Selling in the ‘09 Economy – The Rules Have Changed

26 February, 2009 (20:23) | Blog | By: admin

When your customers resume buying – will your sales people be ready to sell?

By: John Connors

You’d have to be an extremely serious recluse to be unaware of what is going on in the national and global economy: things are bad, the newscasters intone, and they may get worse before they get better. There’s a lot of finger pointing going on, trying to determine how this mess arose and who did what to whom. But beyond all the accusations, the questions, and the uncertainty, you can be sure of one thing: the rules have changed for selling in the ‘09 economy

Now, maybe you’re sitting there thinking: “I don’t sell; I just work at this financial institution.” If you feel that way, it’s probably because you have a vague sense that selling is the act or process of manipulating people into buying things they don’t want or need. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the most successful form of selling is based on developing a relationship: it’s finding out what people need and then assisting them in meeting those needs by matching them up with the appropriate products and services your institution offers. 

Typically, the sales process usually occurs in five stages. 

  1. Greet and acknowledge is simply saying hello to the client and letting them know that you are there to help. It can be as simple as: “Good morning! How can I help you today?”
  2. Uncover needs is finding out what the prospective client’s needs are. We’ll get back to this in just a bit.  
  3. Demonstrate product value involves showing the client what the value of the product or service is to him or her.  
  4. Overcoming objections centers on identifying objections the prospect may have and creating ways to respond. This is not coercion or arm-twisting but listening and responding the appropriate facts or solutions. 
  5. Closing the sale is finalizing the transaction: setting the account up for the client and so forth.  

Read almost any book on sales, and you’ll likely see those five steps (or something very close to them) mentioned. 

Until recently, you could view the flow of the sales process in financial institutions in a kind of shorthand: 

  • Person – You greet the person and find out what their needs are.
  • Product – You present the product(s) that meet the client’s needs and close the sale.
  • (Rarely) Institution – Occasionally, clients would ask questions about the financial institution, but more often the sales person would simply state that the institution had X number of branches and so many ATM machines in a variety of locations for the client’s convenience. 

Now, however, a new element has been introduced into the sales flow: fear. That’s right; the dreaded specter of financial collapse and ruin is stalking the corridors and lobbies of financial institution. Chances are the client you greet tomorrow morning has recently seen a newscast or read an article that affirms “This is the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, and it may get worse.” Your client has seen with his or her own eyes the collapse of name-brand institutions, accompanied by reports that others (also name brand) are teetering on the edge. 

So now the sales rules have changed. Now, when a prospective client shows up at your window or desk, they aren’t just looking for a checking account (or other financial product), they are looking for reassurance. They want to know that your financial institution is stable and that it won’t collapse, taking their money with it. 

This concern changes the flow of the sales process. Now before you begin to identify the needs of the client, it becomes: 

  • Institution – You reassure them of the stability of your institution.
  • Product – You need to reassure the client the recommended product is solid and secure.
  • Person – Then when the client feels the institution/product is safe and secure you begin to establish a relationship.  . 

Key to doing this is establishing an atmosphere of trust. There are two primary ways you can do this. First, in dealing initially with the person, you focus on communicating with them with sincerity and concern so you can understand the client’s concerns. You ask questions designed to uncover their needs so that you can meet them accurately with what your institution offers. This shows them that you care. 

Second, you can communicate the value of your institution. Here it can be extremely helpful to have some concrete facts about your institution available to use. Here are a couple of hypothetical examples: “You haven’t asked, but our bank was not involved in the sub-prime market, so the financial turbulence in today’s marketplace isn’t an issue for us.” Or: “In the past six months we’ve had many people convert their accounts to our institution. We’re very proud of the fact that so many people trust us with their money and see our Institution as safe, solid, and secure.” 

Obviously, you don’t do something crass, like bringing up the possibility of financial institutions failing when the client hasn’t mentioned it, but if they give evidence of concern about the financial future, a word of reassurance about your institution will be well received. 

After you have uncovered the client’s needs, reassured them about your financial institution, then it is crucial that you show the client the value of the product or service that you are recommending to meet their need. For example, in a conversation with a client it may go something like “Mr. Jones based on what you are telling me, I feel this particular product would best fit your needs because the “value to you is . . . .” By explaining the ‘value’ of the product to the client it shows how it will directly benefit them and allows you the salesperson to focus on selling ‘value and product solutions.’ 

Lastly, there is a final key to selling in the ‘09 economy – Follow Up. I recommend following the 2x2x2 rule. Two days after you have opened Ms. Smith’s new account, follow up with her: “I just wanted to let you know your new checks should arrive in about 4 days. Is there anything else I can do for you?” 

In two weeks, follow up again: “I wanted to make sure you received your checks. Do you have any questions I can answer about your new account?” 

Finally, in two months, check in again: “I just wanted to make sure everything is working well with your new account. I noticed you are carrying a high balance. We have a terrific money market account that offers a little higher interest rate. [or make mention of some other product or offer that might be of interest.]” 

If you take time to truly communicate with people, discover their needs, project the solidity of your institution, demonstrate the value of your products, and follow up 2x2x2, don’t be surprised if you do very well and find your clients referring their friends and relatives to you for meeting their needs for financial products and services.

John Connors is the CEO for the Center for Corporate & Human Development located in Ballston Lake NY. He is the author of two very successful books titled; “Everybody Sells, Increase Your Competitive Advantage,” and “Service Slam Dunk, How to Win and Keep Loyal Customers With Outstanding Services“. John is also co-author of another informative book titled, “Real World Communication Strategies that Work“, published by Insight Publishing. 

Contact Info:
Phone Number –          518-399-5872
Email Address –           jconnors@cchdtraining.com
Web Site –                   www.cchdtraining.com

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