Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:23 pm
Technically, a salesman
Transfer into a sales position shouldn’t be all that tough for technical professional
By Marcia Gauger, for SBT
Question: I am a technical professional who trains doctors and technicians to use ultrasound equipment. My company has just asked me to consider a new position selling the equipment. I don’t have a clue how to sell. What is involved?
Answer: Think about your current position. You’ve most likely been selling whether you realize it or not. You may have heard the expression, "Everyone’s a salesperson." Well, it’s true to a certain extent.
Most likely you’ve been asked to explain what your equipment does and why the professionals you train should take your advice. You’re selling! If you weren’t, then why would you be needed? The manufacturer of the equipment you represent could simply distribute a reference manual. You bring much more to the table.
As a technical professional, you have a wealth of knowledge that is a terrific foundation for selling. The key is knowing how to use the information to appeal to various customers.
Let’s walk through a probable sales call. As we do, see whether you can draw parallels between what you already do and the role of a salesperson.
Set aside time for the pre-call. As you would in a training session or any other technical support role, consider why you are making the call. What action do you want as a result of the call? What do you know about your customer? For instance, does the customer know a lot about your type of equipment already? How is the company using the equipment? And what real benefit do you offer to the company specifically?
Make a checklist of everything you would need to address with a customer and know about the customer’s needs in order to gain a commitment. Then, determine what you already know and what you need to find out.
Rely on your technical expertise to build credibility. Technical expertise is more than simply product knowledge. Product knowledge can be found in a manual. Technical expertise is based on experience, like what works and what doesn’t work.
Your customers aren’t really looking for product knowledge from you. They are looking for advice.
If you’re meeting with a new customer, it’s important to start your call with some information about your background and expertise.
The amount of information you give depends on how much you know about the customer and how much the company representatives want to know about you.
Start with a brief value-oriented statement about who you are and what you bring to the table.
Most salespeople spend too much time explaining insignificant information such as where their office is located or when their company was founded. Who cares? Instead, focus on what you have done to help others or to solve similar issues.
Most customers will form an opinion about you and whether they want to entertain doing business with you within the first 30 seconds, so make sure that time is impactful.
You could say something such as, "I’m Lynn Smith with XYZ. Over the last 10 years, I have helped more than 500 doctors and professional technicians increase ultrasound efficiency and time. I’d like to see if I can help you with the results that you’d like to see."
Ask good questions to determine how much technical information you should share. I recently had a call from a technical person who was asked to sell a pen during a recent job interview. She didn’t know where to begin or what to say.
Remember that everything that you say on a sales call should be in response to what your customer wants to hear. The only way to know that is to ask good open-ended questions such as "What would you like to accomplish with your equipment?" Or, "What kinds of challenges are you facing with your current situation?"
Encourage customers to open up to you. As they do, use your technical knowledge to position solutions. Be careful not to tell too much, only what’s important to the customer.
Make sure that the information you convey is not in terms of features of the product, but overall value for that customer. If you aren’t sure whether you’ve presented enough about your capabilities simply ask, "What else would you like to see?"
Prepare for commitment and possible objections. Handling resistance is easy if you’ve thought it through in advance. Anticipate possible objections and prepare solutions.
It’s a good idea to gather testimonials and carry those with you if customers are skeptical about what you have presented.
If a customer is opposed to price, justify the price by demonstrating that the price is outweighed by saved time, greater efficiency or another benefit that outweighs the concern.
Also, look for buying signs. One of the most common is that customers tend to ask specific questions when they are mentally close to the sale.
When you sense buying signals, take charge of the sale by saying something like, "Here’s what I’d like to do. It looks like this is going to work well for your situation. Let’s set up training on our model and schedule your installation for March. How does that sound?"
Most importantly, remember that customers don’t want you to fail. They agreed to meet with you for a reason. Don’t approach the interaction like your selling, but as a natural extension of what you already do.
Marcia Gauger is the president of Impact Sales, a performance improvement and training company with offices in Wisconsin, Florida and Arkansas. You can contact her at 262-642-9610 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears in every other issue of SBT.
March 7, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee