The Proposition. Last time we explored how to determine the customer’s needs. To do that you will have asked open ended questions beginning with What…? How…? When…? Why…? etc. (The use of Why..? should be limited as it can appear critical and lead to conflict). Once you feel you have a clear understanding of the customer’s needs you MUST get his agreement by summarising them something like this:-

“so from what you tell me Mr (Customer) it seems that what you are looking for is to be able to (…need…) (…need…) (…need…) is that about the size of it?”

Or perhaps:-

“so from what you tell me Mr (Customer) it seems that you are looking for someone who is able to (…need…) (…need…) (…need…) have I got it right?”

If you have got it wrong he will correct you. It is important that you both agree on the needs before you launch into your sales proposition. Once you have got his agreement on his needs you can introduce your sales proposition:-

“well in that case, I think we can help you. I think we have the skills to meet your requirements, let’s have a look and see”

This is a simple but effective lead into the introduction of how your company can meet the customer’s needs and the presentation of your sales proposition which must relate the benefits of using your service to the agreed needs using well constructed “selling statements”.

You can construct selling statements for all you products and services by completing a product/service analysis form similar to the example shown below.

 Product/Service Analysis Form (example)

because we work for you on contract it means you don’t have to pay employee overheads such as – sick / holiday pay, National Insurance contributions, private healthcare, pensions etc. profit
You only pay for the exact time you need us to work for you which means you are not paying for down-time such as tea/lunch breaks profit
because you can hand your routine tasks to someone else it will allow you time to focus on and develop your business. Gaining time back will enable you to clear your outstanding ‘to do’ list and use your time for profit making activities profit/leisure
also we can represent your company professionally on a full time availability basis so you can maintain a professional team dynamic even if you only use us for a few hours each week pride
I am a registered
bookkeeper and have up to date qualifications
which means that we are aware of the latest regulations and you can be secure in the knowledge that your accounts are up to date fear/security
because I am already trained in all office and accounting software you can take advantage of skills you don’t have pride/security
and I am also a business owner so you can be confident that I understand your problems and can lend a sympathetic ear pleasure

There are six main requirements for an effective sales proposition:-

It must relate to the IDENTIFIED NEEDS of the customer

1. It must be clear simple and concise
2. It must itemise the BENEFITS the customer will obtain from the product or service, related to identified NEEDS
3. It should only include features of the product or service which relate to the customer in question
4. It should NOT go on for longer than is absolutely necessary
5. It should not include technical phraseology which the customer may not understand



Once you have covered all the identified needs and matched them by your product offering you can draw your proposition to a close:-

“so as you can see, Mr. (Customer) our product/service will (…benefit…) (…benefit…) and (…benefit…) and, as these were the things you were mainly concerned about, I think it meets your requirements very well, now (…request the order…)”

In fact the opportunity to ask for an order can crop up at any time. The salesman can CREATE opportunities to ask for the order by using effective Selling Statements, inviting customer agreement and WATCHING and LISTENING for the customer’s REACTION.

Customers are REACTING all the time to what salesmen SAY and DO. They may indicate INTEREST by:-

a)     Asking questions about the product

b)    Asking advice

c)     Asking the price

d)    A change of body position (sitting up straight)

e)     Handling your company literature

f)      A comment indicating satisfaction

Or they may indicate LACK of INTEREST by:-

a)     Looking at wrist watch

b)    Gazing into space

c)     Change of body position (slouching)

d)    Raising objections etc.

If you have followed the procedures described carefully and without skipping any of the steps there is a very real chance that when you ask for the order you will make the sale, BUT, there is always a but isn’t there, objections can arise even to the best prepared sales proposition. Next time I will show you how an objection can be turned to your advantage and it is not something to be feared but should be welcomed because it shows that your customer has been listening to you.

Eric Alston is a former head of European sales for a major international chemical company