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Is Selling a Talent, A Skill, or a Process?

By: Robert Middleton

Robert Middleton, of Action Plan Marketing in Palo Alto, Calif., has helped hundreds of professional service businesses attract new clients and get paid what they're worth.

His website is a resource for marketing professional services. Visit it at Action Plan Marketing.

Sales is all of the above. And if you're going to be successful in your small business you've got to first understand sales and then master it.

First of all, there are many misconceptions about sales. Sales is about deception. Sales means being pushy. Sales is manipulation. And if you believe these you're going to have a very hard time.

How about a change of belief? Sales is about honesty. Sales is about listening. Sales is about helping. If you start to think of sales in this way it will be a lot easier for you. After all, don't you want to be an honest, listening, helping salesperson for your services? The good news is that excellent salespeople are exactly this way!

So lets take the ideas in the title one at a time... Sales as a Talent. You are actually a born salesperson who lost the talent as you matured. It used to be easy to ask for things and to "make your case." But you got "professional" and stopped doing what was natural. So don't worry about talent. Just learn the skills and the process.

Learn some basic Sales Skills and all the talent will come back to you naturally. The key sales skills? Simple. Listening for what people want and need. Asking questions to find out more. Presenting what you have in terms of both features and benefits. Answering objections and questions with logical arguments...

And finally, simply asking your prospect to take action. Yes, it takes time and practice to master these basic skills, but the truth is, they are at the heart of all selling.

How about Sales as a Process? To me this is the most interesting part of selling and often the most important. Selling, especially for high-end products and services is a multi-step process that can take quite a long time. It is not a one call proposition.

So for your particular situation you need to map out the process from A to Z before anything else. For instance, here's my sales process for selling marketing consulting services to a larger client.
  1. Pre-qualification - They call as a result of a referral or from marketing I've done and I find out something about their needs and their situation. I tell a little about what I do.

  2. Information - I make sure they have enough information about me so they can at least determine if I might be able to help them or not. For this I send them a brochure or direct them to my web site.

  3. Appointment - If I can help them and they are interested, I set up a presentation.

  4. Presentation - I then give them a presentation on the 6Ps of Marketing so they better understand where I'm coming from and so they can see the possibilities of us working together.

  5. Needs Assessment - Next I find out everything I can about them in a face-to-face meeting to determine exactly what they need, their budget, etc.

  6. Proposal - I write up a very specific proposal outlining exactly what objectives we will accomplish and how I will go about doing it.

  7. Negotiation - We discuss the fine points of the proposal and come to an agreement as to how we'll proceed.

  8. Consummation - The client signs the proposal (contract) and we start working together.
To do this whole process successfully you need to be aware of what step you are on at the moment and clear about what step you want to get to next. For the sales process to be successful, you must actively guide the process. If you don't it can go in any direction.

This guiding of the sales process is NOT manipulation in the traditional sense, but it IS control. And believe it or not, prospects like to work with someone who is in control, who knows where they're going, who knows what do do next.

So yes, sales is a Talent, a Skill and a Process. But perhaps understanding the process is the most important. If you do, you are likely to close a great many more sales.

© Copyright 2000, Robert Middleton

Other Articles by Robert Middleton

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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