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I actually really miss selling. Sometimes marketing feels so distant from the actual product and customer itself. It shouldn’t, but it often does, particularly in larger organizations.

I have been blessed in career to have sold to some really great customers. I don’t look at sales as something “slimy”. There is nothing more gratifying than actually meeting a need that a customer has had for a long time.

In an ideal world, a great product sells itself. This mentality will hurt you though. Why? Because your competitor may have a product that isn’t good, but has an aggressive sales staff that closes every deal it gets its hands on. For those of you who would like to learn a process to compete against people like these, I’ve broken down my sales process for you:

1.) Break the ice first. I’ve found breaking the ice varies from region to region. Southern women tend to take the longest, while those in the Bay Area and Northeast want to get straight to the point. If you launch too quickly into your pitch, your intentions to sell are too obvious and you may be wasting everyone’s time anyway.

2.) Ask questions. This is the most underrated aspect of selling. Ask about problems and pain points that may pertain to your product. Ask budget and time frame. Ask if they are looking at competitors and why. The more information you get, the more specialized you can be when actually solving a problem (which theoretically your product should do).

3.) Create a solution. Depending on what you sell, this could or could not be complicated. A tip? When you get to this step, you should be able to say, “Because you said you wanted something that __________, I’m recommending ________.” Or you could use “Product X solves (insert customer problem here) by doing ____________. Show how your product solves problems versus merely pushing a solution on someone.

4.) Clarify that your solution actually does indeed solve a problem. Does your customer still have concerns at this point? Are they satisfied with your solution? If not, return to step #2.

5.) Ask for the business. Remember that time frame is key for this. If your customer told you they aren’t looking to buy for a few weeks, you can “always be closing” by asking for a follow up appointment instead of a sale.

I hope this helps. I get really bummed when I see great products floundering because “they aren’t ready yet” or because “they don’t have the time to sell”.

Michelle Greer is a Senior Manager of Developer Outreach for the Rackspace Cloud.  You can find her other musings on sales, marketing and social media at michellesblog.net.