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.

Challenge Implicit Assumption

When prospects make statements they are often based on unstated assumptions. Often these assumptions are not based in fact. If you challenge the assumption you can get to pain much more quickly and you can get into a deeper conversation. It is also more likely that you will be having a conversation with the prospect that the competitor is not having. What better way to differentiate yourself? The only problem is recognizing that the prospect is making an implicit assumption. That I can’t help you with since it is entirely dependent on the situation and to a very large extent dependent on a deep understanding of the domain, the technology or the application. But, once you recognize the assumption you should challenge the assumption. For example, in a software application, if you realize that the prospect is assuming that average delay in response is 2 minutes when they make a problem statement, you should ask something like “how do you know it is 2 minutes”? They might respond with “well we made an assumption”. You could then ask “based on What”? and now you are into a discussion of the problem at a deeper level. This might lead to a discovery that the prospect does not have a complete understanding of the origin or magnitude of the problem which could lead you in a whole different direction. For instance, it might lead to a contract to define the problem. The lesson is to listen for what is not being said as you uncover pain and challenge any implicit assumptions you “hear”.

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Be a Pain Seeking Missile

Sales calls sometimes get bogged down and go nowhere. Did you ever lose the thread of a conversation and end up having the conversation go in a direction that was not helping to move the pursuit along the way it should have? One way to combat that is to become a pain seeking missile. Just follow the pain where ever it leads, even if it seems like it is going nowhere. When you get to the real pain the prospect is more likely to act. Once you can get the prospect to open up and discuss what is really bothering them (at the deepest level) you will accomplish two things. First you will know what problem to work on solving and the prospect will more than likely move the ball forward. And second you will discover that you have a closer bond to the prospect. And the bonus is that if your missile fizzles without finding any pain, you can move on to a prospect who does.

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How do you know

Salespeople need to go deeper on sales calls. Prospects make problem statements or give information describing how bad a situation is. Salespeople accept those statements and move the conversation forward often without uncovering how serious the problem is or how valid. It is important for salespeople to dig deeper to get to the real pain and they struggle with how to that without sounding like they are prying or being pushy. A simple way to simultaneously get to a deeper level and validate that the problem is worthy of addressing while at the same time appearing merely conversational and not pushy is to ask a simple question. When they make a statement of what purports to be fact just ask “how do you know”. Or you can ask “what do you base that on”. Sometimes you find that there is no basis for the statement, it is only opinion and sometimes the question leads to further discussion about the origin of the problem and hence it’s severity. When asked with the proper tonality (honest curiosity, humility), it will never get you in trouble and it will enrich the conversation.

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Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Don’t jump to conclusions. Some salespeople are so eager to tell their story that they don’t wait to hear the real problem before they leap in with some statement about how wonderful their product is or a solution to what they assume the problem is based on sketchy initial statements. This behavior on sales calls will cause you to lose control of the sales call or even worse make you look pushy and cost you lots of money in lost sales. A better approach is to relax, listen, ask questions and dig a little deeper to verify that the prospect has the problem you initially assume they have. In addition to the problem, you need to understand the consequence the prospect is experiencing due to the problem and how he or she is reacting to the consequences of the problem. Only then can you begin to think about the solution to the problem. And remember the problem may have consequences you never thought of or it may be more or less important to the prospect than you initially thought.

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Only one Salesperson

When you bring people on a sales call there must only be one person who is the principle salesperson. One person should “run” the call. There should be a plan for the call and there should be a role for everyone on the call. If you don’t do this, chaos most likely will ensue. The reason is that people think they have to contribute to the conversation to justify their existence. As an example, the technical person may interject extraneous, though highly interesting, information that derails the salesperson’s line of questioning which was leading to pain.

At the beginning of the meeting it is best to define the roles of the attendees on your side so there is no confusion. Then one person should orchestrate the call. Who does most of the talking and leads the conversation depends on the goal of the call and the stage of the pursuit. For example, if the goal of the call is to engage in a technical discussion with the prospects technical people to determine if our solution will work, then the salesperson might introduce everyone, state the purpose of the call and hand the “baton” to the technical person to carry the conversation. Then, at the end of the technical discussion, the salesperson could wrap things up and close for the next step. However, if the goal of the call is to qualify the prospect, the technical person might just be there in case a technical question comes up. In that case the tech would not have a speaking role if no technical questions arose. Those are two extremes but the major point is that on every call, roles should be defined in advance, made clear to the prospect and there should only be one salesperson on the call.

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Make sure it is a compelling reason

Have you uncovered a compelling reason to buy in your prospect?
* If the opportunity languishes in your pipeline without moving as it should, maybe what you have uncovered is a “nice to have” rather than a compelling reason to buy it.
* If prospect continually puts you off, maybe what you found out on your last sales call was the prospect was interested in your product but did not have a compelling reason to buy it.
* If the prospect is overly price sensitive, then maybe what you uncovered was a prospect who could find a use for your product but does not have a compelling reason to buy it.
* If your prospect has gone “radio silent” for two months maybe the compelling reason you thought you uncovered was not so compelling after all.
I could go on but you get the point. The lesson here is to make sure that your prospect has a compelling reason to buy your product or service rather than just a need or an interest in the product or service. Make sure that the prospect actually has pain and there are problems with serious consequences that need to be urgently addressed before you label the opportunity as qualified.

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Prospect playing hard to get

It is getting harder and harder to connect with people. I have seen numbers varying from 8 to 15 attempts to finally connect with a decision maker. Inability to connect adds time to the sales cycle increases the stress level of the salesperson and wastes valuable time that could be used in more productive and revenue producing activities. There is a simple fix however. All you have to do is ask your prospect how they want to be communicated with for future calls. Ask how the calls should be set up. Some prefer email and some like phone calls. This obviously does not help with getting connected the first time, but it shortens the time it takes to connect every time after the first. My favorite question is to ask if there is “any trick to getting hold of them”. You would be surprised at what they will tell you. I had one young lady take her card back from me and give me direct dial number then she told me that “I don’t give this to people”. It made my job easier but I was afraid to ask what she considered me if not “people”.

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Don’t Stress out on sales calls

Stress is never a good thing. A little nervous tension may heighten your senses and allow you to perform better. But stress does nothing but waste energy and make it harder to focus on what is important in the moment. When you experience stress what you are doing is either anticipating the great and wonderful things that will happen if the call goes well or dreading the devastation that will occur to your quarter or your year or your career if the call goes awry. All that added pressure degrades your performance and makes it less likely that you will be successful. What you should realize that any sales call no matter how big or important is only a conversation between you and another human (or two). And, you are skilled at having conversations. When you realize that you have an effective sales process, the conversation will be successful whether you get the outcome you wanted or not. More importantly, you need to realize that there are plenty of other prospects out there to replace this one if you lose. Ironically the less stressed you are, the more successful you will be, and you will have less to be stressed about. However, if you insist on putting extra pressure on yourself you will fail more often and have more to be stressed about. So, break the cycle of stress and relax. You will sell more and have fewer gray hairs.

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Don’t Extrapolate

Extrapolating is always dangerous. In math to extrapolate is to extend a curve beyond the known datapoints. When you get outside of the known data points you run the risk of the curve having changed shape and any inference you may have made from the extrapolation is thus invalid. Many experienced salespeople who have been on hundreds of sales calls with similar clients start to believe that all the problems sound the same. The problems of company A sound pretty much the same as the problems of company B. So, when they hear the beginning strains of the problem, they stop listening thinking they know where this is going. What they have inadvertently done is to extrapolate to what they think the pain is without hearing it from the prospect directly. They think they know what the pain of the prospect must be without actually knowing it. In fact, even though the problem may be the same, how the prospect feels about it (Pain) can vary dramatically. The solution to this problem is simple. Don’t jump to conclusions. Keep asking questions until you get to the real pain.

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Ask What have you tried

“What have you tried so far to fix the problem?” This is a great question to ask a prospect after they have shared a problem with you. There are some reasons why this is a great question:
• It keeps you from jumping in and starting to talk prematurely
• It keeps the prospect talking
• It helps you understand their thought process
• It keeps you from coming up with a suggestion that won’t work
So after a short discussion of what they have tried you can ask “why do you think that didn’t work”? this will give you more insights into their thought process and lead you further down the path to uncovering their compelling reason to move forward. These are both discovery type questions. They are designed to get you more information and insight into the prospect and to keep you out of trouble.

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