Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital
Selling a product or service is complex and delicate. It often takes sales professionals years to master the subtle balancing act of emphasizing the value of their product or service without overselling. To this end, businesses should consider creative, less obvious approaches to intrigue prospects and attract a wider variety of clients.
If you struggle to modernize and optimize your sales process, here are a few creative tactics you may not have tried:
Build Relationships in Your Industry
Although it may feel like sleeping with the enemy, so to speak, there are numerous benefits to building a community within your industry. The most direct benefit is the ability to exchange referrals. Since most businesses across an industry offer slightly different products or services, prospects often run into suppliers that offer a product/service that is in the same ballpark, but not quite what they’re looking for.
If the supplier in question has good relationships within their industry, they can refer the prospect to one of their friends in the industry, who might be better equipped to meet the prospect’s needs.
Eventually, every business can develop a network of associates that generate a consistent flow of referrals in all directions, giving all parties optimal exposure to interested leads (and potential referral fees). Familiarizing yourself with competitors who provide services related to, but different from your own also allows you to get a broader scope of industry insights and expand the services you can offer clients and prospects.
Attend Your Customers’ Events
This may sound like a dubious networking move, but your customers’ events and gatherings give you the opportunity to take advantage of their network while supporting your existing clientele. As mentioned above, it is highly advantageous to build relationships with other businesses in your industry. In the same spirit, your customers probably also have a rich network of similar businesses, so why not take advantage of the exposure and the positive experience your existing customers have had with you?
Create Urgency Wherever Appropriate
Unfortunately, many of us unintentionally drag out transactional proceedings, particularly when there’s no built-in urgency. If you find that you have a lot of genuinely interested prospects who lose track partway through negotiations, create a degree of urgency. Obviously, you shouldn’t put unnecessary pressure on your prospects, but when closing a deal, it’s useful to give prospects a reason to respond quickly. For example, if you’re a wholesaler with a range of handbags, you may want to tell your prospect that you can offer them samples of your latest designs at a discounted rate if they confirm the order within a limited time.
This prompts your prospect to weigh their interest and, if they are genuinely excited about your products, they will probably take advantage of the special offer. This method offers you the opportunity to gauge a (relatively inactive) prospect’s interest and see if further pursuit is worth your time. It also gives you another tool to help move the transaction forward now. Often, the longer a transaction takes to close, the more likely it is that a prospect will lose interest or find reasons to delay.
Offer Added Value Through Additional Support
Depending on your industry, sometimes your customers will want you to sweeten the deal a bit. If you have experience or knowledge that could be useful to your customers, you might want to offer complimentary counseling once the company is signed on with you as a customer. This feeds into a more general practice: always show interest in your customers’ continued success, since their success usually means your success. Showing clients that you are willing to help them beyond simply providing the core services you already offer builds loyalty and customer confidence, making it easier to close the sale and start your professional relationship on the right foot. Overdelivering on services is also likely to turn clients and potential clients into good references and referral sources.
Give Them an Out
Although self-deprecation isn’t usually a good sales technique, sometimes taking the pressure off is the best way to win a customer or, at least, to develop a good business contact. If you’ve been pursuing a prospect for a while and still aren’t sure how genuine their interest is, make a point of giving them an out on your next email. Something like “I understand if this is not the right fit…” is a friendly way of saying that you don’t plan to put excessive pressure on them and will back off if they aren’t interested. Not only will this give them peace of mind, it’ll improve their impression of you, especially if they are, in fact, interested.
Making a sale is always going to be a challenge, but employing a few unusual methods can surprise your prospects and keep your sales team sharp. The more sales-related tools you have at your disposal, the more sales you are likely to make. The key is to stay hungry, keep an open mind, and never stop exploring new ways to improve.
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