To put it bluntly, selling is about enabling and encouraging buyers to make the right decisions. The specific situation determines which strategy and tactics are more likely to succeed in getting that decision (or those decisions.) Successful sales professionals automatically know what to do and when to do it. There are two basic situations in which sales professionals operate – the short sales cycle and the long sales cycle. To put it another way, selling is about enabling and encouraging a fairly quick, one-off decision or a series of decisions as part of a more complex process. These two situations call for different approaches.
The Short Cycle, One-Off Decision Situation
This brings out the hunter strategy. It shows itself in different ways, and it shows itself by sales professionals focusing more on certain actions and attitudes than on others:
- They use facts to establish themselves as experts in a particular situation. The sales process is more like advising, suggesting and mentoring to encourage a clear and immediate decision. Facts prove points and can help the buyer to see the sales professional as an expert on whom they can rely.
- They use logic to prove a point, and facts to support that point.
- The conversation, or the presentation, focuses on one problem and one solution, in order to encourage the buying decision, rather than them being part of a much wider “general improvement” or “progression” process.
- The sales presentation is an event leading to a specific outcome – a successful close.
The Long Cycle Complex Decision Situation
Long sales cycle decisions are the kind of situations where the SPIN selling system was established. Huthwaite Research, now Huthwaite International, observed successful long cycle sales professionals, over a number of years, and realized they adopted a different strategy. This strategy relies more on sales professionals:
- Researching more, checking they have the client’s situation clear, and have a firm grip on the facts and nuances.
- Reading each situation to get on the same wavelength as the prospect, rather than encouraging the prospect to get on the sales pro’s wavelength.
- Allowing the prospect to feel in control of the process, and to see the sales pro as a knowledgeable guide or coach, rather than as an expert director.
- Asking more questions to ensure clarity and completeness.
- Orienting sales presentation materials to suit the prospect’s problems, goals, intentions, and needs, to make it easier for the prospect to reach a conclusion and to make a buying decision that they decide fits their situation.
- Using experience and intuition to stay on the prospect’s wavelength, and to keep the sales process on track.
- Treating each decision as the next step in a comprehensive process.
Both strategies have their place. Long-term business relationships begin with a single sale, and that sale can become the foundation of a long and wide-ranging relationship. Some situations are unique, and will not be repeated, so the short cycle strategy is all that is needed. Other situations are more like partnerships, so the long cycle strategy is the appropriate one.
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