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.

The Closing Skill is Over rated

The closing skill is over rated. Too much attention is paid to closing techniques and overcoming objections to get a signature on the dotted line. Not enough attention is paid to the front end of the funnel. Closing should be the natural consequence of everything that comes before it. If you hunt regularly, sell consultatively and qualify prospects effectively, your pipeline will be full of prospects who are moving normally toward the close. The key here is to do enough prospecting and qualify effectively. Do not run to the quote and then try to close the prospect. Rather make sure they have a compelling reason to buy from you. Make sure they have enough money and you understand the decision process and what decision the prospect you are talking to has both the authority and the willingness to make. There is one right time to close. Close too early and you will look pushy. Close to late and you may look disinterested or miss the window of opportunity. The right time is decided upon by the prospect so have that conversation with him or her – don’t guess. If you prospect consistently, sell consultatively, and qualify effectively closing will take care of itself.

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Forget you heard it Before

Keep listening to prospects even if you think you have heard it before. The personal pain of each prospect is different. Some salespeople tend to stop listening when the prospect starts to tell them the problem because they have heard this a hundred times before and they think they know where the prospect is going with this description. If you do this, you will miss the real personal pain that this prospect has. Or at least you will miss the hint they give you which will lead you to ask more and better questions. Even worse, some salespeople interrupt the prospect in mid description with a statement like “Oh I know your problem!”. There is no faster way to turn off a prospect and ruin your chances to develop a relationship that saying that. So, even if you think you have heard it all before, listen intently and you will discover that the key to the sale may lie in the nuances of this particular situation and how the prospect reacts to them.

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Be Helpful Not Salesy

Talking about your company and your product is not always being helpful to the prospect. At some point they need to know about that stuff but only after you have uncovered the problem and the pain they are in. A much more effective approach is to be helpful to the prospect. Now I believe that every salesperson wants to be helpful, but many go about it the wrong way. One effective approach to being helpful is to ask questions which will uncover issues that the prospect may not be aware of. Effective questions may also help the prospect crystallize his or her thinking around certain issues. Questions are a great way to establish credibility since you tell more about what you know by the questions you ask than by the statements you make. So when you are talking with prospects be helpful. Ask questions that lead them to a better understanding and you can leave the sales talk at home.

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Pay Attention

To “pay attention” is one of those weird English formulations which non-native English speakers have a hard time understanding. (Where did it come from anyway?) Regardless of how weird it sounds, we can take a lesson from its literal meaning. When we pay for something, we give something up (usually money) to get something back (usually a product or service). In sales, when we “pay attention” we are giving our attention to the prospect in return for valuable information (pain, budget, decision process, etc.). unfortunately, most salespeople don’t pay properly. They don’t really listen to what is being said. Rather they listen for a break so they can start talking. Or they assume they know what they think they heard but they only heard half of it because they were not “paying” with their full attention. So the lesson for today is “pay” with your full attention and you will be rewarded with more and richer information.

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Comfort is not a prerequisite

Being uncomfortable asking certain questions or talking to certain people is no excuse not to do it. Comfort is not a prerequisite for success in sales. In fact, you could make the case that getting out of your comfort zone is the only way to grow. Everything is difficult before it becomes easy and in sales that is true in spades. Are you uncomfortable talking to strangers (making cold calls)? Do it a bunch of times and it becomes easier. Are you uncomfortable talking about money? Do it a few times and it becomes easy. Afraid to talk to CEO’s? Do it a few times and you will feel comfortable in the c-suite. In fact, top salespeople get paid because they are willing to do the things that ineffective salespeople are afraid to do. Repetition breeds comfort. And comfort paired with skill breed success. So, the best advice I ever got from a sales mentor was to “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. Whatever you are afraid of or uncomfortable with probably won’t happen.

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Better is not up to us

What we think is better in a product is unimportant. What the prospect thinks is better is what counts in sales. Your product might be better in one respect and worse in another respect. For example, yours might have more “bells and whistles”. But, on the other hand, it requires more maintenance because of the added complexity. You might think the bells and whistles make your product better, but the prospect may value reduced maintenance costs and have no use for many of the extras you provide. So, while you think the product is better, the prospect doesn’t agree and may go to a competitor even if yours is cheaper. The solution is to focus on the prospect first and determine what they value. Or, in other words, discover their pain. Once you do that, you can focus your pitch on what they value and eliminate any mention of the other things even (and this is the hard part) if you are passionate about the cool features your product has that the prospect does not care about.

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Time Shift

Pay time activities are things like talking to prospects, closing deals, and setting up appointments. If you call in the time zone you live in then any time is usually somewhere between 7:30 AM and 6 PM. Of course, this varies with who you are calling. Admin (non-pay time) activities are things like expense reports, some email actions, proposals (many times, especially low probability proposals), and similar activities. In order to increase your ability to hit your sales targets you should shift as many non-pay time activities to be accomplished outside of the time frame when you can be talking to clients. An added side benefit of this is that you may have more motivation to qualify prospects harder. If you realize that you are going to have to choose between writing a proposal or spending time with your family, you might ask a few more questions and increase your probability of success or decrease them to zero which means you don’t have to write the proposal at all.

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Tell a Story

Stories are a great way to uncover pain and simultaneously explain what you do. But there is a formula so that you don’t bore the prospect or give too much away. Most sales people don’t tell third party stories during the pain step. They focus instead on asking questions and trying to uncover issues which can lead to pain. That is not a bad thing. But telling a story in the right way can really help the prospect to share the pain when they might be reluctant to do so under direct questioning. Stories have the added benefit of giving the prospect insight into how you work and the value of your service or product. But you have to tell the story correctly. When salespeople do tell stories, they tend to focus in excruciating detail on what they do and how they do it. If you do it that way, you will lose control of the call and end up giving away too much information without getting anything in return.

The best way to tell a story is to do it according to the formula 40-20-40. The first forty percent should describe the problem that a similar customer had. Describe the pain in some detail. The reason you do this is so that the prospect can identify with the example. The pain should be something that you suspect the prospect is experiencing. Then you describe, without much detail, what you did to address the problem. This should take up the next twenty percent of the time allotted for the story. Then finish the story with a description of the Utopian condition after you solved the problem. So, if the story length is 100 seconds, there would be 40 seconds on pain 20 seconds on what you did to fix it and then 40 seconds on Utopia. In general prospects can identify with the pain much better than they can identify and understand exactly what you do and how you do it. There is a time to explain that but the pain step is not the place.

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Beware of people who are interested

People are interested in things they have no intention of buying. Interest is only the first step in qualifying a prospect. You also need to determine if the prospect has pain and if there is any urgency to solve the pain. If you have all three of those elements you have a compelling reason to buy. Then of course you need the prospect to have enough money and there is the whole decision process that needs to be contended with. The real danger in prospects who are interested in your product or service (and eagerly tell you that early in the process) is that the salesperson gets excited and forgets all about the sales process. They think “Great, finally someone recognizes the value of my product”. Then, having abandoned the sales process, they begin talking. Before you know it, they have stopped listening and qualifying and have explained all the features and benefits of the product and extolled the virtues of working together. And when they finish and try to close they are surprised that they get put off or shut down all together. The lesson is to control your emotions. Do not get excited. Prospects are expert at manipulating you into giving them the information that they need without giving up too much on their side. Listen. Ask more questions. And totally qualify the prospect before you launch into a presentation or provide a quote. You will do much better that way. You can get excited when the check clears.

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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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