“The best sales people have a 4:1 listen-to-talk ratio”
Neil Rackham of the Xerox Corporation discovered this astonishing statistic and, if you want to influence people to get more of what you want, you’ll do well to apply this knowledge.
Rackham is best known for the concept of SPIN Selling and the book of the same name. Here’s a quick run down of how it works.
S for Situation
Start by asking searching questions of your potential buyer – what are their needs? Use the funnel approach we looked at in the earlier blog, Questions, Questions, Questions, to establish the wider context, and then zoom in.
P for Problem
Listen very carefully to your potential buyer’s response and encourage information flow. People buy to meet a need. What difficulties are they having? What are they not satisfied with? You want to identify what their problem is so you can …
I for Implied need
Demonstrate your understanding of their needs and problems – show them you know what their pain is, so that you can …
N for Need-payoff
Show your potential buyer how you can meet their need, solve their problem and take away their pain.
When you have done this, they will want to buy. If you can quote a price that they can afford, you are ready to close the final sale. In the book, Rackham recounts that orginally, he wanted to use the term ‘value question’, but realised that this would make the acronym read: SPIV!
The Three 80-20 Rules of Selling
They say the world is governed by the 80-20 rule. There does indeed seem to be an 80-20 for nearly everything and sales is no exception. In fact, here are three that you ignore at your peril.
The 80-20 Rule for your First Meeting
This rule refers to how to spend your time, at the first meeting with a potential customer. Use your time with:
- 80% Information Gathering
- 20% Information Giving
So at the start of your meeting, establish how much time your prospect has, to ensure you can get the information you need. And since no rule is perfect, make sure you leave 10 minutes or so to close the sale if you can (always try) and agree next steps.
Note that this rule is another way of expressing Rackham’s rule, quoted at the top of this blog.
The 80-20 Rule for Junior Buyers
Junior and middle managers are intensely practical people. They have to be: their job is to get things done. So ensure you address their interests. When you gather information, listen for their concerns in this proportion. And when you give information, address their needs in the same ratio:
- 80% The “How” of it
- 20% The “Why” of it
All selling is about finding an itch and offering a scratch. Operational people’s itch is a process one. Not so their senior colleagues.
The 80-20 Rule for Senior Buyers
Senior Managers’ role is to think strategically. Reverse your pattern with them to focus on what they need:
- 80% The “Why” of it
- 20% The “How” of it
So how do you gather information? There is an art to it. Think funnel:
Start at the top with a wide open funnel, and ask wide open questions, like
“Tell me about …”
Listen for where their itch seems to be, then start to probe, with narrower questions like:
“Tell me some more about …”
Next, confirm your understanding by asking detailed questions like:
“So, what exactly …”
Finally, play back your diagnosis of the nature of their itch, to ensure you know what sort of scratch they need:
“From what I’ve understood, you …”
Don’t be afraid to ask for a Yes
In sales meetings, one of the hardest moments is when you have a strong rapport with your potential customer, you have offered a great solution, and you are convinced they want to buy from you. So how could you spoil this perfect moment? What if they reject you? Perhaps it’s best not to say anything more and wait for them to buy.
But what if they don’t? You know how it can be with that first kiss – maybe your potential buyer is waiting for you to make the first move. If you do have the rapport you think you have, asking respectfully if they are ready to buy is not only appropriate, it’s often the only way to close a sale. Here are five ways you can do it:
- “We’ve discussed all the ways our product works for you – are you ready to place an order?”
- “Is there anything else you need from me, before you discuss what booking you want to make?”
- “If you are ready to order, shall we talk about delivery arrangements?”
- “Would you like me to get some paperwork ready now?”
- “Do you prefer to go for the XAKD model or the DXKA model?”
You may like The Salesperson’s Pocketbook. Other helpful titles include: