Reviewing and improving your sales process should be repeated throughout the year, and the best way to go about doing so is by evaluating and refining your sales process.

I remember my coach, Frank Blau, preaching to me: “Jimmy, you have to schmooze the customer. You schmooze the customer and you succeed.” I must admit, in the beginning, I had no idea what Blau meant, and I actually cringed at the word “schmooze” until I learned that it meant to have an intimate and meaningful conversation. As time went on, I came to understand how this idea applied to the sales process.

Sales success isn’t about assaulting customers with product features and benefits, and it certainly isn’t about telling them that you have the best products available, the best price, or the greatest company. Resist the urge to drone on and on about how you stand behind everything you do, how you install a particular piece of equipment, or the fact that you’re better than anyone else in the industry at what you do. Put simply, your sales strategy shouldn’t be about you.

Successful sales are the result of a three-step process. If your company hasn’t yet mastered these steps, you’ll likely find it hard to achieve success.


Step 1: Gather information

Gathering information is all about asking the right questions. You can’t gather information if you are constantly raving about the excellence of your company. Ask questions, ask more questions, and then ask a few more. If it helps, use the standard, “Who, what, when, where, and why” model. Asking the right questions at the right time will allow you to obtain the information you need to make that big sale.

Encourage customers to tell you more with follow-up questions such as “What else,” “What about other family members,” or, “What are your wants and needs?” What you’re really trying to gather is the story of your customer and the events that led you to his or her door.

Show the customer that you have a vested interest in helping to solve their problems. I consider this to be a critical step in building up a healthy rapport, and the more follow-up questions you can ask, the better.

And remember — you shouldn’t be making statements to your customers. Statements ultimately take the spotlight away from them. People love to talk about themselves; encourage them to do so by prodding further.

I’ve been in this business a long time, and I consistently see sales die on the vine because the salesman doesn’t follow this simple rule. The customer has the floor; let them embrace it. You and your team are responding to their immediate needs. The more you encourage the customer to speak, the more they will appreciate you as a listener and as someone who is easy to communicate with.

In the case of most everyday conversations, most people listen with the intent to respond. Successful salesmen listen with the intent to listen. Truly putting in that extra effort to learn from and understand your customer when it comes to their specific needs will put you in a more well-informed position. It also increases your credibility as a salesman.

Nexstar’s sales training courses dive much deeper into this idea, and since I only have so many words to make my point, I would encourage you to take the time to learn about our Sales and Service System classes.


Step 2: Take action

This is the step where you put all of that great listening to use. Take into account everything you heard from the customer about their specific situation. You’ll be able to recommend the best possible product your company offers, giving the customer exactly what he or she needs, when he or she needs it.

Here’s an example. Let’s say a customer tells you that their family members are constantly racing to be the first one in the shower before the hot water runs out. They’ve explained the entire situation to you, and you’ve been listening closely.

You might say something like this: “While I was listening, I noticed you said it was important to keep the cost of any repairs down due to your budget constraints. There are a few options I have in mind for you that are both low-cost and reliable. Did I interpret your situation correctly?”

Notice how the salesman emphasized the customers’ concerns and restrictions first, before offering any options. This lets them know that their needs come first, and sales come second.


Step 3: Shut up

Ok, that may be a blunt way to put it, but it’s true. The customer who speaks, buys. I see this step botched all the time by salesmen that just can’t keep their mouths shut. This ties back in with the listening element. Give your customer the time of day to agree to a sale.

Follow these three steps and you’ll soon find your sales skyrocketing. Learn to follow this sales process, then train your entire team. And always remember: Listen with the intent to listen. Success will follow.


This article was originally titled “Shut up and listen” in the July 2018 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.