This is a guest post by Will Lien of Frequent Flosser.
During the last five years as a registered dental hygienist, I had to learn to how to effectively communicate with my dental hygiene patients. My patients were saying “no” to my treatment recommendations and consequently their gums (and supporting bone) remained in an unhealthy state.
I knew that for me to serve my dental hygiene patients the best I could I had to learn how to communicate to them the benefits of my services and have them agree to treatment; in essence I had to turn their “no’s” into “yeses.” Thus began my journey into sales/communications.
The first book that inspired me to learn about communications was Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” In Mr. Kiyosaki’s books he stresses the importance of the fundamental skill any business person or investor must have – knowing how to sell.
Since I was working in a business (i.e. dental office) I knew that part of the communications process was selling. I never planned on learning about sales or communications but I knew that it was part of becoming a more effective dental hygienist; I wanted my patients to accept my treatment recommendations.
Below you will first learn about the basic steps in the sales process and the top 10 Skills of the Expert Salesman – things you can do today to begin your journey to becoming “expert enough” in sales.
The Sales Process – Overview
1. Finding Potential Customers
Many in the sales field call this initial (and very important step) “prospecting” and they like to call these people “prospects.” I like to use another name – “potential customers” or “potential patients.”
To find potential customers/patients, your first job will be to get the word out. This includes marketing and promoting the business you work at. You can do this through word of mouth, print media, the internet, etc. Whatever method you choose, the first step is to put yourself where your potential customers can learn about you.
2. Qualifying Your “Potential Customers”
Qualification means to make sure your potential customers have interest in your product/services, the intent to proceed within a reasonable time frame, and have the means to move forward.
A prime example of this is in the field of real estate. If you go to a real estate agent you may say, “I want to buy a house.” The real estate agent knows you are interested in purchasing a home and are ready to proceed. The seasoned real estate agent will then want you go to the mortgage company and get pre-approved for a loan.
This way the real estate agent knows that you have the financial means to purchase a home – congratulations you have just become a qualified homebuyer!
Once you qualify your patients you now give your presentation about the services or products you have to offer. An effective strategy may be to involve your potential customers in the presentation as much as possible.
Whatever product or service you sell make sure to know the benefits of what you have to offer. Your potential customers will have questions about your offerings; the more you can educate them the more credible you will be.
As a dental hygienist, you may have your patients demonstrate the use of an electric toothbrush or a new product. As a photo-copy machine salesman you may have your potential customers use the machine to collate, staple, or make double sided copies. Whatever it is get your potential customers involved in the sales process and give them a chance to experience “ownership” of your offering.
4. Handling Objections
Receiving a “no” to your offering is something every salesperson will inevitably experience in their career. It’s hard at first to be rejected but remember its just part of the process. You should also remember that the potential customer is not rejecting you as a person – they are just making a business decision.
You will get to the point where you enjoy hearing “no” because it gives you the opportunity to learn more about what your potential customers want and value. Then as you learn more and more about common objections you can anticipate them and prepare appropriately for the inevitable objections.
5. Closing the Sale
You’re now on the homestretch and have overcome your potential customer’s objections. You sense your customer is ready to buy; it’s time to close the sale.
A very effective close for a new salesperson is the “assumptive close.” In your mind you just “assume” your potential customer will accept. Easier said than done in the beginning because you will struggle against your mind telling you, “They’re not going to buy. They don’t like the product. They can’t afford it.”
Just assume the potential customer will become a “customer” because you will speak with more confidence. Try these assumptive closes and see how it works for you:
“When would you like to proceed with your treatment? When would you like it shipped to you? What color do you want it in?”
Congratulations! Your potential customer has now become a customer! Make sure to do what you promised and deliver the benefits you discussed. If you have done an extraordinary job with your customers be on the lookout for ways to add referrals to the business your work at.
As a dental hygienist, I was always on the lookout for ways to add to the practice’s patient base – a friend moving into the area, a new child in the family, or a disgruntled husband or wife (at another dental office of course). If you have served your patient/customer they’ll want to share the experience with family and friends. Just say, “If they need any help let us know. We’d be happy to help them too.”
Top Ten Skills of the Master Salesman
To become a master salesman like Mr. Kiyosaki the fundamental skill you should learn first is how to listen. Listen to what your potential customers say about what they want, what they need, and what they like. If you are talking a mile a minute how will your customer tell you this?
However, don’t just listen to their words. Dig a little deeper and try to figure out what they “really want.” Listen for emotions, fears, and goals beneath the words your potential customers are saying. Is it freedom from worry? Is it to feel younger? Is it to feel respected? Truly understand what your customers value and the first step is listening attentively.
2. Have Your Mission Firmly In Place
With your mission firmly in place you will have the confidence necessary to sell your product or service. You know your service or products will benefit your potential customers and add massive value to their lives. This defined mission will help get you through the eventual challenging times in your selling career and help your persevere to your goals.
3. Customer Service
Serving your customers the best you can will help build your relationship with your customers. Be responsive. Be courteous. Take care of their needs. Become their “servant.” This makes repeat business possible and referrals much easier; you may get to the point in your selling career where your customers inadvertently become part of your lead generation team.
4. Who, What, When, Where, Why, How?
Questions help you gather more information about what your potential customers want and what they value. You can also use questions to clarify statements made by your potential customers to really understand what they are saying. Also, by asking questions you make your potential customers really think about their answers and therefore give you better information.
For you to master any skill you must continually practice. Think of yourself as a professional athlete but the “game” you’re playing is “sales.” As an athlete you must learn skills, master these skills through repetition, and then “play the game.” To get better you will need to repeat each skill until mastered.
6. Learn One Skill at a Time
I learned from Mr. Kiyosaki to learn one skill at a time. Learn to listen first. Once you are an expert listener begin to ask questions. Once you are an expert at asking questions then move onto handling objections. Continue until you master the skills of the salesperson.
7. Saying “Thank You”
Saying “thank you” is a simple gesture but a powerful customer service tool. Saying thank you helps keep you grateful and demonstrates to your customers/patients that you truly care about them. This will help establish a longstanding relationship with the people you serve.
8. Face Your Fears
Fear, when you begin this journey, may be a constant companion. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of the unknown are the common ones you will face. However, if you have your mission firmly established this will make the fear more manageable.
For me, helping my dental hygiene patients was what made me face my fears day after day. My mission, to serve my patient’s dental hygiene needs, was what pushed me to present treatment and demonstrate various tools knowing that many will say no. One day you’ll come to find that you are looking at fear in the rear view mirror.
9. Putting Customer Needs Before Your Own
The best sales people I have met put their custmers’ needs before their own. Only if you can provide true benefits and maximum value can a sale be made. I’ve had some salespeople tell me they won’t accept a sale if their clients can get the same value for a cheaper price with their current provider. Putting your customers’ needs before your own helps create credibility and potential future sales because it demonstrates unusual sacrifice for another person.
10. Start With Minor Yeses
The goal of the sales process is to have your potential customers say yes. To get them there start with “minor yeses” and build you way to “major yeses.” Minor yeses can be answers to simple everyday questions, “Wouldn’t you say our goal is to help keep your teeth as long as possible? Isn’t it true that bacteria causes cavities? It’s such sunny day isn’t it?”
The questions obviously have “yes” answers. Then, after the patient is more receptive you go for the “major yeses.” Major yeses can be high-value gum treatment or crowns. But to get your customers to these high value treatments you should solicit some minor yeses first.
Jeff Johnson in his movie “180 degree South” said, “A friend once told me, ‘The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask.’ ” It is through this journey into communications and sales that you will learn much more than you can ever imagine and answer questions “you didn’t even think to ask.” Journey well.