Whereas each sales call will be as different as the people involved in it, following these 8 steps should make your calls more successful.

1. Preparation: Prepare yourself mentally and through organization. Think about how the product or service will benefit this specific customer. Have the price, discounts, all technical information, and any other details “on the tip of your tongue” or at your fingertips. Be willing to obtain further information. Visualize the sales call in your mind until it goes successfully. Jot down a few key questions and points that will help. Bring the appropriate materials, samples, and data with you.

2. Greeting: Greet the customer politely and graciously. Do not plunge immediately into business talk, unless you know your customer prefers to do so. Take the time to know the prospect’s style and be sensitive to it. The first few words you say may be the most important. Keeps a two-way conversation going. Maintain eye contact, and keep the customer’s attention. Remember that the customer is first and foremost a human being with whom you can make a connection. The more you can learn about his or her family, hobbies, interests—anything to help develop a genuine relationship—the better your chances of eventually securing a sale. Avoid being perceived as overly personal by remaining genuine. The best salespeople keep records on their customers to remind them of details for future conversations and to follow up over time. Sales may depend on the characteristics and benefits of the product or service, but customers buy from people they know and like when they have a choice. They usually have a choice.

3. Showing the Product or Service: Personalize your product or service by pointing out the benefits for this particular customer. Use props and models or the real thing. If possible, meaningfully demonstrate it by showcasing its unique selling proposition.

4. Listening to the Customer: Begin with the customer’s needs in mind and be wary of making assumptions about these needs. If you listen actively and probe carefully, you can learn the challenges he or she is facing and tailor your sales pitch. Sit back and let the customer talk about it. This is how you will get your most valuable information. In successful calls the buyer does most of the talking.

5. Dealing with Objections: The best, most effective way to deal with objections is to address likely objections in a positive light before the customer raises them. During the listening phase, you may hear new objections. Always acknowledge objections and handle them. Do not pretend you did not hear, overreact, or be afraid to listen. Do not hesitate to tell the truth about any negative aspect of the prospect or service. Each time you admit a negative, you gain credibility in the customer’s mind. However, be careful to not overemphasize a flaw or complain about the product or service yourself.

6. Closing the Sale: Review the benefits of your product or service. If negatives have arisen, point out that the product or service is still an excellent buy. Narrow the choices the customer has to make. Close the sale, if it is time to do so. Do not overstay your welcome. Stop while you are ahead. Remember that the sales cycle for your product or service is a critical factor here. Some sales take months, or even years, to close. A “no” today is not necessarily a “no” forever.

7. Follow-up: Make regular follow-up calls to assess customer satisfaction. Ask if you can be of any further help. If the customer has a complaint, do not ignore it. Keeping the customer’s trust after the sale will be critical to future sales. A successful business is built on repeat customers. Plus, every time you talk to a customer you are deepening your association. Your best sales prospects in the future will be people who have already bought something from you. Keep them posted on the progress of your business.

8. Asking for References: Ask your customers to refer you to other potential customers. Try to set up a system that encourages others to send sales prospects your way. Offer discounts, gift certificates, or other incentives to those who refer people to you. Give customers a few business cards to pass on to their friends.

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