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.

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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Take a Risk

Do you want to get to another level? Then take a risk. If you always stay within your comfort zone emotionally you will stunt your growth professionally as a sales person. We avoid things we are afraid of. The reason we avoid doing certain things is not because of the “danger” inherent in the action, but the perceived problems that will befall us if we take the action. We are not afraid of actually asking for a referral. We are afraid of the consequences we imagine that will accompany the ask. We might be afraid the client will see us as presumptuous, or pushy, or too salesy. We might be afraid that they will reject us. We fear the imagined consequences of asking. Here is how growth works. You face the fear and do something you have been avoiding. You get a result. Most likely what you are afraid of does not happen. There is no rejection. The client gives you a referral or explains that as much as they would like to give you one, they don’t know the type of people you are asking to be referred to. You notice that the stuff you feared the most either never happened or was not as bad as you imagined it would be. The next time you think of asking for a referral the fear is not as bad as it was the first time. The same result occurs. Eventually you realize that there is nothing to fear in asking for a referral and it is a natural part of your sales process. Most of your work starts to come by referral which is a much easier way to sell. Your pipeline and your income grow and you are at a new level and ready to get out of your comfort zone again to get to the next level.

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Be Proud of Your Price

Are you proud that your price is high? Or, do you constantly seek to justify it to prospects. If you think your price is too high, you will be vulnerable to rice objections from the prospect. The minute the prospect even hints at putting downward pressure on the price your inner voice will say “I KNEW IT. Our price is too high just like I have been telling management!”! If you have belief in your product or service and are proud to be one of the higher priced options in the market, when the prospect mentions that your price is high, your inner voice will say “and worth every penny and then some”! Something else will come out of your mouth in response to the prospects statement. Whatever that is will be powered by the belief that your product has value worth paying for. If you are not proud of your price you need to sell yourself first that your product is worth what you are asking for it. This is a simple but very powerful concept that will pay huge dividends.

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Fear is Temporary

You generally avoid what you fear. In sales what you fear rarely happens. If you avoid making sales calls because you fear that bad things will happen and horror of horrors you will get rejected, the rejection won’t happen, but neither will the income that would result from the call. Even if the rejection happens, the hurt is temporary. However, when your income is not what it should be, you may regret that you did not push yourself out of your comfort zone for a very long time. It is a fact that hardly anything really bad can happen on a cold call. The worst that can happen is that they don’t buy from you. And if you are rejected, so what? Your parents still love you, your kids still love you, your spouse still loves you and if all else fails your dog still loves you. Don’t live your life regretting sales calls you wish you had made. The hurt that you fear is very temporary, but the regret will last a very long time.

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Be Consistent

Consistency in any endeavor is the basis for skill development and compound growth. Deposit money consistently in your retirement account and you will experience true exponential growth in your savings. The same is true in many things. If you are consistent in your workout routine muscles will develop and your growth as an athlete will amaze you. Unfortunately, the same salesperson who routinely saves money and works out might also be erratic in how and when they apply a sales process. Their sales call pattern may also be very uneven, 12 calls today then nothing for a week while they work on other things. In order to grow at a rapid pace, it is necessary to use your sales process on every call and in every conversation not just when the mood strikes you. That is the only way to build skill and to internalize the sales process and the sales tactics. If you do not routinely use your sales process, then it will never become internalized and your results will be uneven and unpredictable. Likewise, your calling pattern should be relatively consistent. Your monthly call volume should be spared as evenly as possible over the workdays in the month. Wildly varying call patterns will most likely lead to not being consistent in how you approach each call. So, the problem compounds itself. Consistency in your work ethic and in your approach will yield compound growth in both your sales effectiveness and in your bank account.

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Don’t solve Symptoms

Do your deals get stuck? Maybe you are addressing symptoms instead of consequences. Most salespeople are pouncers. They hear something that sounds like a problem and they pounce. The prospect says that “deliveries have been a little slow” and the salesperson pounces on that hint of pain. They say “well mister prospect, we have an excellent expediting department and we are able to guarantee a 98.34 percent on-time delivery”. The prospect nods and the conversation moves on to the next topic. What the salesperson should do is ask more questions of the prospect to uncover what the consequences of the late deliveries are. For example, the late deliveries could be causing a problem in their production lines leading to production down time and lost productivity. That would possibly be a problem worth paying money to solve. However, the elite salespeople go even deeper. They realize that a true compelling reason to buy requires that significant consequences must result from the problem under discussion or the prospect will not be “compelled” to take action. Having a compelling reason to buy I s the first element in having a truly qualified prospect. A few more questions and the elite salesperson might discover that the prospect is a subcontractor to a major government contractor and late deliveries are causing their vendor rating to be depressed which has the effect of prohibiting purchasing agents to issue subcontracts to them no matter how good the product or how low the price. This severe consequence will most likely demand that the prospect take action. so the lesson is, don’t solve symptoms dig deeper to get to the consequences that will cause action to be taken.

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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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