Structuring the sales talk

Updated: Oct 18, 2018



Sales come easy for some. For everybody else, there is practice and structure. The practicing bit is something I can’t do for you but this blog offers a structure that should get you a long way for any regular sales talk.


Keep to the following points and see that adding structure will make you more aware of the conversation you’re having and will also allow you to see which bits of it can use a little extra polishing.


(0) Getting the appointment

Even though it’s not really part of the physical sales talk this might actually be the hardest part of selling. You’ll most likely encounter a lot of no’s during your quest for customers, perhaps disguised as “maybe later”, “let me think about it”, and “I’ll share your info with my colleagues”. If you’d like to know more about getting appointments effectively, check in later for the next blog .


1. Preparation

This one might be half the work if you look at the time you spend on a sales talk. Let’s say a regular talk is 30 minutes to an hour, then it’s worthwhile to invest an equal amount in the preparation.

In your preparation, you want to focus on both the company and the person(s) you’ll be in conversation with and use this information to your benefit.


Company

  • General description

  • Activities

  • Recent news and future plans

  • Possible previous collaboration

  • Find out where your company would fit in


People

  • Check their LinkedIn with a focus on current responsibilities

  • Who else is in the decision making tree

  • Do you have common grounds (employers, colleagues, Sunday soccer matches etc.)?


2. Opening and setting the scene


After you’ve had your chit chat and you’re getting down to business it’s time to apply structure.


  • State your purpose. Why were you there again?

  • Set an agenda and share with the other what want to discuss. Also, always ask what the other party wants to add.

  • Check if time is on your side by confirming some assumptions on the duration of your talk.


This structure can act as your red line, which you can always fall back to if you stray from the topic too much. In addition, if you feel that it might come across as artificial or fake: don’t be to hard on yourself. The other person knows you’re there for a reason and business is business.


3. Talking the talk

The actual conversation can be considered an art; both verbally and physically. It’s all about asking questions, exploring answers by asking follow-up questions to find out what a person’s needs and motives are, mimicking body language, and knowing when to back up or consolidating the answers with a well-executed value proposition.


Asking questions

  • Use open questions mostly

  • Start out from a broad point of view before getting real specific

  • Make sure you listen well and respond to these questions (with more in-depth questions perhaps)

  • Keep it simple when you’re asking questions

  • Try to come up with some logical sequences for your questions beforehand to able to steer a conversation where you’d like it to go

  • Make sure your questions are neutral or be prepared to explain their relevance if you’re planning on playing on someone’s emotions

Sharing, challenging, and selling

Your entire line of questioning is futile if you don’t have anything to offer in return so think well about what exactly you’d like to share or how you want to challenge someone.


Successful convincing can include compelling evidence, your vision of how someone could benefit from your products or solutions, testimonials and case studies showing your success.

Besides telling people reasons to collaborate with you, also try to share knowledge with them to show your expertise, which will allow you to become a trusted source of information for them.


Moreover, try to entice them with questions that make them re-consider assumption they may have. In my belief and experience, if you can do this successfully, you’ve already sold.


Nevertheless, if you’re unsure if your tactics are successful but you do sense interest you should definitely summarize the value your company holds for them. Also, mention your value proposition again followed by the actual question if that would be of interest to them.


Example:

Summary: Judging by your reactions, I feel *company name* can help you with/by *insert service or product* so you can *whatever it is they’d rather be doing*.
Confirmation question: Is that correct?

4. Wrapping up

To avoid misunderstandings and to have a clear picture of what you agreed upon you should summarize what you are both committing to and what you should be expecting. Doing this properly creates the commitment you need to be able to follow up on your meeting.

The well-known way to do it is by using the SMART principles. No, I didn’t invent them but you don’t change a winning team.

So, SMART is an acronym for:

  • Specific – agree on specifics.

  • Measurable – try to quantify or at least make sure you can check of if everyone is doing their part

  • Assignable – specify who will do it

  • Realistic – state what can realistically be achieved

  • Time-related – specify when the commitment can be achieved.

5. Follow up

If you don’t do this, everything has been for nothing. Actually, the following up consists mainly of honoring the agreements you’ve made in your wrap-up and not carrying that out would mean you’ve basically wasted everyone’s time.

So do it and try not to wait too long. Following up in a swift and adequate manner really makes you stand out from the crowd and you’ll come across as an effective professional who knows how to earn his buck. Besides, if you don’t follow-up you’ll also be hurting your own income and we wouldn’t want that, now would we?

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