What makes a great salesperson?
Part of being a great salesperson is not simply the product you’re selling, a large part of it is selling you. If you inspire confidence and a positive feeling in a prospect the probability of making the sales goes up significantly.
You’ll never be perfect, you can’t because it’s a constant battle as the market changes and you meet new people to evolve your tactics, the best salespeople have open minds and the discipline to adapt without throwing away all that works. Having a defined sales process and being on top of your sales pipeline are also critical factors in success.
Start with yourself
Self improvement is the first step in becoming better at sales. You have to know your weaknesses and then work on them. If speaking in front of strangers makes you uncomfortable and you’re unwilling to work at it forget about a career in sales – it’s not for you.
That being said it is something that can be worked on take Warren Buffett for example. He used to suffer from terrible stage fright to the point of throwing up – now imagine you’re making an important sales pitch and you throw up, it’s not likely to breed much confidence is it?
But obviously Warren conquered his stage fright and went onto becoming the Oracle of Omaha. He did it by taking the Dale Carnegie Course in effective speaking, leadership training, and the art of winning friends and influencing people and he still proudly displays his certificate dated January 13, 1952 in his office.
The point being whatever your weakness is you have to know about it and be willing to tackle it head on. A lot of sales is about charisma and on being able to build a rapport with people, preparing anecdotes, being able to listen effectively and get a conversation going is key – work at it by practising. It’s the only way you’ll improve.
Know what you’re selling and who you’re selling to
You have to be a resource for your product, an expert. That doesn’t mean just knowing the obvious facts but the background information too and then knowing about the market you’re selling to and how your product fits in.
The ability to contextualise the product for your prospect is incredibly powerful. If you can understand how their business works, give examples of similar businesses and how the product you’re selling fits into their process that’s a huge win.
It builds trust, they know you’re not winging it and making stuff up to get the sale and deep down its reassurance that the product can work for them and if they run into trouble there are people who get their process, and can actually help out if things go wrong. Plus, you can point out specific inefficiencies that can be improved by the product you’re selling relevant to them. By demonstrating greater knowledge and being a resource you give that comfort to the prospect.
The other great thing about knowing what you’re talking about with some depth and breadth is you’re more comfortable making the sale and it’ll show in the way you speak. Try talking about a topic you know very little about to one you know a lot about your body language, the number of pauses you make all of it changes.
Be prepared to deal with customer objections
Your prospect will rightly be skeptical and will come up with reasons why not to go with what you’re selling. Your job is to understand as many of those objections as possible and have reasons to bat them away.
You need to be in control of the objections and set the narrative. If the price is too high then talk about cost savings over time and getting great on time support which will stop delays which cost the prospect money from occurring, when selling business to business it almost always comes down to the bottom line, some quantifiable figure so if you have something like that then use it.
Remember, the key is you control the conversation and you set the tone of how the objection is dealt with not your customer. Take for example if your prospect is comparing you to a competitor in their head. That’s not good you want to be doing the comparison yourself so as to point out your product’s strength’s and the competitors weaknesses. It’s all about controlling the narrative – not in a way where you suck up all the oxygen in the room but the general course of the conversation is plotted by you.
Don’t be a robot. Listen, absorb and react
Having a prepared sales pitch is great but people aren’t simple machines where you put in an input and you’ll only get an exact output. They’re going to throw you curveballs so listen to them and don’t try to fit a canned answer into a context it doesn’t fit into.
Doing that will turn the prospect off and make them feel like you’re not listening to them. You want to be able to guide the conversation but that doesn’t mean you just read a script, don’t let the prospect get anything in edgeways and ignore anything that deviates from the script. The key is to be subtle and let the prospect think that they have come to a conclusion themselves not that you have guided them there.
A lot of sales is quite personal. The ability to quickly build common ground and a rapport is very important in closing a deal. But it doesn’t stop there, your best customers will be old ones who you’ve known for years and you’re on a first name basis with.
When they’re looking to purchase you want them to come to you first. If it’s sports or cars, find something that you can connect over that doesn’t have anything to do with business. On the other hand if you’re unable to build relationships and in fact you do the opposite and leave a bad impression even if your product is amazing you will lose that sale, check out a story on this from our founder on how a sales rep lost a sale being an ass here.
You only get one chance to make a first impression make it a good one.
Don’t default to discounts to make the deal
In some industries like retail it’s just expected to offer a discount off the bat but using a discount right off the bat to get the sale is a bad idea. Word can spread fast and other prospects will start pushing for them too eating into your margins plus often times it signals that you don’t value your product, and if you don’t why would they?
Discounts are a tool to sell but they’re not the first tool you pull out of the bag. Often times if its possible give a basket of choices associated with prices with the basket being bigger and better at a higher price.
If you’re only interested in doing the bare minimum you’re going to struggle long term and your sales targets will become mountains harder and harder to climb. If you can’t get excited about what you’re selling then your prospect won’t either.
If you’re interested and engaged, you’re doing your follow ups, making sure things are going smoothly, on first names with the prospect clearly communicate you care about your customers you’ll do great and meeting those sales targets will be easier.
All salespeople are not alike but they all have the above attributes whilst combining them with their own unique personal qualities. Above all it takes discipline and practise to become better at sales just like in anything in life.
If this is what you want to do you’ll never reach perfection but you can always get better, and if you have the drive to do just that you’ll make a great career in sales.