Sales Skills for Non-Salespeople

Using "Consultative Selling" to Pitch Your Idea or Product

Sales skills are useful whatever the role you're in.

© iStockphoto/shironosov

Are you trying to convince your manager to develop a new product, but can't get him or her to take things further? Or, would you like to introduce a new system into your team but can't get people's support? Perhaps you come into contact with clients and have the opportunity to sell new products and services – if so, do you know how to be an effective salesperson without having to resort to pushy sales tricks?

It's good to know some sales techniques, even if you don't work in a formal sales role. Whether you're trying to convince a new person to join your organization, or describing a new product to a client over a catch-up call, knowing how to sell is a great ability to have, and it's one that's sure to be respected strongly within your company.

In this article, we'll look at the consultative sales model, and examine how you can apply it to sell an idea, product, or service. We'll look at how to prepare, what to say, and how to handle questions and objections so that your next "sale" will be a success.

Consultative Selling

In consultative selling you act as a consultant: you help identify the needs of your client (in this case, your team, boss, or external customers), and then suggest products and solutions that meet those needs.

Consultative selling demands a higher level of trust and credibility than some other sales models. So, it's a great model to use simply because that foundation of trust is probably already there – if you're selling an idea to the executive board, your boss, your team, or current clients and customers, you've hopefully got a good relationship already in place, and you can use this to your advantage.

Also, because consultative selling focuses on helping your audience (rather than helping yourself to make a "sale"), it's more natural and intuitive. So it's easier to use if you're not a natural salesperson.

Preparation

Whether you're selling an idea, a project, a product, or even a job in your organization, you must enter that situation with an expert understanding of your audience, and of what they care about.

So effective selling means lots of preparation, meaning that much of your work will come before your speak to the people you're selling to.

Follow these tips to help in your preparation process:

  • Identify your target audience – With whom will you speak? Is it your boss, a key client, or your team? And is just one person involved in the purchase, or do you need to influence other stakeholders in his or her organization?
  • Identify key drivers – You must understand what's driving your audience. For instance, if your organization's goal is to increase profits by 10 percent this year, how will your product/idea/project help them accomplish that goal?
  • Identify the language that people use – If you're addressing a technical audience, be prepared to present using technical language and ideas. If you're selling to finance people, use numbers and data to craft your message.
  • Determine exactly what you're "selling" – Is it a new feature that you want added to the company's payroll process? A new product idea? A new reporting process for your department's most important client? Identify what it is, and learn as much as you can about it.
  • Connect your audience and your product with benefits – Great marketers and salespeople understand that there's a distinct difference between features and benefits. This is because your audience cares about only one thing: "What's in it for me?" So, it's crucial to know the key differences:

    • Features are what your product or idea does. For instance, the new accounting software you want everyone to use is fast and easy, and it has real-time reporting. These are the features of the software.
    • Benefits are what those features mean to your audience. For instance, the accounting software's benefits are that people will have more time to do other tasks, they'll be less stressed when they're using the program, and they'll get up-to-date information from the system.

    Features are boring, and people have to think quite hard to see the possibilities within them. But when you translate those features into benefits, you make an emotional connection with your audience.

    When you're doing your pre-meeting preparation, focus on identifying the benefits of your idea or product, so that you can communicate that information to your audience.

  • Understand the needs of your target audience – Identify problems that your product or idea will help solve, and needs that it will address. This will directly impact the way you pitch, or sell, your idea. If you're speaking with people who are not in your industry, make sure you use words and terms they can understand.
  • Highlight your Unique Selling Proposition   (USP) – People buy the best possible solution that meets their needs and their budget. Make sure that you highlight what makes your product, idea, or project uniquely relevant to them.

Tip:

The more you practice your presentation   or pitch, the more comfortable you'll feel when you actually deliver it. Practice what you're going to say as much as possible.

During the "Pitch"

Here are a few guidelines to follow during your pitch:

  • Have a conversation – You want to connect with your audience, so your presentation or pitch should feel more like a conversation. It may be unappealing to your audience – and to you – to get up in front of people and "sell" them something. But you can talk enthusiastically about an idea or product that you really believe in, and you can then discuss how it will help your audience.
  • Ask questions – Involving your audience is key to keeping them engaged. If you meet with someone individually, like a client or your boss, then be sure to listen as much as you talk. If you're presenting to a group, invite questions at key stages during the presentation.
  • Focus on "helping" instead of "selling" – Consultative selling means that you identify what your audience needs. Focus on these, and keep your own goals and agenda out of the conversation.
  • Watch body language – Pay attention to everyone's body language   during your pitch. If people start to look bored or move their hands and feet a lot, then you need to finish, or move onto the next part of your pitch.

Dealing with Objections

No matter what you're pitching, your audience will probably have some objections or reservations. If you haven't prepared for this, then it may cause you to become frustrated and lose some control. That's why knowing how to think on your feet   to overcome these objections is so important.

It's helpful to realize that objections aren't a definite "no." They show that your audience is willing to ask questions and state their concerns. So, objections are your opportunity to address their fears, reassure them, and move forward positively.

Whenever your audience presents an objection, you should ask questions. For instance, if your boss says the new process you've created will be too expensive to implement right now, you may choose one of these responses:

  1. "It is expensive, but how much does it cost us each week to deal with this issue? And if we do nothing, how much will it cost us over the next year?"
  2. "You're right, this will be an expensive process to implement company-wide. What if we start with just one department to see how much it improves productivity?"

When you approach objections with questions, it helps you find the real root of the issue. It also shows your client or audience that you are aware of their concerns, and that you want to work with them to find a solution.

Closing the Sale

If you don't get a decision on the day, give your audience time to think about things. But don't leave this open-ended. Your chances of a successful sale drop dramatically if you don't get some kind of commitment from them.

So, as you're finishing your pitch, set a specific date or time to speak with them again. This will also give you the opportunity to tailor your pitch if required, based on any issues or objections they may have.

If you discover that your product or idea truly isn't a good fit with your audience, then withdraw gracefully. People rarely do this, so it may be a pleasant surprise to your audience, and they'll likely be more receptive the next time you speak to them.

Tip:

No matter what you're selling, there are going to be key stakeholders you need on your side for your idea or project to succeed. This is why stakeholder management is so important. These key players can make or break your sale!

Our article, Stakeholder Management  , will help you learn how to manage your communication and relationship with these key players.

Key Points

Many of us need to use sales techniques sometimes. So, learning how to prepare and pitch your idea or product effectively is a great skill to have. As a non-salesperson, the consultative selling model is an effective model to use, because it uses trust and respect as its foundation.

A good rule for successful selling is to ensure that you put in plenty of preparation time. Practice your pitch, and make sure you fully understand the benefits, not just the features, of your product or idea.

Keep your pitch like a conversation, pay attention to body language for clues that your audience may be getting bored, and view objections as opportunities to put people's minds at rest.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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