ECONOMY

Good sellers use the Socratic method to meet clients’ needs

Can the way a submarine operates help sales professionals do their job better? Sandler Sales Institute’s vice president of sales and main stakeholder, David Mattson, says it can, using it as an example of how approaching a customer under the surface can secure a deal. Full of experience on issues of sales, customer service, strategic planning and the development of teams and communication skills, Mattson suggests sales professionals need to work methodically and «seal and render waterproof» each stage of their approach to customers before moving on to the next. Mattson came to Athens last week to be one of the keynote speakers at the ninth People Management Symposium held by KPMG last week and titled «On the Way to Conquering the Top.» He spoke about «the role of the Human Resources Department in the creation and maintenance of culture orientated toward sales across the corporation.» By identifying the weakness of modern business leaders to establish a viable corporate culture orientated toward sales, Mattson referred to the central role that the often neglected Human Resources Department can play in this direction, with its unique advantage of seeing all sides of a corporation. «From this special position, the Human Resources Department can develop the appropriate instruments or, even better, the infrastructure for the promotion of sales culture throughout the corporation,» Mattson argues. He adds that «by providing those tools to high-level officials, or the management itself, it reduces the costs and the time required for the training of isolated units and increases the overall performance of the corporation.» According to Mattson, in most cases a Human Resources Department is unable to use the dynamics offered by its central position and is restricted to the four things it knows how to do best: hiring, training, consulting and remunerating. «Leaders frequently wonder why corporate culture does not exist or does not operate as it should. This happens because both they and high-level officials simply lack the time required to act in advance, so they react in response. This way they cannot think strategically, as their role is limited to fighting the fires that often start in companies,» observes Mattson. «The creation of culture requires time and planning and must be recognized as the responsibility of the Human Resources Department,» he notes. Demand for sellers Mattson, a distinguished trainer and company consultant since 1986, believes that the features of a good seller can be acquired by anyone provided enough time is spent and proper training is adopted. There is steady demand for sales officials throughout the year for the simple reason that no one invests the time needed to train these employees in the right way once they are hired. Therefore, staff in these positions often switch jobs, even every six months, and often end up resigning due to personal disappointment, Mattson says. «What is demanded from a good seller is similar to what is demanded from any professional; it simply requires passion, loving what you do,» he explains. «It is true that in the USA the job of a seller is considered the last resort before unemployment. What most people do not know, however, is that it also is one of the best-paid jobs. If a salesperson lets his abilities shine with the proposed training, he will obtain great profits, also adding value to his company,» Mattson states. So how can anyone be successful at selling? Mattson uses the example of a submarine divided into seven sections, for steps toward convincing a customer. Each section must be closed securely in case its content leaks and puts the agreement at risk. These sections have the following order: bonding & rapport, up-front contacts, pain, budget, decision, fulfillment and post-sell. For the Sandler Institute official, there are no difficult customers, only poorly prepared sellers. «The most common mistake of salespeople is the presentation of the product or the service too early in their transaction with customers. This way they fail to make customers feel comfortable and eventually lose them,» he comments. When they focus on customers, note carefully what they say and build a personal relationship with them, sellers use «the Socratic method» so that through the process of asking questions they can discover the customers’ real needs and cover them. In the end, a good seller will seal the agreement, maximizing the benefits for the customers, the corporation and himself.