More than half of salespeople miss their quotas. That’s a dangerous number in a field where your income and even your job security depend on meeting set targets. It’s no wonder that sales is considered one of the most stressful jobs. In fact, according to one PayScale survey, the role of “sales account manager” was ranked the second-most stressful job, with 73% of respondents rating their job as “highly stressful”.
That being said, when you are armed with the right tools and the right guidance, you have the power to turn a challenging and stressful career into an inspirational and exciting one. It’s all about doing and saying the right things at the right time. We spoke to 10 sales experts to get their pointers on how to improve the sales process, how to close more deals and how to keep those commission cheques flooding in.
1. Be a Team Player
Competition is great, but no man is an island. Teamwork and collaboration are essential in sales, as in any field. By pooling our knowledge and resources, we have the potential to exceed our own expectations.
“Salespeople too often think and act in silos. That means you’re missing out on the valuable resources and experience that surround you. Work with your sales colleagues to share strategies and success stories. Work with marketing to try to reach the customer earlier in their buying process and to share with them your experience of what customers want to know. Work with customer success to ensure your company is delivering on its promises. And work with your customers to make sure you’re properly identifying and meeting their needs. The sales environment no longer suits the lone wolf — a pack mentality will strengthen your sales process and help you meet quota.”
— Josh Dhaliwal – Head of Sales, iPresent.
2. Don’t Begin Negotiations with Round Numbers
Beating around the bush with a vague, round number can do more harm than good. Be direct with your customer — they will appreciate the show of respect and authenticity.
“Having established the needs and benefits of your products and services, don’t be too eager to negotiate quickly and get the ink on the order form. The price negotiation should be a well-choreographed dance, rather than a sprint to the finish line. I have found that using precise figures rather than round numbers is a more successful way of getting to a close price that all parties are happy with.”
— Steve Adams – Managing Director Clockwork IT
3. Build Long-Term Relationships
Long-term business relationships are incredibly valuable, and it’s worth investing in them more. They will reward you with loyalty. Furthermore, satisfied long-standing customers are more likely to refer others, leading to yet more sales.
“The best salespeople I have worked with followed up their sales and offered services afterwards. Establishing a relationship with the customer will lead to more sales and customer loyalty.”
— Anna Oldbury — Founder, LioBites
4. It’s Not about You
Sometimes you just need to take the ego out of sales and remember it’s all about the customer.
“Remember, it is not about you, it is about them. At its simplest level, sales is just about helping people who have either a problem or a goal. If your ‘thing’ helps them, then by selling your solution, you are making a difference. Also, smile when you are on the phone! Even though people can’t see you, the tone of your voice changes and they can hear it.”
— Janet Efere – Sales Trainer & Coach, Tadpole Training
5. Celebrate Good Times
Sales can be a difficult profession. You need to take the time to acknowledge your efforts and accomplishments. This will remind us of how far we have come and the potential we have to do so much more.
“When I sign a new client or sell a copy of my book. I do something called my ‘Happy Dance’. I dance around my living room to Kool and the Gang’s ‘Celebrate’. Our minds remember the roots of what causes us both pain and pleasure in our life. By having a quick celebration, my mind is associating pleasure with making sales. Positive reinforcement is important to encourage any behaviour we want more of, including sales.”
— Will Aylward, Life Coach, RTT Practitioner and Author
6. Make Trust a Priority
Sales people want to please everyone, all the time, and they generally have a lot of high expectations of themselves. In reality, though, nobody can know everything — and that’s okay. It’s better to be honest with the customer and let them know you don’t know the answer to their question but that you’ll get the answer to them as soon as possible. This is much more conducive to creating high levels of trust.
“The easiest way to engage with a customer or client is to build up a relationship with them that’s built on trust, even if it’s not a quick fix. Sales decisions are often triggered by more than just logic. Having a good relationship with your customer is vital and trust plays a big part in that.
If you’re asked a question and you don’t know the answer, tell the client that you’ll find out and get back to them, never just guess. You don’t know if they’re genuinely unsure or just testing you, meaning you could blow the sale without even realizing. I know that admitting you don’t have an answer is incredibly difficult in a sales situation, but it will make you seem instantly trustworthy as a result, which is a fantastic way to build a relationship.
When someone trusts you, they’ll feel good when they pick up the phone to you. When they have a problem, they’ll believe in you to provide a solution, and that’s when you’ll reap the benefits.”
— James McDonagh, Director of EMEA at Nigel Frank International
7. Listen Twice as Much as You Talk
Listening is an important soft skill that all great sales people possess. By talking less and listening more, we gain more information and we’re better able to sell the right product to the right person, and for the right reasons.
“The one sales tip I’ve always told my team is to ‘have two ears and one mouth’. Listen to the customer twice as much as you talk to them. It’s not about bombarding the customer with all of the facts about the product — it’s about listening to what the customer wants and ensuring you are selling the right product to them. This will create understanding and lead to the all-important sale.”
— Ian Meachin – Sales Director, Logican.
8. Give Something for Free
Sometimes, the best way to close more sales and gain more clients is to give something away for free. This sales tactic catches people’s attention and keeps clients happy.
“It seems like a counterintuitive ploy when the idea is to make a profit, but if you have the stones to give something away for free, it will give you an immediate edge, as most of your competitors won’t be doing it. It works well because:
1) You are backing your product heavily, which makes the customer think that you must believe in it, thus activating trust.
2) If you give someone something, the natural inclination of most people is to give you something back.
So in our case, we give out free samples of the garments that customers request quotes for on our website, and in return, we have found our conversion rate has more than doubled.”
— Rob Joyce – Managing Director, Yazzoo Personalised Clothing
9. Think Human
Humour, empathy and understanding — these are very human characteristics that reassure us that technology will never fully replace salespeople!
“Always treat leads and prospects like people. Actually come across as human and normal yourself. People don’t want to buy from some scripted sales robot — they want to buy from someone they connect with, resonate with and someone they feel has their best interests at heart. Humour and ‘banter’ can be a great tool for this.”
— Wayne Dharana – Senior Marketing Consultant, Exposure Ninja
10. Love Your Product
Sometimes, it all comes down to something as simple as passion. When you genuinely care about your product, you will be more engaged with it and more dedicated towards its success. There’s nothing complicated about it — just raw enthusiasm.
“When you love and know your product inside out, no special tips are needed.’
— Kalina Halatcheva, Managing Director, Nouri Health
What Will You Try?
Whether you need to work on your soft skills, your product knowledge or your approach to negotiating, hopefully one of these tips has given you something to think about.
Ultimately, the art of sales is a continually evolving process. We have to adapt to changing market conditions, changing expectations among our customers and our colleagues, and the growing role of data and machine learning — and that’s just the start of it. As you hone your sales skills, consider that it’s not really a question of finding one play that works for you but of becoming nimble enough to adapt your process to your customers’ requirements.