How the Best Salespeople Sell – Part Two

It has long been said that the best salespeople have the gift of gab. It has also long been dead wrong. The best salespeople in fact have the gift of listening. They listen well, very well.

The best salespeople, and the best communicators in general, listen to understand rather than just listening to respond. They listen with all their senses and they listen with their heart. They use their empathy skills to focus not only on what was said but what was actually meant. 

The best salespeople do not “filter” what was said through their own biases or life lens. They accept what was said and don’t simply dismiss the things they don’t want to hear. When speaking with anyone they give that person one of the greatest signs of respect that a person can offer, their full attention. 

The best salespeople ask the best questions and that is not a coincidence. They know what they don’t know and they know that lack of information is a real challenge for a professional salesperson. They also know that challenge is small when compared with what they do know that isn’t so…. misinformation or just plain wrong information, when accepted as fact, will kill salesperson’s chance to really help a prospect and earn their business.

The best salespeople ask lots of questions, particularly open ended questions and they allow the prospect time to think about an answer. They are not afraid of a little silence as the customer searches for an answer. They know that if a prospect or customer can instantly answer every question then they probably aren’t asking meaningful enough questions to uncover real wants and needs. Without understanding those wants and needs a professional salesperson knows their odds of earning a customer’s business go way way down.

The best salespeople seldom discuss price without also discussing value. They believe in the value their product or service provides to the customer. They are skilled at using the information the customer provided when answering questions to help the customer understand and see the value too. When having the price/value discussion the best salespeople do not overstate, exaggerate or lie. EVER!

The best salespeople accept personal responsibility for a lost sale. They work to discover their weakness or the weakness of their offering and then they work to improve it. They work; the best salespeople simply put more effort into getting the results that they want. They know that sales is either the lowest paying easy job they will ever have or the most challenging highest paying job they could ever want. They know that everyday both options are a choice and they choose the challenge and accept the high compensation that comes with it.

They best salespeople hate to lose and they are excellent at hiding that fact. They don’t blame the prospect for their decision to go elsewhere and they don’t rip on the competition. They don’t stop calling on “lost” accounts, instead redoubling their efforts to earn the business back. 

Low performing salespeople will never admit to being outsold but the best salespeople know they can be outsold by other “best” salespeople at any time. They relish that competition and use it to strengthen their resolve and push themselves to constantly improve their product knowledge and skills. 

The best salespeople love the profession of selling and respect it with integrity and high ethical standards. Their goal is not so much to sell as it is to help their customer buy. They know that by doing the right things right the outcome will more times then not be right as well. 

The best salespeople do the right things right. How many of these things do you do right each day? If you were on trial, charged with being a “best” salesperson, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

If not then start building your case today. You can become a best salesperson any time you wish…. Simply do the right things right.

How to Sell More of Anything

Next week in Baltimore I’ll present a “How to Sell” class to a group of professionals. Not sales professionals, in fact, these professionals may very well have a certain disdain at even the thought of selling. 

As I prepared for the presentation I knew instinctively that a traditional sales training session was out of the question. No sales process or technique would be of interest or value to this group. While “selling” is important to their profession it is not something they are comfortable with and not something they do on a daily basis.

That got me to thinking about the essence of selling and what it really takes to sell effectively. The answer that popped into my head was trust and relationships.

People buy from people they like and trust. People don’t buy from companies or machines. Yes, we sometimes buy stuff online and through vending machines but usually even then someone, a person, has previously convinced us that it would be a good purchase.

The presentation morphed into a “Building Trusting Relationships” session and it quickly occurred to me that this isn’t just a great topic for non-traditional salespeople, it’s a valuable topic for all sales professionals. 

Salespeople, at least less successful salespeople, tend to focus all their energies on “telling” their prospect about the product. They spend far too little time on building the type of relationship that will help the prospect trust them as a person and as a result the prospect remains suspect about most everything the salesperson says.

The most successful salespeople don’t focus on themselves or their product, they focus on their customer and their customer’s wants and needs. They start that process by learning about their customer’s goals and objectives and it is from those conversations that a real relationship blooms.  

The most successful salespeople treat people with courtesy, politeness, and kindness. They listen to what others have to say before expressing their own thoughts. Successful salespeople do not insult, disparage or knock another person’s ideas. Even if that other person is a competitive salesperson. Especially if that other person is a competitive salesperson! 

The most successful salespeople have long ago thrown out the Golden Rule and replaced it with the Platinum Rule: Treat others as they wish to be treated.

The most successful salespeople don’t play the blame game. They accept responsibility for their actions and they honor their commitments. They share credit for their success knowing full well that no salesperson can succeed long-term without a lot of support from others in their organization.

The most successful salespeople avoid wasting time and are consistent planners. They are genuinely interested in other people and believe they can learn from anyone. They smile often and always, always, always maintain control of their attitude. Simply put, they are the type of person we all enjoy being around. 

Now, for those of you who have never sold a thing or are in a position that requires a non-traditional sales approach, just remove the word “sales” from every sentence above. What you’ll discover is that the way to sell more of anything is to be a successful person. 

Once you have developed the skill of building trusting relationships, sincere relationships, well then you can sell most anything to most anyone. 

You see, great salespeople are also great people.

Advice for New Salespeople

I received a Direct Message on my Twitter account the other day asking for advice for new salespeople. Now I can be pretty concise but geez, advice for new salespeople in 140 characters is way beyond me.

Since communicating in more than those 140 characters is why I started this blog in the first place I figured I’d answer here. So here we go!

My first and best advice is once you’ve earned the right to ask for the order always, always, always ask for the order. It is amazing to me the huge percentage of sales presentations that end without the salespeople asking for the order. It’s a fact that professional salespeople tend to get what they ask for and they always ask for the order.

My next best advice is never ask for the order if you have not earned the right. Screwing up a sales presentation and being unprepared to represent yourself and your product makes you look like a hack. Asking for the order anyway is what gives salespeople the poor reputation that we often have.

Now the tough part. How do you earn the right to ask for the order? That question alone could fill up several blog posts.  Maybe I’ll write again on this topic, but for for now let’s see how I do with this one.

Earning the right to ask for the order involves preparing for the call. Call preparation is where the majority of salespeople fall short. When you’re not prepared for the call you fail to make a good first impression, you fail to ask the type of questions to generate interest on the part of your prospect and you make such a generic sales presentation that you often miss the mark completely.

If you’re going to succeed in sales then you need to prepare for success. Preparing begins by learning as much as possible about your prospect before you make the initial call. There is more information available to you today than ever before; a simple Google search can provide you with enough basic information to know at least a little something before you introduce yourself. If your first question to your customer is “So, what business are you in?” you can be certain you have failed in what is known as pre-approach.

Next, do a little strategizing to determine what information you’ll need from your customer to help them see the value in your product or service. Determine the questions you’ll use to uncover that information. This step of the sales process, the information gathering part, is called many things by various sales training types but whatever you call it, this is the part where most salespeople lose the deal. They simply don’t have enough information about their prospect to know what they would buy and more importantly, why they would buy it.  Do not “wing” this part of the sales process, it is where business is won and lost.

Next, learn everything you possibly can about your products and the products offered by your competition. You’ll never present all of it to a prospect but knowing it allows you to piece together a presentation that “fits” with what your prospect told you during your information gathering step. If you do this well it will look like your product was made for that particular customer. If you’ve found the right prospect and selected the right product not only will it look like it, it will actually be true.

Once you’ve asked the right questions, hopefully better questions than any unprepared salesperson could ever ask, and once you’ve professionally presented your product (the right product for that particular customer) then and only then have you earned the right to ask for the order.

If you’ve earned the right and don’t ask for the order, for any reason, then you’ll likely struggle in sales as long as that’s your chosen profession. The most successful salespeople are fearless about asking for the order once they have earned the right.

If you’re going to succeed in sales you had best find your own fearless and use it everyday!

I could go on and on with advice for new and experienced salespeople alike but let me close like this:

Sales is an honorable profession if YOU make it one. There are plenty of things you can’t control about sales but you can always control yourself. You can decide how professional you will be, you can decide how honest you will be and you can decide if you’re only in it for the money or if money is just part of it.

Sales is either one of the easiest lower paying jobs in the world or one of the most challenging highest paid professions in the world. You get to decide which one it will be for yourself each and everyday!