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Ask any salesperson and they will tell you that selling is hard work. In fact, anyone who has ever had a job in sales will likely admit that it’s the hardest work they’ve ever done. If a salesperson gets a yes immediately, they haven’t really sold anything as much as taken an order. Selling starts the moment a prospect says no. Selling is what happens when a salesperson turns a No into a Yes. And yet, most salespeople make common mistakes throughout the sales process that keep them from making a sale.
There are a myriad of things that sales people should do… could do… would do… but don’t for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes salespeople are taught wrong. They are told to do things a certain way even though those techniques, approaches and strategies haven’t worked for half a century. Sometimes salespeople are taught the right things to do and they just don’t do them, either because they don’t believe the sales program is effective or they think their way is better. But a lot of the time, salespeople aren’t taught at all how to “sell.” So they emulate the worst examples of salesmanship, which just makes the job of sales even harder than it already is. The following are things a salesperson should do to make the sale.
1. Stop being fake. Be genuine.
Most salespeople are told to bring high levels of energy, enthusiasm, and verve to every meeting. They are told to be assertive, bold and confident. From the moment they walk in the door, they have huge smiles, animated faces and high-pitched voices. They focus on sweet-talking the person and then pitching the product or service. They talk more than they listen. They ask few questions and seldom listen to the answers. But these used-car-salesman greetings and zippy, cheerleader-y demeanors actually turn most people off. People are not drawn to people who are artificially confident or over-confident. In truth, phony behavior kills the chances of establishing a real relationship built on trust and respect. Top salespeople aren’t fake. They drop their tone of voice, ask thoughtful questions, and are more genuine in their approach.
2. Stop selling. Behave as a professional does.
A doctor takes a full medical history of a patient first, asking questions and listening carefully to the answers. He then conducts a thorough examination and run plenty of tests before finally making a diagnosis and prescribing either medicine or a procedure. No cardiologist ever suggested a triple by-pass without first fully assessing the condition of the patient’s heart and gauging his overall health.
The same goes for a mechanic. A mechanic will ask the owner questions about what issues a car is having… what the driver feels or hears when driving. The mechanic might then take the car for a drive to experience those issues first hand. He will put the car on a lift and examine the motor or parts that are at issue, before finally identifying the problem and making a recommendation for a repair. No mechanic will determine that a car needs new struts and shocks without examining the car first.
Yet salespeople often don’t bother to determine if the client even needs the solution before trying to sell it to them. They jump right into a sales pitch the second the prospect mentions a challenge. Salespeople should behave as most professionals do. Slow down. Focus on understanding the potential client’s actual challenges. Try to understand the business issues before attempting to prescribe a solution. This establishes the salesperson as a trusted advisor – not a salesperson — in the eyes of the prospect. The best salespeople are usually not seen as salespeople at all.
3. Talk less. Be a Good Listener.
Diagnosing a need goes hand in hand with being a good listener. In the average sales meeting, the typical salesperson spends at least half of the time talking. He talks about himself, his company and his products or services. He talks about the features and benefits of the product or service. He points out how their product or service is better than the competition. That’s a lot of talking. That needs to stop. If a salesperson spends more than 10-20% of a meeting talking, he is talking way too much.
When a salesperson does talk, it should be just to ask questions. And then he should listen. Not just hear… but actually listen to the answers. No salesperson can discover what a prospective client needs without asking questions and then listening to the answers. A salesperson should ask strategic questions that create value and then listen carefully to understand what is driving the customer.
4. Be Discerning. Separate the Wheat from the Chaff
Unless a salesperson is selling water in the desert, every person is not a “potential customer.” In truth, there are usually many variables that typically disqualify a person from being a prospective customer for most any product or service. For example, for a residential mortgage lender, only people who are looking to buy or refinance a property are prospective customers. That generally excludes anyone under the age of 18 and elderly citizens who are living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It also disqualifies those who don’t earn enough to afford a property and most people with poor or no credit. It also disqualifies anyone who already has a property and is not looking to buy another. That disqualifies a LOT of people.
A good prospective customer is one who has a need for that particular solution at that particular time. Instead of trying to persuade a bad fit to use you, learn to disqualify (quickly) those who are not a good fit. As a farmer would say, “you’ve got to separate the wheat from the chaff.” The world’s top salespeople spend the majority of their time pitching to the right prospects. This can only happen when a salesperson disqualifies the wrong ones first.
5. Be Selective. Pinpoint the Decision Maker and Pitch to Him/Her.
It’s not enough to just pitch to actual potential customers. A salesperson has to pitch to the person who is the decision-maker for that particular product or service. A salesperson has to identify who is the decision-maker. To join the top 5% of salespeople, a salesperson must stop selling to low- and mid-level management. Those people simply don’t have the budget or power to agree to the purchase. That’s why successful salespeople try not to waste time on non-decision makers. That said, getting to the decision maker can be difficult, and it may require winning over multiple people (the gate keepers) before presenting to the decision maker. Ideally, though, the goal should be to focus efforts on connecting with those who have the authority to decide.
6. Eliminate Busy Work. Focus on Tasks that Generate Sales.
When it comes to sales, all tasks are not created equal. Prospecting, following up with customers, setting and attending sales meetings, and closing deals add to the bottom line. Those are the things salespeople should do. Providing customer service after the sale, dealing with paperwork, filing, traveling to and from events, entering data in a CRM system, and attending corporate meetings generally do nothing for the bottom line and rob a salesperson of time. Those are things salespeople should minimize or not do at all. In an occupation where time is money, salespeople must jealously guard their time. Busywork that doesn’t increase sales should be passed to clerical staff as much as possible. Companies that don’t help salespeople focus on being productive leave money on the table.
7. Exude Confidence Always. Never Act Desperate.
There is a saying in business that you should “fake it ‘til you make it.” While being fake and phony is actually detrimental to sales, there is a need to mask any feeling of desperation and act confident and successful, no matter how much a sale is needed. Of course, every salesperson knows how it feels to need a sale to pay the bills. But even in the most extreme situations, it never helps to show desperation. A salesperson must always appear financially secure, successful, and confident. Confident, but not arrogant. Successful, but humble. It is a fine line. One thing is certain. A salesperson is more likely to make a sale when a prospect believes the salesperson doesn’t need the sale. The prospect is also more likely to trust a salesperson who appears calm, self-possessed, poised and stable.
8. Stop Catching Minnows. Pursue Big Fish.
Average salespeople usually close many more deals than top performers. And yet the top performers outperform them. How is that? The secret is actually not such a secret. It has to do with quality, not quantity. A Realtor who sells one commercial property per month will outperform most Realtors selling residential property. That’s because it takes the sale of 20 $300,000 condos to equal the commission on the sale of one $6,000,000 shopping center, if the commission percentage is the same. And a Realtor would have to sell 20 $400,000 homes in Newark to earn roughly the same commission as the Realtor who sells an $8,000,000 estate home on Long Island. Top producers focus on the quality of sales, not the quantity. One big sale often requires the same amount of work as a smaller one, but it usually comes with a much bigger payout.
9. Don’t be Afraid to Ask Closing Questions.
What is this challenge costing you? If the cost of the problem exceeds the cost of the solution, then the sale makes sense.
How much would you invest to solve this challenge? What are they willing to pay to solve the problem? Determine if there is a gap between the cost of the solution and what they are willing to pay. If so, find a way to close the gap.
10. Always Ask for the Sale.
So often a salesperson will pitch a product or service and never ask for the sale. They never actually say “Would you like to go forward with your purchase today?” “Would you like to use us to handle this for you?” “Can I place an order for you today?” Some never ask for the sale and thus never get a “no.” But they also never get a “yes”. Selling doesn’t start until the customer says “no” and then explains why.
11. Use existing Connections. Ask for Referrals and Recommendations
When most salespeople close a sale, they go after the next opportunity. But the top producers know that a satisfied customer is the best leverage to another valuable prospect. Instead of spending time cold calling or prospecting at trade shows for new leads, top salespeople will ask existing customers for introductions to future customers.
Quote of the Week
“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman – not the attitude of the prospect.” W. Clement Stone
© 2017, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.