Nursing?  Teaching?  In my opinion it is sales.

Maybe not your first thought, but life is sales. Every profession requires sales skills.  And sales done right, is a wonderful experience for everyone involved. Clients benefit by being well shepherded by a trustworthy, knowledgeable sales person. A positive sales experience can reduce anxiety, offer solutions and result in a positive outcome for all parties involved. Unfortunately sales ─ not done well ─ too often gets a bad rap. After all, caveat emptor ─ let the buyer beware ─ is an oft quoted term.

So what are the main ingredients for a great sales experience? I have worked with many top notch sales people over the course of my financial services career, been involved in countless sales presentations and traveled widely to meet with prospects. What I have found is that the two critical elements that lead to successful sales are relationship building and understanding the needs of your client.

Building Relationships = Building Trust = Sales

The foundation of a great sales experience is a relationship. Someone is not going to turn over their hard earned assets or their organization’s unless they know you. You can be brilliant at what you do, but if someone doesn’t trust you, why would they give you the business?

It may sound basic, but a great sales experience starts with building a solid relationship with your prospect.  Relationship building begins with interactions, over a period of time, in multiple mediums calls, emails, social media exchanges, and face-to-face meetings. During those interactions sales people demonstrate who they are, how they can help the prospect and, most importantly, what it would be like to work with them. Referrals from other clients or colleagues are important and can reinforce your credibility, expertise and abilities. When clients know and trust you and your organization they will then look to you for your services and what your firm has to offer. Remove any doubt: demonstrate right out of the gate what it would be like to work with you. Answer the questions: How responsive are you? How credible are you? How knowledgeable are you? Have you built the relationship with not only yourself, but the rest of your team or your organization? In my experience there is a direct correlation between a successful sale and the length and strength of the relationship.

Understanding Needs = Sales

The second basic tenet of a great sales experience is knowing the client’s needs. Sounds easy right? This is where the 80/20 rule of listening comes in. In order for a sales person to understand a client’s needs they need to spend 80% of the time they have with a prospect listening and only 20% talking. Hard for some. Impossible for others. There is a myth in sales that you need to be a good talker in order to be a good sales person. We all know the person who says “Let me tell you about me.” The more effective approach is to let your clients tell you about themselves. What needs can you uncover when you let a prospect talk? Find out. What solutions do you have to meet those needs? Listen and learn. More importantly, what needs can you discover that your prospects don’t even know they have? That is the hallmark of a truly great sales person. Discover a need and solve it.

Good sales is surprisingly simple, but rarely done well.  It is building relationships and understanding needs.  Kind of like losing weight, just eat less and exercise. Ah yes, easier said than done.