Selling is a function of business and is the key activity in your company. If you have no sales, you will not need a bookkeeper, a stock clerk, or anyone associated with production. No one will be needed to clean or dust. No one will be making deliveries. This being said, when asked if they like to sell, most people say that they do not. Why? My theory is that the act of attempting a sale includes the taking of a risk of rejection and most people see rejection as failure. So what? The best baseball players in the world fail to get a hit 60+ percent of their times at bat. They get highly rewarded for a 25 percent (.250 avg.) success rate. If they are successful 40 percent of the time (.400 avg.), people think they are seeing the reincarnation of Ty Cobb. Successful selling calls for intelligent solutions to problems that customers face. Find an affordable solution for the customer’s problem and they will buy. But, is a potential customer a prospect or just a suspect for a sale? Four conditions must all be present for a customer to be identified as a prospect, or someone who will likely buy. These are abbreviated and remembered using the acronym NADA (Need, Ability, Desire, Authority). If one or more of these conditions is missing, you may only have a suspect or someone who MIGHT buy from you. All four must be present before a sale can occur.

The condition identified as “Need” is straightforward in nature. Does this customer have a situation that can be solved by utilizing your product or service? “Ability” is whether or not the customer has adequate funding to consummate the purchase. Funding is considered here to include cash or credit. “Desire” exists when the customer actively envisions having ownership, possession, or enjoyment of your product or service for his or her use. “Authority” concludes the list. Authority is whether or not the customer has the right or latitude to make the purchase at his/her discretion.

An example of how these items must be present for a sale to occur is if one partner in a business desires a new company auto but does not have signatory authority for purchasing at a high enough level to pay the vendor. He needs a car and decides that the company has the money to pay for it. He really wants and likes the car but knows that he has insufficient spending authority to cover the price. He consequently walks away from the lot and does not buy the car. Need, Ability, and Desire are present, but Authority is missing. No sale occurs. This is neither failure to sell nor rejection of an attempt to close, but did the car salesman do his job? No. He failed to qualify the suspect as a prospect by investigating whether or not the person in the conversation had sole spending authority. One should question potential customers in the early part of the sales conversation. Listen for and be alert to clues regarding what the suspect is looking for, how the transaction will be paid for, why or when will the purchase occur, and is the person you are talking with the sole decision maker. Remove any obstacles you identify at this point and you are rapidly moving to either a successful sale or on to a new “Suspect/Prospect” transaction. Failure occurs when too much time is spent with a suspect and real prospects are missed. This is an inexact science and must be practiced.

Follow up the suspect/prospect qualification with a feature and benefit analysis and ask for the sale. Failure occurs when no close is attempted, no objections are answered, or the sale becomes solely an issue of price. Make no mistake that price is not an important part of the process, but when all things are equal, price is not as large an issue as one might imagine. Price is merely the qualifier in the discussion on generic product features. Save discussion of it to last and the sale will often be made with the price becoming an information point, not an obstacle.

(Source: Ron Simmons, SBDC Gainesville Office)