Sales conversations are called CONVERSATIONS for a reason.We have regulations around unsolicited sales call and emails, but conversations are a whole different ball game. Have you ever been networking, with genuine intention of meeting and building relationships only to find people just want to sell to you? Yeah, me too, frustrating isn’t it?

Last week I was speaking at an event where we also had an exhibition stand. I love exhibitions because it gives you a real chance to chat to people, find out about them and test out your ideas, while hopefully starting to build relationships. I am constantly surprised by the number of people who arrive at these shows expecting to sell to exhibitors – they go round the show dishing out leaflets, going on to stands and transmitting their sales pitch, without invitation and usually to the wrong person. This is not a rant about people who do that, more a reminder of how easy sales conversations can be if you actually have a conversation!

I believe one of the reasons my team do so well at exhibitions is because we take the time to listen to delegates, we ask them about themselves, what they do, what they are struggling with or interested in long before we start talking about what we do. Why? Because it enables us to engage with them in a way that is valuable to them, relevant to them and hopefully moves our relationship forward, not necessarily just to a sale, but we start to get to know a bit about each other. This is just as important for us as the exhibitor. We are effectively qualifying people for our services, where are they in their journey, what would be the most appropriate next step – if any for them, and how ready they are to take a next step. All of this enables us to make the most useful suggestions for next steps, a sign up to something digital, a copy of my book, a one to one call to explore further.

This exhibition strategy is taken from our sales model which put simply is

Ask – Tell – Ask 

Ask – first to discover and meet them where they are. So if the person is someone you are conversing with for the first time, ask a bit about them, why they do what they do etc.  If you know them slightly better, move straight to problems, challenges and aspirations.  In this conversation people will tell you how you can help them, what they might be prepared to buy, and how to position what you are selling. All you actually have to do is listen carefully and ask some quality questions.

Tell – them how you can help to solve their problem or get them nearer to the aspiration, making sure you reflect back their language and way of describing things – not imposing your own to fit your product or service. Be clear about what you can do, what it entails from them – input, time & cost for example. It’s key here you give people enough information for them to make a decision.

Ask – for the business!  You would be surprised how many people forget (or ignore) this key step, usually because they feely ‘icky’ about asking for a sale. If you don’t you are kind of left with an awkward silence where the potential customer is expected to take the lead – if they don’t, you have no sale.

This simple method enables you to drive the conversation. Listening enables you to offer the best advice, the right next step and gives you a much greater chance of closing the deal. So next time you are tempted to babble out your sales pitch at anyone who will listen – willingly or not, STOP.

Get out of your own head, your own self-consciousness, and think about the other person. What might they need? Then have a conversation.