Sales Tips for the Optimal Salesperson

This page is dedicated to helping you become the best salesperson you can be. These one minute sales tips will help make you more effective and earn more money. Each Tip is a single actionable nugget designed to move you toward effortless high performance … In short to become the Optimal Salesperson.

Be Your Own Boss

If you are to be your own boss, you have to do the things that bosses do. For salespeople the boss is the sales manager. Sales managers have goals for each member of their sales team. They demand that the salespeople have a plan to reach their goals. They also have a sales process that they coach their salespeople to follow and they hold them accountable to follow that process. So if you are to be your own boss, you must do no less. You need to have goals that empower you and motivate you. You need a sales activity plan to reach those goals and you need to have a sales process that you follow on each call. But the biggest thing you have to do is commit to doing the activity and following the process. If you hold yourself accountable and do the activity and follow your sales process you work for yourself if not, then you work for your sales manager.

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Don’t short change yourself

You need to internalize your successes. If you accomplish something outside your normal comfort zone, it is important to give yourself credit for it. Unfortunately, the tendency of most salespeople is to feel that closing an extremely large deal or blowing away the quota this quarter when that is unusual for them was due to outside forces like luck or favorable market conditions or things “just falling in place”. When you think like this, you are perpetuating your comfort zone. You are finding an excuse why it wasn’t you who did it. After all, people like you just don’t accomplish those types of things. What you should do is congratulate yourself and internalize the result. Understand the value you brought to the situation and realize that you have the native talent to accomplish this every time. You have to start believing that you are a million dollar a quarter type of person. You are capable of closing big deals. Once you actually believe that, you will replicate that result continually. Eventually you will be surprised when you don’t have those accomplishments. But it all starts with giving yourself credit for the successes you do have. To discount them will stunt your growth as a salesperson.

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Don’t listen to the Noise

Sales calls are often full of noise and you need to filter it out and not be distracted by it. I define noise as anything that distracts you from the goal of the sales call or is not helping to move the “ball” down the field. Sometimes the prospect will give you lots of irrelevant information about the project but is shies away from talking about his actual motivation for moving forward. In other words, at the end you know a lot about the project but no idea whether there is a compelling reason to move forward. In that case you were distracted by the noise. Sometimes prospects (and salespeople) talk about personal stuff to excess leaving no time to discuss the pain they are in and the decision process they need to go through to get the deal done. If that is the case, then, as important as bonding with the prospect is, you were distracted by the noise (personal information or sports stories) on this sales call. There are many other examples such as excessive detailed information which is irrelevant to the sales process but I think you get the idea. You need to listen through the noise to pick out the pain indicators or other hooks to get the conversation back on track and moving toward achieving the goal of the sales call.

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Value is not related to price

Just because the price of a product is lower it does not necessarily mean that the value is greater. If a car has 4-wheel drive, a sun roof and real leather seats it probably costs more than the identical car without those extras. The car salesman might claim that the vehicle with the extras has added value because of the extras, especially since he is throwing them into the deal at 50% of their normal cost. However, if I am a car buyer who hates sun roofs (It messes with my hair and I try to avoid the sun. Besides they leak.), I live in Florida where it never snows and I never drive off road, and I am a member of PETA (people for the ethical treatment of animals), those extras have no value to me. They might actually act as a deterrent to my purchasing that vehicle. Admittedly, I chose an extreme example. But I think you get the idea. If I am using the car every day to commute, I may care more about gas mileage than prestige or load capacity. In that case, a car with higher gas mileage may be a better value even though it costs more because it solves my pain. So, focus your efforts on finding and solving the pain rather than on sharpening your pencil to give them a better price.

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It’s not What It’s Why

The answer to the question “what do you need?” gives you intellectual information. Typical answers might be “a chip that can store 2 terabytes of data”, or a “car that has a good safety rating”, or “a service company that is more reliable”. You need to know those things but that is not enough to get to the prospects pain. None of those answers is pain. However, if you follow up the what question with a why question you get a whole lot richer information including pain. I need a reliable service company because “my current service company did not show up and it put me in a terrible bind with a client. I was totally embarrassed and it almost cost me a client.” I need a chip that handles that much data “because the competition only can handle half of that and it is important to me to be able to beat them to the market.” That one may need another “why” question to get to the real pain. This is a simple concept but one that will pay huge dividends.

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How Jargon can Hurt you

Jargon is insider language. Every market or niche has some. Many salespeople mistakenly think that if they just master the jargon they can sound smart and that will mark them as someone in the know. However, that is not necessarily true. There are certain pieces of information it is important to know. And not to know the basics would be a mistake. But knowing the basics is far different from intentionally littering your speech with buzz words and acronyms which the prospect may or may not understand. Overuse of buzz words marks you as someone who is trying too hard and more importantly it can make the prospect feel not ok if they do not understand what you are talking about. You lose them as they try to decipher what you meant by that last statement you made. Once they feel not ok, the easiest remedy is to disengage from the conversation or to end the meeting prematurely. At the very least it detracts from your ability to develop a deeper relationship. So the lesson here is to speak simply and use terms common to most people in the industry. Don’t add acronyms and buzz words whose only purpose is to make you appear smarter than you are. Prospects can see through that anyway and it does more harm than good.

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Confidence Can Kill a Sale

Confidence is important. But confidence that you know the prospect’s problem can kill a sale. If you have been in the same industry for a while, pretty soon you feel like you have seen everything. You listen as the prospect starts to explain his or her problem. At some point you feel like you have heard this before and you pounce in with the solution. There are two problems with this approach. The first is that you start to sound like “know it all” or the smartest person in the room. This has the potential of making the prospect feel “one down” or “not Ok”. Since people don’t like the ‘not ok” feeling, they push back and can eventually shut down the meeting if they are dominant types. Or, people who are not strong willed just humor you until the meeting ends and give you some lame excuses when you try to close or to follow up. The second reason confidence that you know the prospect’s problem can kill a sale is that even though the problem might be the same the consequences of the problem may be different or how the prospect reacts to the problem may be different in every case. These two elements define the prospects pain. So even though the problem is the same the pain could be different. If your solution is geared to the wrong pain, you probably will lose the sale. My neighbor and I might both have tires on our car that don’t pass inspection (same problem). My neighbor’s spouse and kids ride in that car every day to school. The neighbor’s pain might revolve around the safety of the family and durability of the tire. In that case price would be no obstacle. My car may be a third vehicle in a two driver family and will be traded in or sold in the next 6 months. In that case I will want to spend as little as possible and safety might not be an issue and long term durability certainly is not. It’s good to be confident. But in the pain step, humility to admit you don’t know everything will get you closer to the sale.

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Do the Math

Baseball players know their batting average. Coaches in every sport track activity versus results on a game by game basis. This allows them to better predict future results and to allow them to make better game plans an in game decisions. Salespeople … not so much. It is rare that I find a salesperson or a company that knows how many calls are made on a daily or weekly basis. And what is worse, since they don’t know the history of calls versus results, they don’t know how many calls they will have to make in the next month, quarter or year to hit their numbers. Top salespeople like top players and coaches have these numbers at their fingertips. How can you make a plan for hitting your numbers if you have no idea what your “hit rate” is? If that rhetorical question is not enough to get you to begin tracking your sales activity, then there is nothing else I can say.

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Be Pitch Perfect

People with perfect pitch in music are rare. But it is relatively easy to achieve a perfect pitch in sales if you know how to do it. The mistake most salespeople make is to make the pitch before they know what pain will compel the prospect to buy. They might have learned or deduce a need the prospect has. Or they might have uncovered a problem. But a true compelling reason to buy is much deeper than that and requires that the salesperson to understand the consequences of the problem and the prospect’s reaction to those consequences to truly know what to say to the prospect to get him or her to commit to spend some money to fix the problem. The reason traditional salespeople fail to have a perfect pitch is that they use a me-centered sales process. They are more concerned with what they can offer than they are with what the true motivation of the prospect is. In a prospect centered selling process you will first seek to understand whether the prospect has a compelling reason to buy. Once you understand what will compel the prospect to buy it is a very simple matter to make the perfect pitch.

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Don’t Pre-plan

Pre-planned questions are a bad idea. First when you go into a meeting with pre-planned questions you tend to focus on yourself rather than on the prospect. You will tend to just look for an opening slip the question into rather than let the conversation flow naturally. When your questions are planned in advance (especially if they are written down … or worse in questionnaire format), the language used is usually more stilted than you would say it when talking to the prospect. All of those and more are good reasons not to pre-plan the questions you will ask. However, that does not mean that there should be no pre-planning. I strongly urge you to plan the answers you need to get from the meeting. If you go into a meeting with 3 or 4 answers you need to get, you can lead the conversation to those topics and you might not even have to actually ask the questions. The answers may just flow naturally from the conversation. When you are at the appropriate time the form of the question will come to you and you will ask it. Planning what answers you need is much more effective than planning the questions you will ask.

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