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Partnership Selling:          Print the current page
Serving Your Customers and Being Rewarded at the Bottom Line

By Edwin Richard Rigsbee

Partnering is the new order of business of the 90's and beyond! IBM is partnering with Apple, Chrysler with Mitsubishi, and everybody with Disney. Gone, are the days of adversary relationships for business success. Todaysalespeople and companies need to become partners with their customers for future sales increases.

Step 1: Caring! Become a partner with your customers by building a foundation of caring. One strong enough to help prospects buy all they need, want, and desire. Get out from behind your perspective to their's, learn to see your customer's needs through their eyes, their perceptions. Do this and you will become their trusted partner.

Step 2: Knowledge! Product knowledge is a given, and still; it's important to mention that from this comes the ability to sell benefits. The second kind of knowledge is that which allows you to have direct and meaningful communication with your customers. I've found that a basic understanding of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) will assist any salesperson to become substantially more effective.

Step 3: Listening! NLP is the science of how the brain learns. Everybody has a basic learning strategy: Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic (feeling). Each is used in various situations yet, most people favor one strategy. Determine your customers preferred strategy by listening to the kind of words they use. Talk with them in their favored terms. As an example, the customer who says things like, "I wonder how this will look on me?" might be a visual. Talk to them in visual terms. Say something like, "Just picture yourself ..." This is called direct or matched communication; you are mirroring your customer. Had you said, "Feel this fabric..." You would have had a mismatch. Like the construction company digging a tunnel. Their communication between the two crews at either side of the mountain were poor. Instead of one tunnel they dig two.

Step 4: Questions! Your anatomy demonstrates quality communication - two ears and one mouth. This formula means you should listen twice as much as you talk. How else are you going to hear the answers to the questions that you hopefully ask? Asking about your customer's needs, wants, and desires along with past purchases will help you to know what product features will benefit them.

It's as important to mirror your customers personality type as their learning strategy. Open personalities are relationship and social types. Closed are analytical and dictatorial. Fast paced types are social and dictatorial. Slow paced are relationship and analytical. Decide where you fit in and shift to a new model, the paradigm of understanding. If you are a social type, as many salespeople are, be careful with the analytical. You are open and fast paced, the analytical is the opposite - closed and slow paced. This knowledge, if used correctly will assist you to have more direct communication, dig only one tunnel.

Step 5: Benefits! Most people buy benefits, not features. Beware of being a "features jockey," a sales person who can "gas" their customer into submission. Features are built into products by the manufacturer - benefits are what it does to make the customer or user happy, healthy, and wealthy. Tune in to your customer's favorite radio station: WIIFM - what's in it for me? This will help you to talk briefly about features. Then sell benefits.

Step 6: Buying motives! Buying decisions are made emotionally. Then logic is used to justify the emotion. Be a partner to your customer, help them to justify their emotion. Listed below are six customer buying motives that will cover most situations. Learn and understand these motives and you can be a successful partner with your customer.

1. Profit or Gain
2. Fear of Loss
3. Comfort and Pleasure
4. Avoidance of Pain
5. Love and Affection
6. Pride and Prestige

Step 7: Urgency! Answer objections as if your customer is asking a question because that's what they're doing. Say, "That's a great question, I'm glad you asked." Then go into overcoming their objection by telling how the feature creates a benefit for them.

My favorite method is to say, "I know how you Feel, Client X felt the same way last summer. They were not sure the same training program would increase the productivity in their MIS Department. We talked recently and they told me that they found that it did, and better than they had expected. Client X thanked me for helping them with their training. This is called the Feel, Felt, Found method. Try it, it works.

To create urgency, talk about the limited availability or seasonal nature of items. The herd effect is sometimes helpful to get people into action. This is when you talk about haw many have already been sold today, this week, or month. How many times have you gone back to a store to buy something you wanted but didn't buy and it was gone? Don't let this sort of thing happen to your customers. Help them not to be disappointed.

Step 8: Get the money! You can't be a partner for long unless you turn your products and earn a profit. Many people who attend my seminars tell me that they came just to learn more closes. That's great but remember, there's mush more to selling than just closes. An excellent close is silence if you have enough nerve to use it. Simply review your offer, ask for the sale, and shut your mouth until your prospect speaks. For most, silence is very uncomfortable. This is the only pressure I'd suggest you ever use. Some additional closes to help you:

1. The assumption close - act as if it was natural for all your customers to buy.
2. The act now close - you snooze, you loose! Buy it today before it's gone.
3. The little decision close - get them to commit to the style, then to the final choice.
4. The premium offer close - buy now and I'll include...
5. Door knob close - as the customer is leaving the store, say, "What is the real reason you didn't buy today?" They feel safe and will answer. Then say, "Oh! I didn't tell you about that? Let me explain..." (For the outside sales person, use this when you are about to leave your prospect's office.)
6. The ask for it close - be bold and unafraid of rejection. Ask for their business. The above suggestions are not magic, they're not guaranteed to work all the time. What they will do is help you to sell more product and build a partnering relationship with your customers. A Zen proverb states, "When the source is deep, the flow is long." Let your pool of product knowledge and selling skills be deep and your profits be long.

Ed Rigsbee, is the founder and president of Rigsbee Enterprises, Inc. located northeast of Los Angeles County in Westlake Village. Established in 1981, REI is strategic management, marketing and executive development firm specializing in custom training programs, consulting, seminars and keynote presentations. He is the author of The Art of Partnering, published by Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.For information on his continued learning products or speaking availability: P.O. Box 6425-parsel, Westlake Village, CA 91359, (805) 371-4636 or fax (805) 371-4631.E-mail: edrigsbee@aol.com