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Every entrepreneur knows that effective selling skills are critical to business success. But they often unwittingly make fundamental mistakes in the selling process. Kevin Davis, president of TopLine Leadership Inc., a sales and sales management training firm, and author of the new book Slow Down, Sell Faster!, offers some advice for entrepreneurs.

What’s the one selling skill that you think is most important for entrepreneurs to master?

Understanding their customer’s buying process. Customers don’t care about your sales process, they only care about getting their needs met. The speed of selling is not determined by how fast you get to your pitch, but by how fast the customer reaches the decision to buy. So when an entrepreneur talks to a customer, they have to change their mindset from selling to helping this customer buy.

What’s the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when selling?

Entrepreneurs are successful because they have a lot energy and enthusiasm for their product and service. But that enthusiasm will overwhelm the customer if they do too much of the talking. That’s what I mean by selling too fast. In the early stages of selling, entrepreneurs need to slow down and get the customer to do more of the talking: What are their business issues? What is working well? What do they find frustrating? What is the impact of these problems? What would it mean to them if their problems could be solved?

Entrepreneurs run into prospects all the time in both business and social settings. The prospect sounds interested in what the entrepreneur does, and the two have a great conversation, but then nothing happens. What’s gone wrong?

Because of their deep experience, entrepreneurs often recognize needs related to their offering much faster than a customer does. When someone they meet expresses interest, the entrepreneur thinks that person recognizes that need as well. Not true. The curiosity that potential prospects may exhibit in these situations is fool’s gold. It is not a request for more information about your product or service, let alone an implied need for your product or services. To turn fool’s gold into real gold, an entrepreneur has to slow down and ask the prospect more questions about needs and opportunities. It may take several conversations before the prospect recognizes the need that the entrepreneur suspected was there from the beginning.

There’s a lot of competition out there. What can entrepreneurs do to differentiate themselves from the pack?

It’s getting harder to differentiate based on what you sell because products and services are becoming more alike. Today’s most successful salespeople and organizations know they need to stand out based on how they sell. Salespeople who slow down each sales conversation end up spending more time with each prospect. Now, when relationships are so important to sales success, having a higher quantity and quality of time with each customer is going to result in higher sales.

Any tips about how an entrepreneur can improve their sales presentations?

Before going into a sales presentation, they should sit down and write out at least three reasons why a customer should buy from them. They shouldn’t pitch all their strengths. They should pitch only those strengths that they can explicitly and persuasively tie to a specific need of that customer. Among other things, pitching strengths unconnected to a customer’s needs give the customer a reason to object about the price — they don’t want to pay for features or benefits that don’t interest them.

A lot of entrepreneurs seem to struggle with the negotiation phase of selling. They end up making too many concessions that are too costly. What advice would you give them?

Today’s concession becomes tomorrow’s expectation. The real work of negotiation starts well before you reach that stage. An effective salesperson will start by building the customer’s appreciation of the value of the solution very early in the process by having the customer evaluate the cost of action compared to the costs and ripple effects of inaction. Before walking into the room, a negotiator will identify at least three concessions they can ask for from the customer if and when the time comes. Here’s another tip that salespeople rarely talk about: if you start feeling pressured or get asked questions you can’t answer, start asking questions of the customer. A simple “can you tell me more?” or “What would that do for you?” gives you time to think while the customer answers — and you may even learn something that will help you address the customer’s concern.

By Mitchell York

Retrieved 9 November 2012 from:

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