During his lengthy career, Stephen Grohn has managed and run a variety of companies in the trades. From electrical to plumbing to heating to building automation, he’s become an expert on every aspect of what it takes to make a business successful.
And when you develop the level of knowledge Grohn has, other business owners definitely take notice. They want to know what they can do to ensure their company will go the distance and be profitable along the way.
“I did consulting work for awhile,” said Grohn, who now owns Crystal, MN-based Standard Water Control Systems, a company that specializes in basement waterproofing, egress windows and radon mitigation, among other services. “Every single company I met with would walk me through why their sales should be higher and they didn’t understand why that wasn’t happening.”
When a business isn’t meeting its sales goals, Grohn observed, it’s often because of a lack of sincerity and authenticity on the part of the sales team, which is something prospective customers can sniff out immediately.
“If someone doesn’t care about what they’re doing, they’re not going to be a great salesperson,” he said. “A great salesperson is someone who actually does care but can also keep their needs and the customer’s needs balanced. I view it like a three-legged stool – the customer has to win, the employee has to win and the company has to win. If that formula is off, the three-legged stool falls over. It doesn’t really work.”
Over the years, Grohn has gone through a lot of sales-related training and while there are always new techniques and strategies to learn, he believes that it all boils down to one thing:
“If a customer doesn’t buy from me, it’s because I gave them a reason not to,” he said. “It’s kind of like ‘it’s your sale to make unless you screw it up.’ That’s how I look at it.”
Want to avoid the most common sales pitfalls and position yourself to close every deal? Here are a few of Grohn’s tried-and-true suggestions to ensure you always come out on top:
- Be on time: We’ve all heard the old saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that’s especially true when it comes to sales. If you’re meeting with someone for the first time and you call to reschedule – or worse, you don’t call and simply roll in 15 minutes late – you’re probably already at a major disadvantage. “With some people, if you show up late, you’re automatically on their bad list,” Grohn said. “And you can end up losing a sale over something that was completely within your control.”
- Think before you speak: Imagine you’re talking to a prospect that you don’t know and the conversation turns to football. Because of your geographical location, you assume the person is a fan of the local team and you start making fun of their biggest rival. Well, turns out your prospect is a diehard fan of the team you just disparaged. Now you’ve upset them – and you’ve likely left a sale on the table. “You never know what someone’s trigger points are,” Grohn said. “Avoid anything controversial such as religion, politics, child rearing and homeschooling because whatever your opinion is, if it doesn’t line up with the customer’s, it can be a dealbreaker.”
- Seek out connections: Customers want to buy from people they trust and by being observant, you can find ways to build that trust from your very first interaction. For example, if you notice a bunch of family photographs on the wall of a customer’s home or office, ask about them to get the person talking. Do you see a Harley Davidson motorcycle in their driveway? Use it as a starting point to learn more about their hobbies. You can even create connections when you’re not meeting in person. If you’re calling on someone who has a different area code, do a quick search to find out where they’re located and then mention something about their city during your call. This not only shows you did your research but it also demonstrates that you care about more than just making the sale. And whether you’re meeting virtually or face-to-face, check out your prospect’s LinkedIn page ahead of time. It can provide valuable insights that can help you spark a great conversation right out of the gate.
- Know your product: One surefire way to sink a sale is not being able to answer a customer’s questions about your products or services. Before you even think about scheduling a sales meeting, make sure you know all the ins and outs of what you’re selling so you’ll be ready for anything a customer may throw at you. Additionally, study up on your competitors and their offerings. This can help you differentiate your products and services from theirs and give you a competitive advantage when it’s time to close the deal.
- Tread lightly when talking about money: Before going to meet with prospects, it’s a good idea to find out what their budget is like so everyone is on the same page when the conversation begins. That said, it’s still entirely possible for the prospect to say that she can’t afford to purchase the item or service being sold. Rather than diving in and saying something like “we offer financing,” which can be viewed as offensive by some customers, ask questions to get a better understanding of their situation. “What would it look like for you to be able to afford it?” and “If there was a way for you not to have to make a payment on this for six months until you get your tax return, would that be a benefit?” are two good, neutral inquiries that can help get things back on track.
- Understand that sales may not happen overnight: While some sales can be wrapped up in a matter of hours, many of them will take a lot longer, especially if they involve a large purchase or a high-dollar contract. That’s because there can be a lot of moving parts and a lot of loose ends – and a lot of decision makers who need to give the transaction the thumbs up before it can move forward. “Whatever industry you’re in, you have to understand the variety of decisions that need to be made and you can’t really close a deal, per se, until you’ve addressed all of those things,” Grohn said. “You need to have complete buy-in from the stakeholders and influencers within the company and that can take time.” By being patient and letting your customers know that you’re there to be a resource for them, you’ve taken a major step toward earning their business once the timing is right.
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