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"'Ask the Small Business Professor' is a must read for small business owners looking for free expert business advice. Using a Q&A format, Bruce Freeman covers important small business topics weekly by bringing in recognized experts on subjects including accounting, legal issues, trademarks marketing and sales. Don't miss it!"
Improving your Sales
Dear Professor Bruce:
I’m just starting my own business selling custom window blinds. I’m very excited when I talk with people about it, but I don’t seem to be making many sales. What should I do?
People are more likely to buy from someone who is excited about their product or service. So, it’s great that you love to talk about it. However, your focus needs to be on what the buyer will be excited about. Your job is to learn what their motivation is for talking with you.
According Sales expert, Tom Hopkins, author of How to Master the Art of Selling, good selling is more about listening than talking. It requires that you ask questions to find out what would make the buyer to want to own your product.
Do they just love the look of blinds? Are they shopping around for price and quality? Were they referred to you by a friend or relative who is telling them they should go with blinds, but they aren’t really sure whether they like them or not? Are they primarily concerned with durability because they have kids in the home? Or, is energy savings a critical factor?
Your goal in business is to sell to their real needs…not to sell what you want to sell. Take a few minutes to look at your order form. What information do you need from clients to fill it out completely? In other words, what information equals a closed sale? Write a question to get the answer to each entry in your order form. Initially, the list of questions is likely to read like a police interview…as if you’re grilling them for information. That’s okay.
Your next step is to take those questions and soften them or gently lead up to them while still getting to the answer. Instead of asking, “What color of blinds do you want?” You might phrase the question like this, “Mary, we have a wide variety of colors and textures to choose from. Do you have something in mind already for the windows in your den?” Or, “Is there a particular color scheme you have in mind for the children’s room?” See? You’re still heading in the direction of drawing out the answer to “what color do you want,” but more gently and professionally. Repeat the process with each answer you need and you’ll soon find yourself making more sales because you’ll be listening instead of talking.
...good selling is more about listening than talking.