Anyone who has worked in sales will tell you that starting out in a new position is difficult. Whether you’re going into your first sales job or you’ve made a move to a new company and need to learn the product range inside out before you can start making inroads into your targets, selling isn’t as simple as some would have you believe.
With every conversation you need to take a different approach as every prospect has different needs, has a different persona and a different level of understanding of just what it is that you’re trying to sell them. There’s no blanket approach that you can roll out for your whole career and those who are genuinely successful in the sector are constantly adapting and evolving in order to build relationships with prospects and convert leads into sales.
In this article we’ve called upon our own sales department to ask for their own top tips and recommendations to improve sales skills, and have compiled a list of key skills, strategies and techniques that you need to have to work in the sales industry.
This is by no means an exhaustive list as the industry is always evolving, and we’ll be updating the list in the months to come, but to get you started here are 10 things you need to know and develop to succeed in sales.
- Build a relationship before you start to sell
- Establish a rapport and enjoy the conversation
- Be bold: pitch the highest offer first
- Learn to sell without being ‘pushy’
- Know what you’re selling, and who you’re selling for
- Ask your own questions
- Carry out an action after every call
- Listen, learn and understand
- Have the drive and determination to succeed, but use it wisely
- Always follow-up, even after closing a sale
Build a relationship before you start to sell
There is far more to the sales process than simply getting on the phone and promoting your product or services. It’s about finding common ground with your prospect and turning them from someone you’ve never spoken to before into someone you have a professional relationship with and want to help with your product.
When you build a relationship before you go in with your pitch you tend to find that you have far greater success than with prospects that you don’t take the time to get to know first. What is it that the person needs, or what could make a difference to them in their working life? By understanding their pain points and the direction they’re looking to take their business in you can listen and evaluate how to go in with your pitch, and when to start talking business.
Even then there may be people who have objections to what it is that you’re selling, and this could be down to their budget or the fact that they don’t need that product or service at that point in time. If either of these instances occur, you can either change your approach to offer a different, more financially viable solution or stay in touch with them in the coming months so that – when the time comes – you’re at the front of their minds when they decide that your product is right for them after all. Just because someone isn’t willing to buy on your first call doesn’t mean that they won’t, and taking the time to forge a relationship will work in your favour in the future.
Establish a rapport and enjoy the conversation
Having started building a relationship it’s key to enjoy the conversation you’re having, and not just to go through the motions waiting for your chance to pounce with your pitch. The person on the other end of the phone may have no idea who you are, what you do or what you’re offering them, so you must find a way of engaging them in a conversion like you would when you call up a friend or loved one.
You have a wealth of different directions you could go in with your conversation including that great British talking point – the weather – along with how someone’s week is going or how their weekend was, sport or even industry talking points if you know and understand their sector. It’s always best to stay away from anything that might be in the news in case you have a difference of opinion, but if your prospect brings it up always do your best to engage in the conversation rather than dismissing or avoiding the issue.
If you can develop a strong rapport and sound as if you’re happy talking to them rather than doing it simply because it’s your job to engage in a conversation and promote your product or service it will all flow smoothly to a point where you can introduce your offering and ask questions of your prospect safe in the knowledge that there’s a bond. If nothing else you avoid the risk of a confrontational prospect who can’t wait to get off the phone.
Even if you do come across someone who clearly does not want to engage in conversation and wants to be removed from all marketing communications be sure to speak calmly and listen to what the person is saying. All of this will help to end the call calmly.
Be bold: pitch the highest offer first
When you have a number of different options to offer a prospect it can be difficult to know just where to go with your pitch. Do you go high, do you go low and explain what they could get with a little extra budget, or do you simply list your entire product offering?
One top tip is to be bold and you can always adapt your strategy when you get a feel for the client and their budget. You could pitch a prospect the highest amount first and let them realize the comparison of the prices, and the various benefits. If you decide to take this route then it would me a great deal of sense to stay away from any lower product offerings or shorter subscriptions, but if you start to get even the slightest inclination that they can’t afford the top package then you have the opportunity to offer the next one down explaining that, quite often, this is an exclusive offer price and that you may only offer them to selected clients who reached out to you first and showed a genuine interest in the product.
Learn to sell without being ‘pushy’
From a potential customer’s perspective there is nothing worse than a ‘pushy’ sales call that backs you into a corner and makes you feel uncomfortable. Most of us have been there where a salesperson has called you up and struggled to take no for an answer, but when you’re genuinely interested in a product and are put off by the person on the other end of the phone being overly ‘pushy’ and trying to sell you more than you need, it can deter you from making the purchase and you might go elsewhere.
As a salesperson it’s your job to sell, but you need to understand that people are going to buy when they’re ready. You need to promote the product, service or brand, but you need to do it in the right way by learning how to sell without being ‘pushy.’
There are a number of ways in which you can do this, including ensuring that you have something new to promote – whether it’s a new product range, a different subscription offering or even a limited time promotion – and then you have something to hook the prospect with rather than telling them about something they already know about and still aren’t interested in.
You should also look to avoid talking about the product from the word go. Sure, introduce yourself and state where you’re from, but as we’ve covered already, build a relationship with the person and understand their needs and frustrations before you come in with a pitch. In fact, the way you speak to the prospect can make all the difference. You never want to take an aggressive or dominant tone, and you should always give your prospect the opportunity to speak and ask questions – or even to get off the phone should they wish, you can always arrange to call them back later when they’ve had time to think.
If you have the confidence in what it is you’re selling, and your own strategy, then you will come across as a confident, knowledgeable salesperson without having to try too hard. Speaking clearly and concisely with a relaxed, conversational approach is likely to benefit you far more than a scripted approach that comes across as robotic and like you don’t care about the person on the other end of the phone. By taking control of the call without being overbearing you can steer it in the right direction throughout which ultimately results in a higher chance of a sale.
Make sure you know what you’re selling, and who you’re selling for
It sounds pretty simple that you need to know what you’re selling, and who you work for, but there are salespeople who don’t fully understand the particular product they’re selling and end up losing a prospect because they can’t answer specific questions, and, perhaps most importantly, they go against the overall business goals and objectives because they set their focus so firmly on the sale.
Being upfront and honest with a prospect is vitally important and can help you to build a strong relationship with them, leading to a sale. However, you also need to learn about the business you’re working for and what the goals are. Are the targets call-based in terms of how many prospects you speak to, or are you looking solely at sales-related targets? Each business has different objectives and you need to be certain that you know what the business is looking for so you can tailor your own strategy and retain your honesty and integrity as you go, rather than going completely off-piste and promising the world just to make a sale.
If you take a lone wolf approach not only will this backfire down the line with complaints or unsubscriptions down the line, but your sales performance will dip to the point where other members of the team need to work with you in order to get you away from your bad habits and more in-line with the goals and ethos of the business.
Ask your own questions
Conversations work both ways and it’s important that you listen to your prospect throughout to understand their needs and frustrations, but it’s just as vital that you ask your own range of questions, too.
When you listen to your lead you can get a good feel for what it is they’re looking for, and where their current pain points might lie. By making notes and then asking them about their current processes and other business areas that they may have alluded to but not fully spoken about you can open the door for deeper conversations that lead you down a road where you can ask an open-ended question and speak to them about a particular product, range or service that will fill the gap in their offering and improve processes.
One example of a common occurrence here at Meet Hugo is that we speak to people who say that they don’t currently have the time to generate new leads and focus all of their time on the clients they have at the moment. We then try to understand why they don’t have the time to source new leads – perhaps because of staffing levels, workloads or the sheer amount of time it takes to bring in leads in their industry – and we can then advise them on the most suitable and affordable sales intelligence platform subscription for them that might help them to generate leads without taking up more of their valuable time which already comes at a premium.
Carry out an action after every call
When you’ve completed your call, follow-up with an email message thanking them for their time and potentially look to arrange another call a week or a few weeks later to see if they’ve had time to consider your pitch.
Getting a deal over the line on the first call is very rare, but not impossible, but it’s always best to at least be prepared to get a sale in a second or third call with a potential customer and by following up with them, without becoming pushy or overbearing, you increase your opportunity to convert them.
Whether it’s a transcription of the call or just a quick follow-up with a link to a useful resource or blog post on your site that explains more about what it is you offer or the solution to a current pain-point, your ability to follow-up might make all the difference rather than going cold on your customer and springing back up on the phone at an inconvenient time a few weeks later.
Listen, learn and understand
There’s an unwritten rule in sales that you have between 8 and 10-seconds in order to gain or lose the interest of your customer, so in that time it’s vital that you make a great first impression.
We all know that those first impressions count for everything, and the same is true on the phone when you’re trying to make a sale. If you can’t get a good feeling about the person you’re speaking to, and they can’t get a good feeling about you, then this lead is going nowhere. By using those opening 10-seconds to their full effect you can start to forge a great working relationship that may ultimately increase your chance of converting your prospect into a fully paid-up customer.
We’ve spoken already about how important it is to listen as well as speak, but if you generally listen to what your prospect is saying you have the opportunity to find some common ground or a solution to their problem. Each time they speak about an issue that affects their process, ask questions of your own to understand what they have tried before and how they arrived at their current solution, and you can then decide when the right time is to pitch your own solution safe in the knowledge that they haven’t tried the same approach to limited or no effect. If they’ve never heard of what you can offer them, explain clearly what it is that you do and be willing to allow them to go away, do their research and even come back to you with more questions.
While we all want the holy grail of an immediate sale over the phone from the first call, it’s not always possible but if you’ve used those opening seconds wisely and allowed your prospect to speak, raise concerns and ask questions that you’ve answered to the best of your ability you might just find a diary invite or request for another call later in the week to run through a demonstration or to explain the solution to a decision-maker within the business.
Have the drive and determination to succeed, but use it wisely
Anyone who works in sales will tell you that you need to be determined in order to succeed in the profession, and in these unprecedented times it’s more important than ever to have the self-motivation to keep going despite any setbacks you have along the way. In the past you may have been making numerous sales every day and you might have smashed your target in a matter of weeks, but in the current economic climate it might take far longer through no fault of your own.
Here having the drive and determination to overcome these setbacks and prioritise certain strategies and opportunities is vitally important to achieving your own personal goals and those set by your department head. By keeping targets in your mind you can get easily bogged down, especially during a difficult period, but it can also help you to have a personal reward to keep you motivated and putting 100 per cent of your effort into every call. Having goals such as a holiday you’re saving for, maybe a meal out at the end of the month or perhaps an end-of-the-week treat when you’ve hit your target.
Always follow-up, even after closing a sale
Last but by no means least, always have follow-up conversations with those you’ve spoken to, even if they’ve already made a purchase from you or signed up for a subscription. Having built a relationship over the phone you don’t want that to simply disappear because you’ve got what you wanted – a sale – you need to ensure that they maintain that personal touch throughout their working relationship with you.
Even if you have an account management or customer success team as we do here at Meet Hugo, following-up after a few weeks or months will give them that feeling that you’re not just someone who wanted a sale, but that you’re genuinely interested in helping them get the most from the deal. It might be that they’re happy on the whole, but are having one or two problems that someone in your company could help them to overcome.
Similarly, it may be that you have to follow-up to have further conversations about how you could work together. Having introduced the product or service it’s always best to revisit the conversation and pick up on any further queries the customer may have and how your product or service can overcome their current problems and provide them with a successful, time-saving and effective solution that can be rolled out across the business.