Conversation Creates Sales
Humans are naturally social, some people are just better at being social than others. Those people work in sales. Conversational skill will always be the deciding factor in sales. How well the value of a solution is communicated decides if it's sold, in any face-to-face meeting that happens through conversation. Conversation creates action - salespeople understand that better than anyone. A solid conversation means a monthly quota met, a year-end bonus, and a happy customer.
Salespeople might require great conversation skills, but anyone can benefit. Every conversation is selling something; an opinion, suggestion, story, or idea. Sales is the art of bringing someone over to your side, and conversation is the best way to do that.
Given the importance of conversation, it goes without saying how important it is to practice it. Conversation, like anything else, is a skill you can improve with time. The best way to start having better conversations is to understand fundamental rules:
Rules of Conversation
For a conversation to take place, conditions have to be met. At least two people have to be willing to speak and actively engaged. If not, you end up with a one-sided conversation or nothing at all. Those conditions are ensured by the rules of conversation. If any of these rules are not met, the conversation won't be worth participating in for either person.
Time magazine studied "The Art of Conversation" and found 5 fundamental rules:
- Put others at ease
- Put yourself at ease
- Weave in all parties
- Establish shared interests
- Actively pursue your own
In sales, the conversation is between you and your (potential) customer, which creates a unique dynamic. Both of you are trying to get something from the conversation. You want a sale and your customer wants a solution, both of you want the best deal possible. With that in mind, let's look at the rules of conversation from a sales perspective:
- Put yourself at ease - Be calm, cool, and collected. If you seem nervous you'll make your customer nervous. Speak slowly and with intent to show confidence in the situation and your solution. The success of the conversation (and ultimately, the sale) is completely based on trust. By appearing at ease in the conversation you're making your customer feel equally confident.
- Put others at ease - Make your buyer feel comfortable. Don't control the conversation. Listen and make sure they understand they're being heard. Their time is as valuable as yours, respecting their side of the conversation ensures they'll respect yours.
- Weave in all parties - Don't leave anyone out of the conversation. You can never be completely sure about who has influence in a group. Leaving a key decision maker out of the conversation, or ignoring their concerns, is a surefire way to lose the sale.
- Establish shared interests - Connect the conversation to the life of your buyer. They are looking for a solution to their specific problem. You can make your offering much more relevant by connecting it to their life. This also shows that you're listening, and that you care about more than just the sale.
- Actively pursue your own - Don't be afraid to actually sell. You aren't doing anyone any favors by ignoring the purpose of the conversation. Balancing the sale with genuine interest in your customer will help you standout as an excellent salesperson.
A mutually beneficial conversation can only happen if these rules are followed. However, you won't get the sale by just having a conversation. A sales conversation requires strategy to develop in a beneficial way for you and your customer.
Sales Conversation Strategies
Use Pace to Build Rapport
Being likable helps you sell. That's the cold hard truth, and it makes sense when you think about it. Customers have plenty of options, why would they buy from someone they don't like? You're in the business of relationship building, AKA getting to know people. Find out as much as you can about your customer and what they do. Small talk should lead to more serious discussion. If you're ever in doubt, The Art of Conversation highlights four stages of familiarity:
- Courtesies (“Hello, how are you?”)
- Trade information (“What line of work are you in?”)
- Trade opinion (“That's a great industry.”)
- Trade feeling (“Yeah, I love it.”)
Recognizing where you and your customer are is a good indicator of where the conversation should be. If the two of you are trading opinions, and finding common ground, business discussion will go well.
Create Leverage with Targeted Questions
Ask questions that uncover your customer's pain points and aspirations. Finding out why they need your solution, and what they hope to gain from it, becomes powerful leverage during negotiation. A simple question like, "what are you looking for in a solution? Why?" will provide treasure troves of information on how much they really value what you're selling.
They might downplay their need, but they won't lie about their situation. Following general questions up with specific ones on the steps they've taken to solve the problem will paint a more detailed picture of how badly they need this problem solved. Asking the right questions gets you the information you need to close the deal.
Use Active Listening to Solidify Value
As you learn about your customer you should help them understand their situation. Active listening involves hearing what your customers mean, not just what they say. When a customer describes their problem they're also telling you the values they're searching for in a solution. Repeat those values back to them, get acceptance, and connect your solution.
If they say they're looking for a solution for high employee turnover, what they mean is that they're judging your solution by how well it improves employee retention. An amateur ignores the problem and rambles about cost, a professional talks about how great it makes employee's at their job. Connecting your solution to their problem is the difference between a sale and an awkward goodbye.
Salespeople regularly ignore the values a customer is looking for. It isn't always their fault, they're so excited about what they sell that they ignore why their customer is buying it.
Close with Smooth Conversation
A smooth conversation leads to a sale naturally. It ends with both parties agreeing on the value of the solution and the price being paid. If you've taken the time to understand your customer's problem, communicating the value of your solution is easy. Smooth sales conversation naturally leads your customer to buy, all you're doing is helping them realize how much it will improve their life.
The power of good conversation is that it makes customers close themselves. You naturally appear interesting and trustworthy as a result of listening to their problems and understanding how you fit in their life.
The end of a conversation isn't the end of the relationship. Good conversation creates a connection that pays off over time. If the sale doesn't happen immediately you're still laying the groundwork for a future purchase. Being a good conversationalist gives you a positive reputation as a salesperson and makes you memorable in your industry. Approaching conversation as a skill that you can improve is the best ROI for your personal and professional life