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Newsletter 248
July 24, 2012

In This Issue...
Sales Skills for Non-Salespeople
The Influence Model
Stakeholder Management
Dealing With People You Can't Stand
The Four-Step Innovation Process
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  Get Buy In!

When it comes to implementing your plans, it's often crucial to get "buy in" from others. So, how can you earn this?

First, in our article on Sales Skills for Non-Salespeople, find out how to use "consultative selling" to win support for your initiatives.

Then, learn how to use the Influence Model to get help from other people - even if you don't have authority over them.

Finally, read our article on Stakeholder Management, so that you can keep key people on board once your project gets going.

Enjoy these resources!

  James & Rachel
  James Manktelow and Rachel Thompson
MindTools.com - Essential skills for an excellent career!
Featured Resources at Mind Tools
Sales Skills for Non-Salespeople
Using "Consultative Selling" to Pitch Your Idea or Product

Good sales skills are important, whatever role you're in. Learn how to sell an idea to your manager, team, and customers.
All Readers' Skill-Builder
Sales Skills for Non-Salespeople
The Influence Model
Gaining Influence With Reciprocity

Find out how to influence others, even if you don't have authority over them. All Readers' Skill-Builder
The Influence Model
Stakeholder Analysis and Management
Planning Stakeholder Communication

Effective stakeholder management is critical to the success of large projects. Learn how to manage stakeholders successfully.
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Stakeholder Management
... And From the Mind Tools Club
Dealing With People You Can't Stand, With Dr Rick Brinkman Speaker

In this interview, Dr Rick Brinkman offers tips for working with difficult people, and highlights clear steps for communicating with them effectively. Premium Members' Expert Interview
Dealing With People You Can't Stand
The Four-Step Innovation Process
Generating Innovative Solutions to Complex Problems

Find out how to generate innovative solutions using this four-step problem-solving process. All Members' Skill-Builder
The Four-Step Innovation Process
Learning Strategies

To grow and develop in your job, you have to learn all sorts of things. Find out how to learn effectively in this training session.
All Members' Bite-Sized Training™
Learning Strategies
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Editors' Choice Article
Sales Skills for Non-Salespeople
Using "Consultative Selling" to Pitch Your Idea or Product

Are you trying to convince your manager to develop a new product, but can't get him or her to take things further? Or, would you like to introduce a new system for your team to use, but can't get people's support?

Perhaps you come into contact with clients and have the opportunity to sell new products and services - if so, do you know how to be an effective salesperson without having to resort to pushy sales tricks?

It's good to know some sales techniques, even if you don't work in a formal sales role. Whether you're trying to convince a new person to join your organization, or you're describing a new product to a client over a catch-up call, knowing how to sell is a great ability to have, and it's one that's sure to earn you respect within your company.
Sales Person
Sales skills are useful whatever the role you're in.
© iStockphoto/shironosov
In this article, we'll look at the consultative sales model, and examine how you can apply it to sell an idea, product, or service. We'll explore how to prepare, what to say, and how to handle questions and objections, so that your next "sale" will be a success.

Consultative Selling

In consultative selling you act as a consultant: you help identify the needs of your client (in this case, your team, boss, or external customers), and then suggest products and solutions that meet those needs.

Consultative selling demands a higher level of trust and credibility than some other sales models. So, it's a great model to use, simply because that foundation of trust is probably already there - if you're selling an idea to the executive board, your boss, your team, or current clients and customers, you've hopefully got a good relationship already in place, and you can use this to your advantage.

Also, because consultative selling focuses on helping your audience (rather than helping yourself to "make a sale"), it's more natural and intuitive, so it's easier to use if you're not a natural salesperson.


Whether you're selling an idea, a project, a product, or even a job in your organization, you must enter that situation with an expert understanding of your audience, and of what they care about.

So effective selling means lots of preparation, meaning that much of your work will come before you speak to the people you're selling to.

Follow these tips to help in your preparation process:
  • Identify your target audience - Is it your boss, a key client, or your team? And is just one person involved, or do you need to influence other stakeholders in his or her organization?

  • Identify key drivers - You must understand what's driving your audience. For instance, if your organization's goal is to increase profits by 10 percent this year, how will your product, idea, or project help people accomplish that goal?

  • Identify the language that people use - For example, if you're addressing a technical audience, be prepared to present using technical language and ideas. If you're selling to finance people, use numbers and data to craft your message.

  • Determine exactly what you're "selling" - Is it a new payroll feature? A new product idea? A new reporting process for your department's most important client? Identify what it is, and learn as much as you can about it.

  • Connect your audience and your product with benefits - Marketers and salespeople understand that there's a distinct difference between features and benefits. This is because your audience cares about only one thing: "What's in it for me?" So, it's crucial to know the key differences:

    • Features are what your product or idea does. For instance, the new accounting software that you want everyone to use is fast and easy, and it has real-time reporting. These are the features of the software.

    • Benefits are what those features mean to your audience. For instance, the accounting software's benefits are that people will have more time to do other tasks, they'll be less stressed when they're using the program, and they'll get up-to-date information from the system.

Features are boring, and people have to think quite hard to see the possibilities within them. But when you translate those features into benefits, you make an immediate connection with your audience.

When you're doing your pre-meeting preparation, focus on identifying the benefits of your idea or product, so that you can communicate this information to your audience.

  • Understand the needs of your target audience - Identify problems that your product or idea will help solve, and needs that it will address. This will directly impact the way you pitch, or sell, your idea. If you're speaking with people who are not in your industry, make sure that you use words and terms that they can understand.

  • Highlight your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) - People buy the best possible solution that meets their needs and their budget. Make sure that you highlight what makes your product, idea, or project uniquely relevant to them.
The more you practice your presentation or pitch, the more comfortable you'll feel when you actually deliver it.

However, focus your preparation on fully understanding your product, service or idea, so that you can answer questions in detail. If your answers are too polished, there's a risk that you'll stop listening to what your audience is saying.

During the "Pitch"

Here are a few guidelines to follow during your pitch:
  • Have a conversation - You want to connect with your audience, so your presentation or pitch should feel more like a conversation. It may be unappealing to your audience - and to you - to get up in front of people and "sell" them something. But you can talk enthusiastically about an idea or product that you really believe in, and you can then explore, with your audience, how it will help them.

  • Ask questions - Involving your audience is key to keeping them engaged. If you meet with someone individually, like a client or your boss, then be sure to listen as much as you talk. If you're presenting to a group, invite questions at key stages during the presentation.

  • Focus on "helping" instead of "selling" - Consultative selling means that you identify what your audience needs. Focus on these, and keep your own goals and agenda out of the conversation.

  • Watch body language - Pay attention to everyone's body language during your pitch. If people start to look bored or move their hands and feet a lot, then you need to finish, or move on to the next part of your pitch.
Dealing with Objections

No matter what you're pitching, your audience will probably have some objections or reservations. If you haven't prepared for this, then it may cause you to become frustrated and lose some control. That's why knowing how to think on your feet to overcome these objections is so important.

It's helpful to realize that objections aren't a definite "no." They show that people in your audience are listening to what you are saying, and are actively considering your proposal. So, objections are your opportunity to address their fears, reassure them, and move forward positively.

Whenever your audience presents an objection, you should ask questions. For instance, if your colleague says that the new process you've created will be too expensive to implement right now, you may choose one of these responses:
  1. "If we do nothing about this problem, how much will it cost us over the next year?"

  2. "What if we start with just one department, and see how much this improves productivity?"
When you approach objections with questions, it helps you find the real root of the issue. It also shows your client or audience that you are aware of their concerns, and that you want to work with them to find a solution.

If you don't know the answer to a question, then admit this. Say that you'll find out, and then get back to the questioner afterwards, quickly, with a full answer.

"Closing the Sale"

If you don't get a decision on the day, give your audience time to think about things. But don't leave this open-ended. Your chances of a successful sale drop dramatically if you don't get some kind of commitment from them.

So, as you're finishing your pitch, set a specific date or time to speak with them again. This will also give you the opportunity to tailor your pitch if required, based on any issues or objections they may have.

If you discover that your product or idea truly isn't a good fit with your audience, then withdraw gracefully. People rarely do this, so it may be a pleasant surprise to your audience, and they'll likely be receptive to you the next time you speak to them.

No matter what you're selling, there are going to be key stakeholders that you need on your side for your idea or project to succeed. This is why stakeholder management is so important. These key players can make or break your project!

Our article on Stakeholder Management will help you learn how to manage your communication and relationship with these key players.

Key Points

Many of us need to use sales techniques from time to time. So, learning how to prepare and pitch your idea or product effectively is a great skill to have. As a non-salesperson, the consultative selling model is an effective model to use, because it uses trust and respect as its foundation.

A good rule for successful selling is to ensure that you put in plenty of preparation time. Practice your pitch, and make sure that you fully understand the benefits, not just the features, of your product or idea.

Keep your pitch like a conversation, pay attention to body language for clues that your audience may be getting bored, and view objections as opportunities to put people's minds at rest.
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A Final Note

Make sure that you know how to get buy in from the right people - without this, it's so much harder to reach your objectives.

Next week we're looking at how you can develop your business by taking controlled risks.

See you then!

James Manktelow

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