Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Nancy Bleeke, The SalesPro Insider @salesproinsider about the new conversations buyers need to help them do something or decide to buy. Nancy helps people change the dynamics of their conversations to make them count. This is especially important for small business owners who are short on time, resources, and bandwidth. She’s the author of Conversations That Sell: Collaborate with Buyers and Make Each Conversation Count. For more information http://www.salesproinsider.com
SmallBizLady: Some ‘experts’ have predicted that soon all purchases will be made online and we don’t need salespeople anymore – what does that mean to small business owners?
Nancy Bleeke: It means – don’t believe the hype! Though billions of dollars of commerce are transacted on the internet, people do still talk – buyers still often need someone to help, guide, or lead them to do or decide. TO do – make a commitment to an action of some sort or to decide – decide to make the purchase.
The internet is wonderful, but it can also complicate many purchases. The amount of information, comparisons, and choices can actually slow down the buying process for many people. And if you are selling a service, online buying is even more challenging.
Small business owners need to be equipped to have productive conversations with potential buyers – even if your business is online. You will have conversations with investors, suppliers, etc. and those need to be productive as well.
SmallBizLady: It seems that the consultative selling approach that many of us learned and adopted years ago isn’t enough these days, tell me more about that.
Nancy Bleeke: Consultative selling was and is fantastic. But I don’t think it is enough anymore. I think that the busy buyers, the time-deprived, the overwhelmed-with-information buyers want more. They need more from us. They have a lot of information and they want to be part of the solution. And they want to be acknowledged for their knowledge and for their experience and ideas, too.
It means that salespeople – small business owners – need to be more prepared than ever to have relevant conversation. Instead of preparing for what we’re going to say and how we’re going to convince someone and tell them about what we can do or what our solution does, we need to do it with them and collaborate with them. This is a different skillset. We need to be very flexible, we need to be inquisitive and ask for their ideas, find out where they’re coming from. We need to start with different questions. We can’t ask the “duh” questions.
SmallBizLady: The title of the book is Conversations That Sell. Why should we think of sales calls as converations?
Nancy Bleeke: The days of the ‘pitch’ are limited – unless you’re doing infomercials. People conversations are needed – where both parties are engaged. When we think of a sales meeting as a conversation, it changes the dynamics and when we make it all about them instead of the solution it’s even a bigger conversation changer.
SmallBizLady: Why is it important to focus on them in a conversation?
Nancy Bleeke: When we focus everything we do from marketing to sales to serving them afterwards with a “what’s-in-it-for-them” focus, it changes the dynamics.
Let me repeat – all we do/say should be focused on What’s in it for Them – or WiifT (whiff-it).
This focus allows us to, what I call, “right-size” our information. It helps us not oversell or, even worse, over tell. We can give too much information and just confuse things. By focusing everything on what’s in it for them, we do the right thing for them which then becomes the right thing for us because we’re going to get them to make a decision or take an action to move forward.
SmallBizLady: Most of us know how to conduct a needs analysis; you propose that we need to seek more from our buyer. Why?
Nancy Bleeke: Because I don’t think that just honing in on needs is enough. We should learn about needs and also focus on their wants – which are the emotional aspects of buying. I firmly believe that most people make emotional decisions and support them with facts so we need to look at wants and needs. And that’s still not enough. Your solution most likely helps solve a problem or capture opportunity. We need to focus on problems, opportunities, wants, and needs.
SmallBizLady: Do you have a FAVORITE question to ask a potential buyer?
Nancy Bleeke: No. Each conversation and buyer is unique. The questions depend on them, the objective of the conversation, and their tribal type. This makes for MANY different effective and productive questions. Too often I am asked for the ‘magic pill’ or the magic wand to wave and get the results. It’s not that prescriptive – great questions seek more from the buyer.
SmallBizLady: What are the Tribal Types how does that concept affect small business owners?
Nancy Bleeke: Think about when you’re in a different country and the language is different, it’s harder to build rapport, to engage and build trust with someone. But as soon as you know even a few words of that language, you can communicate and move forward from there. It’s the same in your sales conversations. You need to be talking the same language and about what’s important to THEM.
Tribal Types outlines the different types of people so we can easily adjust our words, pace, and communication to them. For example, some people use ‘thinking’ words – like results, analyze, “I think this or that”. Others use ‘feeling’ words such as – opinion, suggestion, or “I feel something”. The more we talk ‘their’ language, the more smooth the conversation and easier the decision.
SmallBizLady: How can we make sure our conversations are productive, effective, and efficient?
Nancy Bleeke: Here are three conversation changers for most small business owners:
- First, it’s not all about your solution! It is all about THEM. Keep a focus on them from the beginning of the marketing messages to their conversation with you. Keep a focus on them from the beginning of the conversation until the end. It’s not about the old adage that I should work with people the way I want to be worked with. I think that’s ridiculous. Who else is just like me? I need to market, sell, and work with them the way they want to be worked with, the way that’s comfortable for them, the way that’s going to help them move to do or decide something.
- The second conversation changer is preparation. Get things down on paper, be clear on the outcome, do the research needed so you don’t waste time.
- And the third tip is that no matter what you’re selling or how comfortable you are with what you’re doing; remember that every conversation is different because the person you’re talking with is. Adapt each conversation to the person’s tribal type in your communication, working style, pace, and word choice makes you relevant to them, trustworthy, and will help you build your business.
SmallBizLady: Where do you believe sales conversation success begins?
Nancy Bleeke: Winning conversations begin in your head but they also begin in your heart. What’s going on inside us affects our actions. And so we need to have belief. Not just belief in our solution – which as small business owners we usually have HIGH belief and passion for what we offer. It’s more – belief in the value the buyer will receive, belief in ourselves – that we have the abilities to build our business because we can sell – which again is nothing more than having conversations that help someone else do or decide something.
SmallBizLady: What do you see as the biggest gap in conversations by small business owners?
Nancy Bleeke: Leaving the outcome ‘hanging’ but not getting a commitment to do or decide something. Many business owners think they are being pushy or they don’t want to be rejected. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know and you can waste a lot of your time and energy chasing prospects that aren’t ever going to buy.
If you believe that your solution is going to help them – you need to be assertive at the end of your conversation to ask them to DO (take an action of some sort) or DECIDE (to purchase, to meet with you, to introduce you to someone else).
SmallBizLady: How can small business owners determine how to have productive conversations without recreating the wheel?
Nancy Bleeke: Observe others or read about selling techniques– and then adopt the actions and practices that you believe will work for you, for your business, and for your buyers. But know that you need to then adapt them to truly make them relevant and ‘yours’. Of course this means you need to prepare and practice – two of my favorite ‘p’ words. And then adjust. These are the activities you have control over and that will not only make your conversations count but your build your business.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.