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How To Sell

How To Sell

It doesn't matter whether customers come to you, or whether you go to your customer's, the selling process is much the same. Vera Hughes co-author of Teach Yourself: Setting Up A Small Business, has lent us her expert advice on how to make a sale.

Step 1: Prepare

Whatever the circumstances of your sale you need to know as much about your customers or clients as possible. Always do some solid market research to get an idea about the type of business you are going to attract.

If customers come to you, such as in a shop or restaurant, prepare by making sure you are open on time, and ready for every customer that crosses your threshold.

Take with you your samples, designs, photographs or a short laptop presentation. If it's paperwork, take enough copies. And, of course, your business cards and leaflets.

Step 2: Approach

Suit your approach to your selling situation. If the customer is coming to you don't rush in with a hard sell, let them know you are there to help, but give them time to browse. When they start to show an interest in a product, then make your approach.

If you're visiting a client at their house, take note of their entrance. Ring the bell and take a step back, so you don't appear threatening. Check you're speaking to the right person and introduce yourself. Smile and shake hands. Acknowledge any other member of the household, and don't forget any children or pets.

Step 3: Establish your customers needs

Be prepared to make the opening remarks. Then you need to get your client talking, so you can find out what they really want. Ask open questions to glean information, these begin with who, what, when, where, why and how. They can't be answered yes or no. Ask something like ‘What had you in mind?' or ‘Who will be involved?' Only ask closed questions to establish facts.

Keep asking questions until you know what part of your service or product will meet your client's needs.

Step 4: Features and Benefits

Now match your product or service to your customer's needs.

Describe the features of your products or services - these are hard facts, what they actually do.
Every feature has a benefit, and it's these benefits that will get you the sale - it's letting the customer know 'what's in it for them'. For example, if your service or product isn't high maintenance, sell them the benefit of freeing up their valuable time.

Step 5: Selling up and selling on

During this part of the process you might be able to sell up or sell on.

Selling up is persuading your client that the more expensive option would best meet their needs, such as the more expensive shrubs will give better coverage, and therefore privacy.

Selling on is suggesting an extra service, or an accessory.

Step 6: Meeting objections

Your customer or client may have genuine reservations. Listen to what they say, watch their body language and answer them patiently.

They may have misunderstood or misinterpreted what you've said. In this case get to the bottom of their misunderstanding and explain the features again.

Your client may doubt you can do what you say, in which case you must prove you can do it. State definite delivery dates you know you can keep, give testimonials of something you've done for someone else. Prove it.

The most common objection is the cost. In a shop the price is fixed, so not much room for manoeuvre. But it's your business, so you could offer a little something extra. For a service, be prepared to negotiate a price, but don't go below what you know you can manage. You could unbundled the package and agree a lower price for part of it, or perhaps suggest stage payments. If this is your first transaction with this client, you could go a little lower than you expected - but make sure they know you'll have to charge more next time.

Step 7: Closing the sale

At some point your client or customer will indicate they're prepared to buy. It might be a verbal indication or a physical one. Standing up usually indicates the end of a meeting, but leaning forward and feet pointing towards the door are also signs.

At this point