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.

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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Confirm what you think you heard

What you think you heard may not be what the prospect thought they said. This leads to a lot of mis-communication and mis-communication leads to a lot of wasted time effort and ultimately heartache. The prospect says they want to get started right away and you interpret that to mean they want to start this week. What they actually meant was this quarter which is anytime in the next 3 months. You forecast a sale and mobilize the troops only to have things be “delayed” and management to get impatient with you. There is a simple fix. For important information all you have to do is confirm what you think you heard. It might sound like “So Mary I hear you saying that you want to start this week. Is that correct?” In this case she would say, “No, I want to get started before the end of August”. Your forecast is accurately noted as this project starting sometime in August and your credibility remains intact. This is a very simple concept and will keep you out of a lot of trouble.

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Closing is not the most Important Skill

I’ll say it again closing is not the most important sales skill to develop. What good is someone who can close but who can’t prospect? What good is a closing skill if there is nothing in your pipeline to close? If I set you up with 5 appointments next week and all of them had a compelling reason to buy. They all had enough money to fix the problem and they were decision makers and they had agreed to make a buying decision based on what you had to tell them, how many could you close? The answer most groups give me is that they could close all 5, or they could at least close 4 of them. I get that answer even from novices who don’t know how to close for an order. What this thought experiment proves that anyone can close if the prospect is set up properly. It turns out that prospecting, qualifying and discussing money are far more important skills to have than the ability to close. If you have to start somewhere, work on those top of the pipeline skills first and closing will take care of itself.

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Don’t trigger the Prospect’s sales shield

Prospect’s know immediately when you drop into sell mode. As soon as they recognize that you are selling they get defensive, deny the existence of problems and actively try to extricate themselves from the sales interaction. So what triggers the sales shield? Anything that appears to be aggressive will do it. Asking direct probing questions will do it. Asking leading questions will do it. In fact, anything that sounds like a traditional feature and benefit sales pitch will do it. The optimal sales approach is to be consultative. This means you must break the traditional buyer-seller relationship and establish an open trusting relationship where the prospect trusts you enough to share what is really bothering them and what they are really going to do about it and what they might really like to spend to get it done. This is not easy since they come to the interaction from a position of distrust. That is due to the hundreds of salespeople they have interacted with in the past. It is a gradual process but one that needs to begin from the very first interaction you have with the prospect.

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Describe your Ideal Prospect

If you don’t have an accurate description of your ideal prospect on the tip of your tongue, you are unlikely to ever find one. And, more unfortunately, your clients and referral sources are not likely to ever refer you to one. It is vitally important that you describe in writing what your ideal prospect looks like. The ideal client is the one that gets the most value from your services, is willing to pay the price to get them, and they are large enough to have an impact on the growth of your company. You should describe your ideal prospect by the pain they are in or at least the problems they would have that make them the ideal prospect. Just because your best clients are all service firms in the Fortune 1000, does not mean that all such firms are ideal prospects for you. You are a labor attorney then maybe your ideal prospect is all fortune 1000 firms who have Non-Union Employees and are trying to avoid being unionized. That narrows the field and much more importantly allows your clients and other referral sources to be able to identify prospects for you while in general conversation with their clients or acquaintances. Being able to succinctly describe the pain your prospects might have makes you much more effective in networking situations and when working trade shows. Demographics are important when describing target clients but not as important as identifying the pain that they might be in.

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Listen for the Human Problems

Personal pain is the most powerful motivator in sales. Yes, it is possible to make sales based solely on the problems the company is experiencing. I call this corporate “pain”. These are issues like lack of efficiency, not enough sales, too much waste, air chillers on their last legs, leaky valves, etc. Good salespeople know enough to explore those further to discover another level of pain. Such as, lack of efficiency is causing waste in the product stream, which leads to higher cost and hence lost profit or worse, lost sales. Or, not enough top line growth is putting pressure on the stock price and profitability of the company. However, the optimal salesperson focuses on connecting the business problem to a human problem. The human problem ideally will cause pain in the people who make the decision. In the example of low efficiency leading to lost sales, the optimal salesperson will not stop there. She will ask questions to determine how this will affect the person who has the authority to make the decision to buy her product. She might discover that the VP of operations is worried that he might be replaced if he doesn’t correct the problem. Or the new VP of operations might view this situation as a chance to prove to management that they made the right decision to hire him to run the plant. Or maybe his bonus depends on reducing waste. Notice that if these are all personal emotional connections to the business problem. The salesperson who uncovers these motivators will have discovered truly compelling reasons for the project to move forward. An added bonus is that the prospect will be more bonded to the salesperson with whom he shares these emotions and be more likely to share others. The relationship will deepen and the probability of winning the business at the right price will be dramatically increased.

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