Need-Based Sales Strategy

Cassi Niekamp of Cultivate Advisors joined the Global Workspace Association for its latest, members-only webinar. For this session, Cassi used her experience as a salesperson who works with a broader industry than just coworking to talk with members about developing flex sale skills. She will also be addressing a related common concern for coworking space owners, the how-to of the flex sale process, during her session at the FlexOffice Conference. If you’re not already signed up for that coworking conference, there’s still time to register on the FlexOffice 2018 website.

Sales Process Problems

Cassi polled GWA members prior to the webinar and found a number of commonalities in their struggles when it came to sales. Although the average number of tours per week varied greatly, many members identified similar struggles, including: clear and concise messaging, the ability to determine a potential member’s objections, implanting systematic follow-up procedures, and a need for new sales ideas.

As she began to address these concerns, Cassi stressed that a needs-based selling approach would offer sales techniques that were beneficial to both coworking space owners and operators and the members to whom they were trying to sell.

Saying No

Although the goal in developing better sales techniques is to increase membership and revenue, Cassi said it is equally important to be comfortable working with a potential member and arriving at a “no” regarding your space. Why? Because, just like your space will not be right for every prospective member, likewise not every member is right for your space. It is your job to offer the best service you can within the scope of your business and space, but no single space can cater to every person.

Cassi stressed that it is actually better to arrive at a “no” sooner rather than later, since it frees you up to focus on the next prospective client (who perhaps will be the right fit for your space).

5 Skills for Better Sales

As you think about your current and future sales techniques, here are five skills to keep in mind.

1.) Use open-ended questions

A needs-based sales model shifts your goal from selling to helping. Your goal should be to understand your prospective member so that you can help them find the space that will best fit their needs—regardless of whether the best option for space ends up being your business. In order to get to know the prospective member and their needs, consider questions like, “What are you looking for in a coworking space?” or “Why are you looking to change spaces?” instead of yes/no questions, like, “Do you like this desk area?”

Knowing what the potential member is looking for can help you highlight the parts of your space that will be most relevant to them rather than just the parts about your space that you like best.

Asking leading questions can also help give you an idea of how serious they are. For example, “How soon are you looking to begin working in your new space?” may give you a clue as to their timeline—and how quickly you can push toward closing.

2) Dig deeper

Once you’ve asked an open-ended question and gotten a response, always try to dig deeper. Use principles like “the five whys”—asking some type of “why” question to each response, five times, in order to try to arrive at the heart of the issue.

Remember that the first answer a client gives to a question might not be the core of their reasoning—or the core of what they need as a potential member of your space. However, by continuing to ask questions that intentionally dig deeper, you will not only demonstrate that you care, but you will also pick up on clues about whether this member would be right for your space, and what your space might have to offer them in their unique situation.

3) Find the real reason

If a potential member is going to say no to your space, there is usually one of two reasons: a product- or service-related reason (your space doesn’t offer the features they need), or a salesperson-related reason.

In the case of the former, it is best to quickly identify a member whose needs are not something your space can meet—finding out quickly avoids wasting both their time and yours. However, a rude salesperson, or a salesperson who simply fails to make the potential member feel comfortable is a potential barrier to attracting good members and is something you will want to address.

4) Validation

Make sure that in the process of asking your potential member questions, you also take a moment to ensure that you are understanding them correctly. Make a habit of repeating what they say back to them, with phrases such as, “So are you saying _________?”

Active listening practices like this make people feel important and heard within your space, and setting the precedent for your community as responsive and supportive is an invaluable component of your tour. This technique also gives you an opportunity to quickly identify where you may have misunderstood something the potential member said, which will allow you to correct and adapt sooner rather than later.

5) Ask questions the right way

While you’re asking questions, make sure that you stay positive, non-judgmental, and that you never make the potential member feel like you think they’re wrong. Don’t ever cut them off in the middle of a thought or argue with what they’re saying. Instead, ask follow-up questions aimed at understanding (but don’t ever, ever accuse them of misunderstanding something).

Although you’ll hopefully spend a lot of time asking questions, make sure that you are also prepared to answer questions in a thorough, positive manner as well.

What Members Need in Closing

As you reach the end of your tour and consider next steps, consider whether you have presented the three C’s needed to develop the trust between you and the potential member—character, competence, and common sense of purpose. These three values—knowing that you do business ethically, seeing that you are good at what you do, and finding a sense of common values and purpose—are what will lead to them trusting you enough to pursue membership in your space.

Be sure to clearly communicate your values and the services you can offer, and when you discuss company strengths, be sure to link it directly back to member value.

When a potential member is ready to be asked to close, they will often give indicators, such as asking about referral discounts, asking if a specific space is open, or asking when they could move in. Even if they don’t give these indicators, you can often figure out where they stand in regards to your space by asking, “Is there a reason why you wouldn’t want to become a member today?”

Again, if you ask this question, be sure to genuinely listen to the answer. Sometimes, you will learn about other factors (such as a business partner) that influences their decision or timeline. Sometimes, it will come down to a need in their office space that you cannot provide. Remember, this isn’t the time to be nervous: you’re trying to serve the potential member and their needs, not just sell your product.

If you aren’t able to close immediately, be sure to plan your follow up. Cassi recommended reaching out several times via several methods (phone, email, in-person, event invitations, etc.). Be creative with how you reach out. If the potential member mentions a business partner, invite both of them to an upcoming networking event. Ask someone who seemed interested in a high-demand office space to get back to you by a certain date, so that you can be respectful to other interested parties.

Lastly, paint a clear picture of the next steps toward closing, even if you aren’t closing that day. Make the move toward closing an upfront, easy process to your potential member, and then make an effort to continue to remind them of that several times before you “release” them (stop targeting them for follow-up).

To gain access to the full recording of this webinar as well as invitations to all future webinars, join the Global Workspace Association.

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