map their capabilities to customer needs. In addition, looking for information about your competitors is key. Ultimately, customers are receptive because the information is relatable.
With this technique, a salesperson acts as an expert consultant and asks questions to determine what the prospect needs.
According to this technique, the sale should result in one of these three things, at all times:
- a customer achieves their goal (i.e. leads are managed more efficiently)
- you solve their problem (i.e. leads are not called on time)
- you satisfy their need (i.e. you close more deals)
Solution selling has the intention to create a long-term relationship between a business and a customer. The solution salesperson lets buyers feel successful throughout the entire buying process. The only way to do that, is to listen to them.
6. Conceptual Selling
Conceptual selling as a sales method encourages sales reps to ask smart questions broken down into one of five categories. It is founded on the idea that customers don’t buy a product or a service— they buy their concept of a solution that the offering represents. With that in mind, founders Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman urge salespeople not to lead with a pitch, but instead seek to uncover the prospect’s concept of their product and understand their decision process with these five question categories:
- Confirmation Questions: Reaffirm information
- New Information Questions: Clarify the prospect’s concept of the product or service while also exploring the desired outcome
- Attitude Questions: Seek to understand and relate to prospects on a personal level and discover their personal connection to the project
- Commitment Questions: Inquire after a prospect’s investment in the project
- Basic Issue Questions: Raise potential problems
This sales methodology places a heavy emphasis on listening, and divides the sales process into three stages: getting information, giving information, and getting commitment. All transactions should be a win-win for both the prospect and the salesperson; if the sales rep feels this is not the case, they should walk away from the deal.
In summary, these six techniques all stretch the importance of qualifying potential customers to sell effectively. Don’t add prospects constantly. Taking the time to talk to them and figuring out their needs is key.
- SPIN will help you ask the right questions to uncover their needs.
- SNAP focuses on the way a customer thinks and how you can react to it.
- The Challenger Sale tactic also zooms in on a specific way of thinking, in order to challenge and create a new perspective.
- The Sandler Sale creates that new perspective by showing potential customers the technical, financial and personal impact their choice can have.
- If you want to invest in a long-term relationship, Consultative or Solution selling is the way to go. It’s not about asking or showing anymore, it’s about listening.
- Conceptual selling seeks to understand the project concept and goals sought by the buyer.