The fine art of conversational selling
In-store experiences have come a long way. Brands now throw everything they have at shoppers, from shop floor DJs to augmented reality POS stalls. But regardless of new trends and technologies, the heart of any demo experience will always be the people delivering it.
A skilled brand ambassador can make the difference between a browsing customer and a buying one, and as such, proper training and investment in sales techniques has never been more important.
That’s why we set up the Fizz Training Academy – as a way to train all things customer experience. Because with 30 years in the industry, our experience is too good not to share. Courses include customised workshops on the softer side of customer experience, including advanced sales techniques and customer communication, to help level up any brand’s in-store marketing and engagement.
Central to this is Training and Development Specialist Terry Rothero, our in-house expert on all things customer experience. We caught up with Terry to discuss the art of conversational selling, the tactics he teaches our team, and the best way to get a sale effortlessly.
The importance of conversational selling
Conversational selling is a means of finding out what products and services may be of interest to customers, by engaging with them in a two-way discussion.
“This doesn’t mean that you need to be pushy,” says Terry. “The approach really works in the long term. It focuses on using a structure to ensure that you can help customers buy more of the products they need.”
The technique can have significant real term effects on lead conversion and sales. Just recently, marketing firm ThriveHive saw a 63% shrink in its sales cycle after adopting a conversational approach, while a 2017 study found that sales reps who made their pitches more conversational generated significantly more sales.
So how can you adopt such a style? Terry trains conversational selling in a four-point process structure that helps brand ambassadors make the most of their time with customers.
“Building customer loyalty starts with a positive initial impression,” says Terry. “A first impression can be difficult to change, so when first meeting a customer you’d better create a good one.”
First impressions are unique to every customer, but there are some proven key skills that are important for all of us. These include giving a friendly greeting, perhaps smiling at the customer, using their name where possible to create familiarity and even using similar body language – known as mirroring – to connect on their level.
Of course, there are even more fundamental rules to making a first impression, such as having a clean demo space, being presentable and giving a customer your full attention. But we’re sure these needn’t even be said!
The Enquire stage is where you start a conversation with your customer, in order to establish what might be important to them.
“Here the ambassador will need to deploy two types of questions – open and closed – all while attentively listening to the customer,” says Terry.
Open questions tend to be asked when you want to encourage a conversation. Think: how? why? what? These are particularly useful as you begin searching for a clue about which products may interest the customer.
Closed questions are more appropriate when you want to confirm some information with the customer, or to reach a conclusion. They require only ‘yes-no’ answers and can help create customer commitment and even close a deal.
“You’ll need to judge whether to use an open or closed question by listening to the customer’s response to each question you ask. Try nodding to show understanding and even summarising their answers to check you’re both at the same place,” says Terry.
Next, an ambassador will need to use the information they’ve collected at the Enquire stage to introduce products to the customer that they believe will be of interest to them.
In order to match a customer’s needs to a product or service, you need to consider the features, advantages and benefits. In this model, a ‘feature’ describes what the product is, an ‘advantage’ is what the product can do, while the ‘benefit’ is specifically what the product will do for the customer.
“A good example to use is a lightbulb,” says Terry. “Feature: we have a lightbulb. Advantage: it gives light. Benefit: so you can see.”
“Research has established that explaining a product’s benefit to the customer can increase the chance of a sale by 90%. Meanwhile, selling only the advantages has a success rate of just 20%.”
Perhaps surprisingly, selling is often an overlooked part of the process. Without encouragement from an ambassador to make a final commitment, the customer may choose to delay the sale, which could result in them choosing to buy a similar product from another brand.
Ambassadors should look out for buying signals from the customer. These can be verbal or non-verbal, for instance, are they listening more closely than when you started the conversation? Or asking more specific questions about the product?
“Different approaches can be used to close the sale, depending on the type of conversation you’ve developed and the type of sale you are making,” says Terry. “These include direct questions, offering the alternative – ‘which of these would you want’, and confirming a minor commitment such as filling in a form.”
As well as completing the sales accurately, you should always ask the customer if they need any other help. After all, you never know what leads may come! Not all of your customers will know all the different products and services you offer. But using the four-step process will help start conversations and create sales.
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