Over the years I’ve had the good fortune to work alongside some very successful sales people. While my role was in marketing, it allowed me to observe their skills from the sidelines.
And let me qualify this, here I’m referring to sales people in B2B environments where the job requires the skills to build long-term ongoing client relationships. So not retail, and definitely no hard sell. It may work in consumer markets where the salesperson seldom has to deal with the consequences of their strong-arm tactics. But it won’t work in B2B where it’s all about trust and integrity. The following characteristics are all part of what makes a successful sales person;
- Be prepared— A good sales person will have done their homework. Both about the prospect, their application and they will have their notes or latest quote printed out with them. They’ll also have done their route planning the night before and will frequently have made some notes or at least considered their objectives for the call.
- Ask great questions— Quality sales is as much about getting to understand the prospect’s needs in detail. More detail than the competition at the least. Rediscover your inner child. Be inquisitive, ask questions, show interest and find out what would really benefit them. This is not even what they think they want sometimes. And remember that quality questions are about outcomes and implications rather than just the superficial facts.
- Be prepared to challenge the decision-maker— Of course you will always do this respectfully. But be prepared to advise, suggest, recommend and offer solutions. Your client or customer’s view may often be based on incomplete information. It is your job to inform them – with diplomacy and sensitivity. Chances are they will trust your judgement more in the future.
- View your customer relationships as partnerships — The best customer relationships are those where you value each other. Don’t go for the old “the customer is always right” nonsense. They’re not! Work to build rapport and mutual respect.
- Take your time. Good sales people are confident in their ability and know that what they are doing is quality. You notice often that struggling sales people do everything quickly and furtively. I notice that people who sell on the phone mostly talk really quickly too. As if they’re trying to finish the call before the prospect gets bored.
- Be comfortable talking prices — You know that if someone is a serious prospect you’ll have to talk about money at some point. So be prepared to discuss this, and be open. There is no need to hide behind waffle and corporate policy. And often when talking price or fees or subscription rates, give it as a fact, with no added opinion of yours. You don’t need to. They’ll come to their own conclusions anyway.
- Use open relaxed communication — Be aware of your body posture, communication style and gestures. A sales person who seems open and relaxed with a sense of humour and a ready smile will help relax the prospect. They’re more likely to buy from you when they’re relaxed.
- Quick follow up — Make it a habit. Quick follow-up. Anything from an e-mail the same day saying “it was nice to have met you earlier” to setting yourself a goal to send all quotes. That way you build momentum and can move on to the next client meeting without being mentally cluttered with lots of outstanding jobs you have to do.
Setting yourself the standards you want to operate by, keeps the bar high. The more quality and speed you have about the way you run your working processes the more time you will have to create opportunities for yourself. And opportunities lead to sales and success and personal gain. You know it makes sense!
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