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Monday, August 12, 2013

Educating Your Way to a Sale

Your target audience is being bombarded by sales and marketing messages every day. Some estimates state that a person is exposed to more than 3,500 messages on average every single day! No wonder we develop strategies to filter out the hype and all the noise so we can get our work done. Otherwise our days would be consumed with sales presentations and various pitches to buy something.

This constant barrage of marketing has taken a toll on salespeople, too. Traditional sales methods that once worked well have been losing traction and are not effective anymore. But you still need to sell -- and you need to get your message across to your prospects. How can you do that without alienating them at the same time? One way to do that is to educate and help your prospects instead of simply selling them.

Educating your audience with relevant and useful information that will help them make a more informed buying decision allows you to establish yourself and your company as an expert who provides value before ever asking for a sale.

Establishing trust in this manner brings respect. Trust and respect open the way for your prospects to listen. Listening gives you access to valuable time your prospects reserve for those they believe will not waste it with hype and useless pitches.

To decide what kind of information your prospects find useful, you need to put yourself in their shoes. Developing a buyer persona on your most ideal prospects lets you get insight into the information, ideas, and advice that could make a positive difference in their lives and actually help in their decision-making process.

Selling is not a bad thing. Short-term thinking while selling, however, is not sustainable selling. Long-term selling is about nurturing, gaining trust, and establishing rapport. Doing this will lead not only to a first sale but also to a relationship that will garner repeat sales and referrals.

Establishing a strategic sales funnel allows you to introduce your products and services as a solution to a prospect's problem at the appropriate time. Nurturing relationships will lead to sales more naturally and organically, instead of taking a straight, forced path with a low chance of making a quick close.

One great example of this can be seen by walking into any Apple retail store. From the moment you walk in, the Apple employees are trained to educate you about the products in the store. No pushy salespeople. They actually want you to touch and test all the products on display.

In the back of the store, the "Genius Bar" provides technical help and in-depth training to encourage users to use Apple products. This in turn leads to more sales. Over 50,000 people visit the "Genius Bar" every day, and the majority who have used the services state that they are more likely to buy another Apple product as a result.

Educating your prospects and your customers is a long-term business sales strategy. It requires some time and resources. But if it is done well, the results will far outweigh the costs.

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