What’s your image of the best salesperson in your industry?
If your mind just conjured up a vision of a sharp-suited, smooth-tongued, quick-witted sales superstar, then you need to reframe.
Because old style selling is well on the way out!
You don’t need to be able to sell snow to the Eskimos.
Your role as a salesperson is no longer simply to persuade prospective customers of the merits of your products or services.
In this age of ubiquitous information and savvy buyers, potential purchasers have already fully researched your products before they contact you or you reach out to them.
The best salespeople recognise that their role is not so much to sell as to help their potential customer to buy.
To do this you need to demonstrate and prove that you are the right partner with the right solutions for your buyers on-going business needs.
It follows therefore that most sales only happen after your prospective customer has bought into you and your company. Moreover, that they have convinced themselves of the value that you can bring to them and their organisation.
Are you are still hustling for sales opportunities where your main aim is to pitch your products and services to win orders?
If so, it may be time to change your approach.
Here are 9 tips to help you become the best salesperson
1. Listen and learn
In his best selling book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective people Stephen Covey wrote:
“Seek first to understand…then to be understood”
For salespeople the lesson is clear. Lose the smooth salesperson’s patter because selling starts by listening and learning.
Instead, find out as much as you can about your prospective customers, their needs, and their challenges.
2. Ask probing questions
Let your prospective customers volunteer as much information as possible without interrupting them.
Keep them talking by gently asking probing questions.
Use the “5 W’s (and 1H)” technique.
It will keep the conversation going and give you a far deeper understanding of your prospective customer’s wants and needs.
3. Share your own knowledge and insight
By learning from your customers in this way you develop great knowledge and insight on the industry and market in which you operate.
You can then share this knowledge to help others – including your buyer – on their journey towards best practice. This approach also builds trust and credibility in the process.
“All things being equal people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust”Bob Burg and John David Mann The Go-Giver
4. Monetise your solution
From the position of being a “trusted advisor”, you are more likely to get your prospective customers to articulate what their “pain points” are costing them. Or the additional revenues that new opportunities could bring them.
This enables you to put a value on your solution. And value always trumps price.
5. Obtain commitment
Having understood your customers’ challenges you need to get them to commit to giving you the chance to work with them on solutions.
Every buyer has choices, including the choice to do nothing for now or to go to a competitor.
However, obtaining commitment does not necessarily mean asking for the sale. It is better to forget the old maxim of “close early, close often”.
Unfortunately, this can lead to a series of rejections from your buyer.
Instead, ask for smaller commitments that the buyer feels comfortable agreeing with. Especially those things which are the next natural steps in the buying process.
For example, a meeting with the buyer’s colleagues, a product demonstration or a free sample or an introduction to a new customer of yours whose pain points you resolved.
6. Give 3 options in every proposal
If you only ever present one option, you risk presenting the wrong one and potentially losing the sale.
Options might range from low-end to premium solutions.
These demonstrate the full value of your proposition. They also bring into clearer focus the key factors driving the buying decision.
Finally, it allows your buyer to start small, gain confidence and expand their purchases as your relationship develops and your products prove their worth.
7. Always present your proposal in person
Never forget that you as the salesperson are integral to every sale you make. You bring unique value to your customers, which is additional to that of your company.
Therefore, don’t simply email a quotation or post a proposal. Take the time to present it in person and discuss potential comments and concerns.
You can also amend or customise based on your customer’s feedback. After all, it is the buyer who is spending their company’s money with you on your products and services.
Moreover, making an agreement face to face has more meaning. No matter how prestigious your organisation, people buy from people.
8. Follow up and follow through
Regardless of where you are in your sales process, always schedule the next step before ending your meeting.
If your prospective customer decides not to go ahead with you at the end of the process, don’t just chalk it up to experience and walk away.
Take the trouble to find out why you and your company didn’t get the business this time. Then use this insight to achieve a better outcome at the next prospective customer.
Or when the next opportunity comes around with the potential client that has not ordered this time around.
There will be a next time won’t there?
Even if there isn’t, you will have learned something valuable to make you a better salesperson.
9. Ask for referrals
Undoubtedly, prospecting can be tough. Finding warm leads makes the task much easier.
There’s no better introduction to a prospective customer than referrals from your existing customers.
So, whilst you are delivering value for them, they can be returning the favour by recommending you to others.
I’m a great believer in the “wheel of reciprocation”. You get back what you give out.
Becoming the best salesperson possible
If you follow the tips in this article, you’ll be about as far away from the traditional image of the smooth-talking salesperson as it’s possible to be.
And you will be a much more successful salesperson because:
You’ll be a go-to expert in your industry
Someone that your existing customers will know, like and trust
A person who they will feel comfortable recommending as a trusted advisor
Someone who listens to the real challenges that businesses like theirs face
And works together with them to find solutions and create value
If you enjoyed this advice in this article, please download our tips on selling gathered from interviews with sales professionals from a variety of different industries,
PS: The article was originally published in March 2017, has been updated in March 2020