I love sales, and am proud to be a salesperson. I have been working in sales since I was 18, and in that time I have learned a lot about how to be effective in sales – as well as what not to do. Here are my top five tips for selling:
- Invest in regular training for yourself and your team, both internally and externally. Never think you can’t learn from your peers; the amount salespeople can learn from one another’s experiences is unbelievable. In fact, I believe you can learn from anyone, at any level, about how to improve your own sales skills. Encourage your salespeople to work together as a team and to share ideas and best practices wherever possible, rather than having them pitted against eachother at every turn. Yes, it’s good to have a little friendly competition with leaderboards and the like, but ultimately everyone in your organisation is on the same side and that is important to remember.
- Study the competition. Never, ever speak badly of your competition in sales meetings; that is never a good approach. Your product should be strong enough to sell on its own without having to knock others down. It is important to know what you’re up against though. Make sure you are clear on how your product is different and better to your competitors’ and make sure these points are clearly outlined in sales meetings – without ever mentioning that “we are better than this product because…” Sign up for your competitors’ mailing lists, and watch their social media to see what they are doing – and what is working for them. Sometimes you might copy them, but always look for unique ways to package, deliver and communicate; ways to add value that thay have not considered, making each point you gain a value-added point of difference. It’s always worth looking at what other people in your sector are doing, and what they’re not doing; it’s worth knowing all the parts of their service and always asking their customers, what are the weaknesses of the competition that you can exploit…but perhaps in a more indirect way. I see selling as a race: every touch point, each interaction is a way of communicating that you are more effective, more efficient, more available, more accessible – indeed just better in multiple ways, those that work harder, offer more service agility and flexibility as small companies often can, they win the race.
- Never, ever knowingly break a promise. Whatever you are selling, you are asking your customer to trust you and no matter the size or cost of the order, it is important to respect the trust they have put in you. It is absolutely heartbreaking for a salesperson to guarantee something and then to be let down by the supply chain, but it does happen sometimes. Always aim to under promise and over deliver, consistently delighting your customers wherever you can. Don’t underestimate the value of good service; your product might be the best on the market but if your service is not up to scratch people will look elsewhere. Sometimes broken promises are unavoidable, and at these times communication is key. Always pick up the phone to apologise in person, and to offer an alternative to what has been promised.
- Study your customer. Never, ever go into a sales meeting without finding out everything you need to know about your customer. That said, you should also prepared to be corrected, and to have homework and assumptions challenged. The customer’s company has to move and react to the marketplace, after all. Also, is their website promise up to date? How big is their organisation? What are their pain points? How does your product help to alleviate that pain? It’s not enough to know the features and benefits of your product; you need to know how these fit in with the particular needs of this customer. Find out as much as you can before your meeting, but also continue to study them when you go into your meeting. Don’t just launch into a sales pitch; engage them in a conversation. Ask questions and listen to their responses to see how your product fits in. Qualify your leads and their needs and ideally aim to prioritise the parts of your service they would gain most immediate value from. Aim to build long term service relationships and innovate to create beyond their expectations. The smallest innovation (without huge cost to your own manufacturing processes) can make or break an opportunity
- Ask for feedback. If you are unsuccessful in a sale, don’t be afraid to ask why. I don’t mean you should begin whining, “but why don’t you want to buy my amazing product!” Instead, ask for constructive feedback as to why your product is not a good fit for them, and also about their overall experience with you and your company. You can gain valuable information in this way which you can then use to inform future efforts. Conversations like this can be incredibly useful, especially if you’re going through something of a sales dry patch; by evaluating every interaction in the sales process you can figure out where you are lacking, and put alternatives in place to help improve over all. Equally, really get to know what people are buying, what was the really convincing piece of the pitch that the customer heard that makes the difference? Every part of a proposal matters from the quality of the way you appear, the way you present, the way you offer examples, case studies, testimonials, even the speed at which you respond to requests. Constantly learn and each time you create bigger chances. As you do so never be afraid of stretching your own company to bite off bigger orders.
Honest ambition and drive and the approach of a sales person’s energy; their infectious personality and their beleif in the company and product they represent are all paramount. The value of a new sales person shadowing an experienced hand can be priceless in accelerating the right messaging, the core information and the ways of making best impressions.