The content of an effective presentation requires selling by design – not by chance. Competing with yesterday’s traditional selling strategies and techniques is hazardous as world-class competitors challenge each other.

Never before have the latest and best selling methods been more essential in gaining new customers and keeping your current hard-won gains. Salespeople must master the challenge because, as Will Rogers reminded us, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

In the world of partnership selling we need a planned approach. Random haphazard action never leads to success in any worthwhile endeavor, and in this respect selling is no different from any other undertaking. How well you plan what takes place during the presentation plays a major role in the success you achieve. Selling is a helping profession, and those who think it isn’t may never enjoy either the profession or succeed in it.

Consultative selling involves two-way communication, employs empathy, is interactive and encourages prospect participation. Positioning your sales force as consultants or counselors, rather than as just salespeople, creates a partnership with your customers. You are peers working to solve problems together. Consultative selling creates a partnership that stresses the relationship in selling. The customer is much more likely to recommend or endorse you and give you testimonials. It’s much smarter work. There is no such thing as a “hard sell” or “soft sell.” There is only “smart sell” and “stupid sell.”

Here are 5 strategies or guidelines to follow in order to benefit from partnership selling:

• Strategy One – Use Empathy. Empathy, the ability to understand another person’s concerns, opinions or needs, whether sharing them or not, provides you with the sales edge of being able to think and understand “with” the prospect. Sell from the customer’s perspective. Learn to see your customer’s needs through their eyes and perceptions. Treat every customer as important. When they feel you are giving individual rather than routine consideration, they’ll have more confidence in you and your company.

Treat every customer pleasantly and professionally – no matter what they look or sound like.

• Strategy Two – Listen for more sales. Successful listening requires more than keeping your mouth shut while your customer talks. Presenting features and benefits is not always enough. How they are presented may be as important as what is presented. Listening is the key to finding ways to present benefits that enhance the possibility of a sale. Effective listening is an interactive process.

When your customer has finished speaking, it is your turn to respond to what you’ve heard by acknowledging, paraphrasing, interpreting, offering possible solutions and suggesting ways your product can be useful. Use such phrases as:

“From what I have heard, you seem to be considering…”

“As I understand it, here is the problem I must solve…”

“It sounds to me as if you’re saying…”

Add whatever ending is appropriate to these phrases. Such interactive, cooperative listening makes the salesperson an ally or partner, someone to trust and rely on.

• Strategy Three – Ask questions. Salespeople are diagnosticians. We were born with two ears and one tongue. This formula means we should listen twice as much as we talk. How else are you going to hear the answers to your questions? When you ask the right questions, customers can clarify their needs, wants or desires in their own minds as well as in yours. Once the need or want is recognized you can choose the features and benefits of your product offering that apply to the solution.

The process of asking questions creates an atmosphere in which the prospect is comfortable and willing to participate. You must be careful to retain control of the interview so that the conversation is not sidetracked into irrelevant areas.

• Strategy Four – Understand how to communicate. Customers differ. With each personality type comes a unique way of approaching the sale. When people of different styles meet and behave strictly according to the characteristics of their own personal styles, conflict often results. A salesperson who is an amiable and a customer who is a driver can quickly arrive at cross purposes. A driver wants to get facts and to accomplish the task at hand; the amiable salesperson would want to cultivate a personal relationship.

You must treat customers in the way they prefer to be treated. Then selling can become a relationship instead of a contest.

Salespeople who do not adjust their behavior to meet the style needs of their customers face deteriorating situations. For example, an outgoing, fast-paced expressive salesperson may ask questions that may be interpreted as a personal challenge by a reserved, detail-oriented analytical customer. If the analytical customer responds to the questions merely to save face, the expressive salesperson then tends to talk more, move faster, and push the customer into still greater conflict. This knowledge of personality styles, when used correctly, will enable you to have more direct communication while helping you build lasting bonds with your customers.

• Strategy Five – Discover buying motives. An individual’s purchasing decisions are made based on emotions. Then logic is used to rationalize the emotion. It is your job to help the customer justify their emotions. Listed here are six customer buying motives that seem to cover most situations. Study these and develop ways to present benefits of your product that relate to these motives: (1) Pleasure or desire for excitement (2) Gain or profit (3) Maintain security or avoid loss (4) Pride or status (5) Desire for self-improvement (6) Love and affection.

The strategies outlined here are not guaranteed to work for everybody all the time. They will, however, give you some useful presentation ideas and a specific approach to selling. An effective presentation is always preceded by intensive planning.

It never just happens.

Click to listen highlighted text!