Monday, March 14, 2011

Listen Carefully: Understanding Demands Means a Satisfied Customer

Isn’t it strange how the best salespeople seem to have the ability to know what’s going on in their customers’ minds? It’s like they know just what their customers are going to say before they say it. They can predict which ideas a customer will likely reject, and which they will absolutely love. If only this ability was inherent in all of us!

Some of this clairvoyant ability comes from experience, of course. Even more of it comes from advanced listening skills. Top salespeople really listen when their prospect is talking and pick up small cues that many others miss. Many good salespeople are also students of human psychology. They make it a point to study human nature and learn a lot about their customer in the process. As we get ready to make the actual oral presentation, let’s put it in context.

One important talent top salespeople have is the ability to recognize the prospect’s state of mind and shape their presentations accordingly. They determine if the customer is getting ready to place an order or just starting to comparison shop. They can tell whether the prospect has already decided to buy the product and is negotiating for the best price or whether he or she is weighing other options. They understand that different things are important to the customer at each step in the buying process. They practice Demand Stage Selling.

Demand Stage Selling is a technique that identifies how far along in the buying process a customer has progressed. This tactic dictates that you deliver the type of presentation that appeals specifically to someone at each particular stage. Demand Stage Selling immediately helps block out irrelevant objections and tremendously improves your closing ratios.

Three Stages Of Demand

Prospective buyers go through several stages in the decision process—unconsciously, to them. First, they have to recognize a need and decide to buy something to fill that need. This decision creates primary demand. You can equate this stage to that little pang of hunger you get in the late afternoon. Your hunger is the need—the first stage of demand.

The prospect then has to decide on a type of product or service that will fill the need they’ve identified, which creates secondary demand. In our example, what are you hungry for? You have choices—a candy bar, a piece of fruit, or some microwave popcorn (which invariably creates more demand from everybody else within aroma range—but that’s another story).

Finally, the customer must decide which service provider or product brand to buy. This is third-level demand. In our afternoon snack example, this is when you decide whether to buy the Snickers or the Milky Way. Your prospect decides whether to buy from you or from one of your competitors. In sales, this third level of demand is the one concentrated on most heavily.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, hiring, firing, and motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

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