In a recent post for Entrepreneur, contributor Steve Tobak distills all his experience as a sales engineer into nine things all business leaders and sales professionals need to know when it comes to effective selling.
Selling is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Depending on your industry, the sales process can be a long and complicated affair.
This is particularly true as the size of the contract being negotiated goes up, so be prepared to exercise a little patience, and don’t push too hard to close the sale. When RFPs are concerned, vetting can take a considerable amount of time, so use that time to develop relationships: answer questions and provide value to the prospect.
You’re Always Selling
“Whether you’re pitching a new concept to investors, a potential partner to join you, or your board on a risky strategy, you’re always selling something,” says Tobak.
Pitching occurs at every level of an organization, and not just the sales department.
Make “Yes” the Logical and Emotional Choice
Selling is as much about cultivating a good relationship with the prospect as it about building a solid case for how your product or service suits their needs.
It’s a skill that needs to be developed, and the most successful sales professionals guide their prospects towards saying “yes” with persuasive arguments, and lots of charm.
Be Sure There’s a Real Opportunity
Identifying the right prospect and seeing the potential for a good fit is often the difference between a productive cold call and one that just wastes time on both sides.
Do Your Research
Knowing your prospect takes a little bit of research, but it’s a worthwhile exercise. Know their business, and their role, before you call or set that appointment. Discovery starts before your first meeting, not during it.
“Try not to get too far along without knowing whom you’re meeting with, what their role is, what motivates them, and how to approach,” Tobak advises.
Don’t Try too Hard to Relate Personally
A lot of sales professionals fall flat because they come off as too chummy at the first contact. People can generally recognize when they’re being sold, and overly eager account reps can turn off even the warmest prospect.
Tobak recommends paying attention to their buying signals, tone of voice, and body language, to determine the appropriate amount of friendliness.
Don’t Show Off How Smart You Are
“The truth is the customer doesn’t care one bit about what you know. He just wants to know if you’ve got a solution to his problem.” It’s a good reminder to ask meaningful questions during your discovery, and listen carefully, before offering a potential solution.
Give a Little, Get a Little
“Selling is a game of give and take.”
Success in sales is about asking the right questions, listening carefully to the answers, and proposing a solution that solves a customer’s problem. Pitching intelligently means you have to uncover the right information first.
Know your material and product inside and out, but leave room to adjust based on your prospect’s responses. Seasoned sales professionals adjust their line of questioning and tactics based on how well the prospect is responding.
“Just listen and learn…from the right people,” says Tobak.
What sales lessons would you offer?