My eldest grandson called me and asked for my advice. I was thrilled. Evan’s 23, and on the go. It’s always great to hear from him. He asked for sales advice. He’d been recruited for a sales position and accepted it. We chatted over the phone for about twenty minutes. I rambled on about learning to listen, solving problems, and becoming a consultant – not a salesperson, but I wasn’t very thorough. So, Evan, here are a few more pieces of advice about selling.

13 Steps to Sales Success

Listen First

Evan, I fear you may have inherited the ‘talk don’t listen gene’ from me. My lack of listening skills hurt me when I was new to sales. It was a long road to get to where I could ask questions of a prospect and then listen to their answers without interrupting them or thinking about what I was going to say. The truth is, I’m still working on my listening skills. But think about this, if you don’t learn to listen how will you know what the client needs and wants? How to actively listen in a loud world.

Solve Problems

So, if you want to solve problems for your customers, and believe me you do, then you must learn to listen (see above). Too often, salespeople push what they want to sell on customers. They promote what they like, not what the customer wants. If you want to build a loyal client base, learn what people need, want, and desire then deliver it.

“Define the problems you solve. Who do you help and how do you help them? Too often when companies look for their target audience, they focus on the features of their product or service. Forget about the features, how does your product benefit the client? What does it do for them? When you can answer that, you’ll know who needs your product.” — How to target your audience without breaking the bank.

Keep Your Promises

You’ve  heard under promise and over deliver. While that certainly is a better strategy than over promising, why not just keep your promises to your customers? When you oversell yourself, business, or product just to get a name on the dotted line, you open yourself up for a world of pain. Once you break a client’s trust they will question everything you do, they most likely will not be a repeat customer, and they do not say good things about you to others. Under promise and over deliver? How about just keeping your promise?

Be Easy to Work with

“Every business causes customer pain. Are you more difficult to work with than you need be? Do you communicate poorly? Does it take too long to get things done? Is your customer service unreceptive? Does your company listen to its customers? Great organizations look for ways to alleviate the pain. Where can you ease the pain?” — Are you easy to do business with?

Follow Up

There’s a fine line between overselling, becoming a pest, and staying in contact with prospects. It’s important to be available throughout the sales process. However, being pushy with over the top emails, stalking on social media, and unsolicited multiple phone calls isn’t good sales – it’s creepy.

I’ve read that the average consumer says no several times before coming to yes. So, how do you keep your name in the game without being creepy? By being helpful. Be available to answer questions. Let people know you’re there to help.

Ask for Referrals

“Do customers thank you? Do they thank you for superior work, solving problems, servicing your product, or correcting a mistake? When they do what do you say? “No, I thank you!” OK—nothing wrong with that, but you need to take it further. When your customer thanks you for the great job you and your company did, it’s time to ask for referrals. Look your customer in the eye and say, “Thank you, we try our best to meet our customer’s needs, may I ask, who do you know who might use our services and deserves to be treated this way?” I’m not big on verbatim scripts, so put it in your own words — but take the time to ask.” — How to get more leads without working harder.

And don’t forget about friends and family. I’ve been told by salespeople that they don’t want to be pushy with friends and family. My answer is don’t. However, why wouldn’t you ask the people who know and love you best to help you? Ask them to keep you in mind.

Don’t Go Old-School

The days of old-school sales psychology based on tricks and gambits are on their way out. People have too much access to information, and although these sales “tricks” might still work on some prospects, it’s not a tactic that will build clientele.

Yesterday I received an email from an organization I respect, but after the email — I have doubts. It was a sales offer with an “only good today” urgency. I almost replied the following day with, “Gosh, I’m sorry I missed this because I really, really wanted it, but it’s too late now.” Just say no to bad sales tactics.

Be Helpful

One of the best ways to promote yourself is to be helpful. I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth repeating. A few years ago, the VP of marketing for a national company that we worked with was attending an event in Indiana. At the time the organization was new to social media. I started following them on SM and took notes. TKO was a couple of years ahead of them as far as social media.

So, I attended the event, met the VP, and then offered to advise them on social media. They appreciated this, and I was happy to help. Near the end of our short conversation I added that we had a new sign division, so if they needed any help with signage just let us know. Later I did help them with social media. And they reached out to us about signage. We fabricated and installed more than 1 million dollars’ worth of signs for them over the next year. Be helpful.

Set Activities Based Goals

In the mid-1970’s I was an assistant manager at a Volkswagen dealership. Every month the management would set goals for the next month with each salesperson and the dealership. Each of us would complete a form showing how many cars we’d sold the previous month, YTD, dollar volume, and finance numbers. Then we’d fill in our goal for the next month. For example, if you sold 15 cars in August, your goal might be 18 in September.

We’d turn them in, get a pat on the back (or a talking to if we’d missed our goals), and then be sent on our way. Do you know what was missing? How were we going to hit our goals? What activities did we need to continue, stop, improve, or renew? You cannot do a goal – you have to take action. Why Smart goals are dumb.

Say No

If you’re asked to do something unethical, illegal, or immoral, it’s clear you should say no. But when else should you say no? If a customer insists on a product or service that you know will not meet their needs or expectations – tell them. Say no. If a prospect needs help outside of your expertise tell them. Say no. When you can’t deliver, don’t say, “You bet” just to get a name on the dotted line. Say no.

Share the Benefits

There’s an old acronym in sales called FAB – feature, advantage, benefit, and when presented properly it’s a good sales tool. However, too many salespeople get stuck on the feature or advantage and never get to the benefit. People don’t buy because of a feature; they buy because of what it does for them – the benefit.

For example, if I was marketing a longer lasting light bulb, I could explain the feature – LED lamps, advantage —they can last two to three times longer than incandescent bulbs. I could explain the benefit that since they last longer you don’t need to buy them as often. In this case, it might be that the initial cost of the LED bulb is more but since it will outlast two or three of the old-style bulbs it costs less, and it uses less electricity which also saves money.

However, the more important benefit might be that the consumer doesn’t have to stand on a chair and change the light bulb in the kitchen as often. Are you selling the benefits of your product?

Establish a Budget

Early in the sales cycle, it’s wise to establish a budget. Ask the prospect what they want and expect to spend. Explain that you will do your best to find a solution within their budget.

Don’t be Afraid of Your Price

I’ve seen too many salespeople hesitate to share the price of their product because they were afraid of it. What it means is the salesperson wonders if the product is too expensive. To overcome this fear, learn what’s behind the price. In most cases, you’ll find good reasons for the price and if you don’t, if you think it’s a rip-off, then find another job.

Ask for the Sale

If you’ve done all the above and established yourself as a consultant with your client’s best interests served, then ask them to buy. It can be as simple as, “Would you like to begin the order process?” Or, “Does this meet your needs? If so, would you like to get started?” It’s not pushy to politely ask for the order when you’ve met the needs of your customer.

13 Pieces of Sales Advice Might Be too Much

In my notes, I have more steps, such as promote yourself, build trust, and more. Maybe those points will end up in a future post. For now, 13 steps to sales success is enough. It’s probably too much, so Evan, pick two or three and start working on them. You know how to reach me.

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Does your business have a  management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course im effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program.

Are You in Sales Management?

Are you leading people or managing projects? Do you set goals based on activities to continue, eliminate, or improve or do you strictly look at the results? Do you believe one sales strategy fits all your clients and all your sales team? If so, you’re walking the streets I paved, and those streets lead to disappointment. The good news is if you recognize these behaviors in yourself, you can change. I did. I eventually became a highly effective sales manager and so can you. This workbook is the place to start. The New Sales Managers Workbook

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