Anyone who’s been in sales for a decent amount of time knows it brings its fair share of discomfort.
That’s understandable – in the end, the sole purpose of your sales team is to maximise revenue for the business. By and large, that requires them to convince a prospect that your product or service is the best solution for their needs, and to do that quickly.
In turn, that means talking about cost and budget and exerting a degree of pressure in a relationship where you may not have progressed much beyond ‘how do you do?’
Some people take to that dynamic more readily than others, but few people would honestly say they haven’t ever felt uncomfortable getting down to the nitty gritty of a deal with someone they barely know and can’t necessarily read.
In the end, we’re all human and insecurity and a need to be liked are part of the human condition. But they tend to get in the way when you’re in a sales conversation and if you give into them, they’ll likely derail you.
Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a necessity for any successful sales team and those who enjoy most success in their sales roles are those who have learned this alien art quickly.
1. Know your customer
In the end, the one thing you absolutely control is who choose to sell to. Your customers aren’t randomly allocated and it’s absolutely in your interests to know as much as you can about them and their needs. So make building an ideal customer profile the first thing you do.
To do that, you need to be totally focused on their need, not the requirement for you to make the sale. Find out what their decision-making process is – are you talking to the decision-maker or budget-holder? If you’re not, what information does that person need from your prospect to sell your product or service up the food chain.
And you need to know your competition. Make it your business to know more about the best of the rest than those competitors do themselves. Why is your offer better? How does it meet the customer need better?
What is the downstream benefit of buying from you, rather than from someone else?
This prequalifying of sales leads may seem obvious, but I’m always surprised at the number of businesses we work with who are so focussed on the sell they either don’t do it at all or don’t do it properly.
Prequalifying prospects weeds out those who won’t buy (whether that’s because they don’t really need your product, because they’re not the budget-holder or because they can’t afford it). And what does that leave you with?
Prospects who need your product or service and who are likely to buy it. What impact does that knowledge have on your inside sales team? To know that when they pick up the phone to begin a sales relationship, they’re going to be talking to someone who’s more likely than not to buy from them?
2. Don’t justify the price of what you’re selling
To be confident in the sale, your sales team needs to be confident in the product they’re selling. Yes, it might be a premium price, but there’s a reason for that and so your team has to have 100% faith in it.
One of the most uncomfortable moments in any sale is the point at which you drop the price bomb into the conversation.
This is the point at which many salespeople begin to gabble, filling the void that just opened up with justifications for the price.
Often, the best thing to do at this point is to stay quiet for a moment and use the silence to your advantage. Let the prospect process the information they’ve just been given. Then it’s an opportunity to re-cover the reasons why your product best meets their business need. You might have sales scripts to help with this – and this is the time they come into their own – especially if the script has case studies the prospect can relate to.
3. Don’t be scared to follow up
Many salespeople are reluctant to follow up with prospects for fear of bothering them and becoming a pain in the neck. But your job isn’t to worry about whether you’re pestering them – if you are, let them tell you that. Leaving them alone won’t make the sale more likely.
As humans, we’re predisposed to fear the worst. But to be comfortable in sales, you have to put that natural instinct to one side. If you haven’t heard from someone and you think you should have done, just fire them a follow-up text or email and find out where they’ve got to in their process.
Which brings us to tip number 4.
4. Get clarity
The psychology of truth is that as humans, we’re pretty good at avoiding it. It’s the false reassurance that somehow, by not knowing, we can pretend everything is all going swimmingly.
This is certainly true in sales, where we have a tendency to fear the word ‘no’.
In the end, salespeople need to make sales. Some people will buy from you, some people won’t. Knowing that gives you a certain amount of confidence. If someone buys, then it’s happy days and you can chalk one up for the team.
If someone doesn’t buy, it’s not going to kill you and you can move on to the next prospect and stop wasting time (and money) on a lost cause.
What kills businesses is waiting in the no-man’s land of ‘maybe’.
But some sales teams are reluctant to seek a definitive answer because while the lead is still live, it’s still possible. There’s a lot of evidence to show that it’s psychologically more comfortable to believe something can still happen than to know it can’t.
Yet, as the old saying goes, the truth sets you free – and being comfortable accepting that not every lead will turn into a sale gives you the resilience and resoluteness you need to tackle the next lead head on, unafraid of the outcome.
It sounds obvious, right – but on average only 40% of the conversations we have are spent listening. Listening is such a powerful tool in sales because when you stop using your mouth and start using your ears, you learn more about what your prospect needs to know from you.
The more you know before you open your mouth to speak, the more time you have to frame your sales script to the needs your product or service will meet in a way your prospect will find compelling.
Part of successful listening is knowing what questions to ask, and I think the key here is to ask lost of open questions: Tell me about your pain points. Tall to me about the immediate challenges ahead. What would help your business to deliver better/faster growth?
Open questions will allow you to gather more information. Closed questions that could be answered with yes or no won’t improve your chances of making a sale – if anything, in fact, it’ll harm them.
There are more secrets to successful sales than these five tips, of course. But if you only followed this advice and did nothing else, I’d be prepared to bet your closure rates would improve.
And I’m guessing you’d probably be very comfortable with that, right?