The heart of nearly every sale involves an exchange of money. But many sales people remain uncomfortable discussing that very topic.
In these uncertain economic times, an odd dynamic is playing out between many sales people and their customer base.
On one hand, prospective buyers are talking a great deal about money - and whether they need to spend anything at all to improve the state of their business operations. On the other hand, over half of sales people are uncomfortable with discussing money with clients, according to recent research by the Objective Management Group.
The result? A serious failure to close prospective deals.
"Many sales people have been taught to ask one or two questions about budgets, and then cross the money topic off the list," says Danita Bye, president of Sales Growth specialists in Medina. "In today's marketplace, sales people really need to feel comfortable talking about money, because it is the language of decision-making."
How can sales professionals do a better job working with the money topic? Bye offers the following tips:
Get comfortable with personal finance. Bye says one reason many sales people dislike talking about money is because they don't have a firm grasp of their own finances. To address that issue, she recommends consulting with an accountant or a personal financial planner. In addition to gaining confidence in how money is used for their own household and business planning, such meetings can also help sales pros bolster their financial literacy.
Know the value quotient. When times are tight, it's tempting for a sales person to make price concessions, based on the belief that a product or service is too expensive. However, that calculation often does not factor in how a purchase might alleviate a client's key "pain points." By asking good questions during the work-up process, the sales person can often make a persuasive case that the investment will deliver substantial returns.
Test the pushback. Even when a sales pitch is well-tailored to key needs, a prospective buyer may occasionally say that the purchase is too expensive. When that happens, Bye suggests sales people use a "set-aside" technique, asking the decision-maker if there are other concerns besides cost in making a transaction move forward. Most of the time, she says, that step will uncover other issues.
"Even in this economy, business is taking place and companies are spending money," Bye says. "By using this technique, a sales person opens the door to further conversation that can eventually lead to a sale."
Brett Pyrtle is principal of Turning Point Communications LLC, a communications consulting firm based in St. Paul.