Strategic Selling

Written by Joe Driscoll

November 22, 2009

Nobody ever went broke from selling too much. Your company’s ability to increase sales is dependent on the development of successful marketing and sales strategies.

Strategy is a word that is frequently associated with the marketing function. Marketing includes all those activities that are involved in planning, promoting, pricing, positioning, and preparing a product or service for distribution.

Selling is the last step in the marketing process. When it comes time for the selling however, the pressure to move products often creates a peddling process rather than allowing for the development of a successful sales strategy.

Product peddlers push products. Peddlers are focused on converting their product or service into cash. A successful sales strategy is focused on the needs of the buyer. Strategic selling is concerned with delivering a benefit to the buyer In the long run, those companies with well thought out and carefully implemented sales strategies are the most successful.

A successful sales strategy begins with positioning. Your customers, whether they are business owners, purchasing managers, or buyers, are called on by hundreds of sales people every year. You need to begin by differentiating yourself and your company from all the others.

Effective positioning begins by establishing a professional relationship. Make an appointment for your first visit. Successful people are busy, unsuccessful people aren’t so busy. Which do you want to be?

Try to avoid “cold calls.” They contribute to an image that your time isn’t important. After all, when do you make cold calls? Usually when you have nothing better to do. If, in truth, you “were just in the area and decided to stop by,” do so only for the purpose of making an appointment for another time.

Identify the purpose of this initial visit to be fact finding, not selling. Don’t insult the potential customer by leading them to believe that you won’t eventually have something to offer them, but let them know that you need to gather some information in order to determine if you might have something that would be of use to them. By establishing yourself as someone who is willing to listen before you speak, you will have positioned yourself as being different.

You have now established a fair forum in which to implement your sales strategy. Strategic selling requires an understanding of the business. Effective sales people must not only understand their own product, they must also have an understanding of their customer’s business.

Don’t try to be a know it all in somebody else’s business, you will only be an irritant. But by making the effort to understand enough about their business to appreciate their concerns, you will again separate yourself from other sales people.

Take the time to do the homework necessary to understand your customer’s industry. Know the terminology, the do’s and the don’ts, the keys to success, current issues, trends, and developments of importance. Early in your visit inquire as to their plans and what they are hoping to accomplish.

Armed with that knowledge, you are now ready to make suggestions concerning products or services that can further your customers objectives.

There will be times when you don’t have an appropriate solution. In those instances, a peddler will still push product. A successful strategic seller will confess that they don’t have the best solution available. Part of a successful sales strategy is recognizing that it’s a small world; friends and credibility will always pay greater dividends than a short term sale that yields a dissatisfied customer.

You should be proud of the product or service that you are selling, but don’t start out boasting about it to your customers. People really don’t care how sophisticated your product is, how technologically superior it is, or how long it has taken to perfect it. What they care about is how it will help them accomplish whatever it is that they want to do.

A successful sales strategy is based on knowing the customer’s objective and then showing them how your product can help them accomplish it. That’s what ‘benefit selling’ is all about. You don’t sell a great product, you sell the benefit that it will deliver.

When you begin as an advocate, you run the risk of creating an adversarial environment. When you begin by identifying your customer’s needs, you are then in a position to suggest something that might help them accomplish their objectives. In so doing, you have avoided the typical adversarial relationship that exists at the beginning of most sales calls. “Here’s my great product for all your money.”

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