It appears Scottish Power has become the latest of the so-called 'Big Six' energy firms to cut its standard gas price.

The 4.8% cut will come into effect on 20 February – benefiting 1.1 million of its customers. E.ON has already implemented a 3.5% reduction following a 30% fall in wholesale costs over the past 12 months, though firms have argued it will take time for this to filter through because raw energy is purchased up to three years in advance.

But it seems consumer groups say that when wholesale prices increase, well, the bills will just increase as well! And consumers continue to log their disapproval of energy suppliers with the Consumer watchdog Which? saying that its consumer satisfaction survey showed the market is still falling short of meeting customers' needs.

As a result, it seems smaller providers are putting up the pressure on the Big Six as they concentrate on customer service delivery.

The best performer was Gloucestershire-based Ecotricity with a score of 84 per cent, followed by Wiltshire-based Good Energy (82 per cent), the not-for-profit supplier Ebico (81 per cent), Bristol-based Ovo Energy (80 per cent) and Utility Warehouse (76 per cent).

Pretty impressive scores! But let’s face it, the world is filled with competition with many businesses fighting for the same sale.

Competition is here to stay and likely to keep increasing. Whether it’s the energy suppliers or supermarkets, many of us find ourselves selling similar products or services.

Our businesses can look very similar from the outside in. Customers are more demanding and educated and so we all now need a point of difference.

Here are our 5 Top Tips to help you sell successfully:-

1. Sell to people

Selling is only directed at people. You can’t make a sale unless it’s to another person – people buy people.

So understand that every sales presentation must be different because you’ll never find two identical people. Every prospective buyer has different aspirations, requirements, wants and needs.

They all come from different backgrounds and work in different businesses. They all have different pressures to cope with and different targets to achieve. They all have different people to report or respond to. Be interested in THEM.

You must attract people to yourself. To be interesting you must first be interested. Clients and customers should look forward to their meetings with you or to hearing from you on the phone.

If we have a choice none of us would do business with someone we don’t like!

2. Listen

This is, of course, common sense. Yet very sadly, very few salespeople really listen. They think they’re listening but what they’re really doing is thinking about what they’re going to say next.

We have two ears and one mouth and that’s the ratio in which to use them.

You’ll learn far more by listening that you ever will by talking. Listen attentively to what is said and what is NOT being said as well!

An enquiry about price is a buying signal.

An enquiry about a delivery date is a buying signal. An enquiry about colour or style is a buying signal. Listen out for these problems or worries that your prospect might have. It’s essential while you’re listening you’re not tempted to interrupt and immediately offer or provide solutions. These can come later.

A professional salesperson is a problem-solver and every sale solves a problem.

3. Link features to benefits

In reality, customers are interested in purchasing the benefits of your product or service NOT the features.

For example, a motor car has many features – such as power steering, automatic door locking, overdrive, a sun roof and so forth. Now let’s link these features to benefits.

The vehicle has power steering, which means that it’s light to handle, particularly I n small areas and after a long journey you’ll arrive feeling less tired. It has automatic door locking which means that when you shut the door and lock the driver’s door all the doors are safely locked which is really useful on a cold or wet day.

It has overdrive, which means you will have greater fuel economy and with the price of petrol this could be a great saving.

A very useful link phrase to use is “Which means that…” What does this feature actually mean to the customer?

What’s in it for them? Why should they care? Your company may be the biggest and the longest established (feature), but so what?

What really counts is what this actually means for your buyer.

Being ‘the biggest’ may mean “We have the experience, expertise and resources to satisfy all of your requirements.” (benefit)

4. Don’t rely on logic

What is it that causes people to make a decision to buy? Logic or emotion?

Research shows that 84% of decisions are based on emotion, not logic. People buy people. If there’s a choice, we will not do business with someone we don’t like (see point 1).

Many salespeople have been trained to find a need, to prove a need and to see the need. All this does is create ‘hard selling’ – now an outdated technique.

I could prove to you very quickly that you NEED some more life insurance. But do you WANT some?

The good salesperson will find the need, but will not sell the need.

They will turn that need into a WANT by selling the RESULTS of either having or not having it – and so tapping into the buyer’s emotions.

The main buying emotions include:-

• Health

• Security

• Prestige

• Fear of loss

• Price of ownership

• Ego

• Ambition

• Status

• Greed

People will always find the money for the things they WANT, not necessarily for what they need.

5. Don’t knock the competition

Don’t knock them to your prospect. But it’s equally important that you don’t fear them, If you show concern about the competition, your client will be concerned as well, will lose confidence in your – and will want to research what you have to offer in more depth.

When asking about them, you may say, “Very good operation; quite good products” or “Been in business for year; a bit old fashioned nowadays but nice people.”

In some sales situations, your presentation will be just one of many that the client has organised, they are looking to see what’s on offer and you’ll be proposing against a competitor.

Don’t fear it!

Ask in the politest way possible about the other companies your client may be seeing.

Then using your industry knowledge, steal the thunder from your competition: explain your competitors’ USPs, because they will if you won’t. Then when your competitor labours his USPs, it will all appear a little stale and dated.

If you know your prospective customer will be having a series of meetings with your competitors to make a comparison prior to making a decision, always try to get yourself into the position of going in again at the end of the meeting schedule:-

“My Buyer, may I ask that prior to making any decisions, you allow me to visit you when you have seen the proposals and had a chance to consider them? As you know, I want to secure your business. May I fix a time, when it would be most convenient to pop in and see you again at that stage?”

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