Successful salespeople aren’t born; they learn the skills they need through trial and error. The trait that sets a professional salesperson apart from an amateur is that a good salesperson can sell anything. Why? Simply put…the basic principles of good sales are the same whether you are selling vacuum cleaners, used cars or real estate.
Once you understand these basic concepts and start applying them in your own sales, you will immediately see a difference in your profits. These tips change how you sell because you are catering to your customer’s needs properly. This concept is covered in detail in Eight Keys to Sales Success.
It starts by realizing one important concept – you and your customer are on the same side. Sure…you may be sitting across from them at the desk, but your job as a sales professional is to understand their needs, build a genuine interpersonal connection with them and finally, close the deal in a way that leaves everyone feeling good about the sale.
But this guide isn’t limited to sales professionals only. Everyone should have a basic understanding of the sales process. Whether you are selling yourself as a potential employment candidate at a job interview or selling an old car via the local newspaper, understanding what makes for a good sales experience can help you do these things more effectively.
These tips should help you bring your sales (and customer satisfaction rating) to levels you never imagined possible.
Know Your Customer
Before communicating with your customer directly, you should take some time to understand who your customer actually is. This varies depending on the type of product you are selling, the environment and a host of other factors, but the basic knowledge is still the same.
For instance, if you are a car salesman, you need to understand that customers come to because they are interested in purchasing a vehicle. This may seem obvious but it is a fact that is often overlooked by sales people. Likewise, if you are a real estate agent, people hire you to help them sell a house or purchase a house. Becoming a sales professional means understanding the simple needs of your customer before you ever interact with them. There are much more complex components of the sales process as well, but it all starts with an understanding of the customer’s basic need.
One of the most profound realizations you can make as a sales professional is that you are providing a service to others. It’s not necessarily about getting a large commission check (although that is a perk), but more so about guiding customers along a path to find a solution. Think of yourself as a tour guide – an expert in your field – that has been assigned to aid customers as they travel through the jungle otherwise known as the sales process.
Although this concept may seem rather abstract, it is mastery of this simple concept that truly separates salespeople from sales professionals. Fortunately, it isn’t a difficult concept to master. Just remember that you are working with the customer, not conspiring against them.
You can learn more about finding new customers in Finding Your Ideal Customer: Get More Sales Almost Overnight.
Know the Product
Have you ever had a purchase experience where you felt like you knew more about the product than the sales person. This could happen at the car lot, real estate office, furniture store or practically anywhere else you make a purchase.
Do you remember feeling hesitant about your purchase because the salesperson was not knowledgeable? As a sales professional, you must always keep in mind that your primary goal is to be a product expert capable of making sure your customer feels confident in you and the product. One of the best ways to do this efficiently is to know your product inside and out.
Depending on the type of product(s) you are selling, there might be a lot of information to take in. Even though you may be excited about the idea of getting out there and mingling with customers, you need to take the time to understand the product fully before speaking with any customers. You will not be doing yourself or your customers any favors if you skip this important step in the sales process.
After all, how can you hope to help guide a customer through the purchasing decision if you are not even sure what the capabilities of the product are or how a particular product can meet the needs of a specific customer?
Learning your product takes many forms. It could be reading literature about the product or using it personally to become more acquainted with product features and benefits.
Like learning your customer, this is a critical step that you must accomplish before ever sitting down to deal with a potential client. If you fail to complete this step in its entirety, you risk your own credibility and perhaps more importantly, the chances of closing the sale are very slim. Even the worst sales people in the world sell products sometimes, but only a true sales professional is capable of changing a deal-breaker into a closed sale and a happy customer.
As you will learn in the sections below, there is a lot more involved in successfully closing a sale; however, a lack of product knowledge puts you at a significant disadvantage in practically every sales situation you encounter.
Sales is all about communicating effectively. You need to understand what your customer wants and needs and be able to translate that into a product or service that meets these needs. You also need the ability to overcome any objections your customer has. These are all aspects of effectively communicating with people.
In fact, most of the remaining tips in this guide are based on your ability to effectively communicate with your clients. Whether you are working with customers in a retail setting, a business environment or over the phone, the basic rules of communication are always the same.
If you are not confident in your ability to communicate effectively, this is definitely a skill you should hone before meeting with clients. Improve Communication: Speak Smoothly, Clearly and Confidently is a great course designed to help anyone improve their communication skills.
You may also be required to communicate via written means including email and even thank you cards. Since effective written communication can be difficult to master, consider taking a course specifically designed for improving written communication. Write Less, Say More: Produce Powerful Written Communication is an excellent program that ensures your written communication skills are equal to your verbal skills.
Asking Questions and Getting to Know Your Customer
Hopefully, you already realize the importance of understanding who your customer is before actually meeting them. Combined with ample product knowledge, you can walk into any sale (with any customer) and begin the actual sales process confidently.
How do you do this?
It starts by asking questions. You want to understand everything you can about your customer so you can make proper recommendations that meet the needs, wants and desires of these customers. If you can find a product that meets all of these customer attributes, closing the sale is easy. Sure…the customer may still have concerns such as price, but these are typically easy to overcome if you present the product as the perfect solution for that specific customer. You can do that by understanding exactly what is motivating that customer to contemplate a purchase and this understanding comes from asking the right questions.
Believe it or not, asking the right questions isn’t difficult. As a sales professional, your most powerful asset is not your mouth. It is your ears. By listening to your customer, you can figure out exactly what makes them tick or perhaps more appropriately, exactly what makes them say yes.
The car buying process is an excellent example. A good salesperson asks all the questions that may be relevant to the buying process. Interestingly enough, many customers do not know what type of vehicle they would like to buy and this is your opportunity to put your product knowledge to use.
When selling a car, you need to know how many people are in the customer’s family. You also need to know what they typically use the car for. For instance, is this vehicle going to be used to take trips to the beach or is it a vehicle that will be used simply to commute to and from work?
The trick is to ask questions that get to the underlying issue of features and benefits. Features and benefits are one of the most powerful tools you have as a sales professional. Continuing with the car buying example, your job is to point out features and benefits based on the information you have learned from talking with the customer, understanding their needs and listening.
For example, one customer may be concerned about fuel mileage while another customer might be more concerned with the vehicle’s crash test ratings. Both are valid concerns, but each concern will weigh differently into each customer’s purchasing decision. Since you have spent time understanding the customer’s needs, you can present the features and associated benefits that pertain directly to that customer.
This idea transcends every sales process for any product. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you are selling as long as you present it in a way that makes sense to the customer and appeals to the unique motivators that have made them a potential customer in the first place.
Making a Genuine Connection
Almost as important as understanding the needs of your customer is being honest with him or her. Everybody has heard the stereotypes about sleazy sales people bent on misleading customers intentionally. This is not a strategy used by sales professionals and it is not something you should include in your sales repertoire.
The key thing to remember is that you are on the same side as the customer. Sure…you may be sitting across the table from them during the deal, but always realize that an honest approach works better for you and for your customer.
Customers are human – just like you. Although they may come to you to make a purchase, most customers are scared. They are scared because money is difficult to come by for many people (especially given the state of the economy). It doesn’t matter if you are selling a product that costs $30 or $30,000, people are apprehensive when it comes to spending money.
It also doesn’t help that salespeople have been stereotyped has evil liars out to trick people into parting with their hard-earned money. This is a stereotype that every good salesperson must learn to overcome. The easiest way to overcome this perception is to be genuine with people.
Although your customer may not understand every detail about the product you are selling, most people know when they are being lied to. That means you need to spend a great deal of effort being of genuine assistance to your potential clients. Your honesty shines through the preconceived notions a customer might have about you going into a deal and makes for a functional business relationship that could be profitable for years into the future.
You should have a very gentle mentality when dealing with customers. Don’t walk into a deal thinking your the best salesperson for the job and that if anyone can close the sale you’re the person to do it. Although these things may be true, you will be better served by leaving your ego at the door and being the best listener you can. Customers appreciate this genuine interest in their needs much more than any slick sales tactics you might learn along the way.
Getting the Customer to Say Yes (As Often As Possible)
Obviously, customers need to agree to the terms of the sale in order for you to become a successful salesperson. One way that many sales professionals accomplish this is to keep the customer saying yes throughout the sales process. This isn’t a way to trick the customer. Rather, it is a way to keep the tone of the conversation positive throughout the sales experience.
You can do this very simply by asking questions designed to keep the customer in a positive buying mindset. For example, a car salesperson won’t ask a customer what color car they want. This could be answered in many ways and if a particular color isn’t in stock at the time, it could put an end to the purchase long before you have a chance to close the sale. Instead, a good car salesperson will ask the customer if they would like a dark or a light colored vehicle. Although this isn’t a yes or no question exactly, it is the type of question that keeps the customer thinking about the benefits of the product being demonstrated without giving them an opportunity to object for some unrelated reason.
You could also make statements where yes is the only logical answer. For instance, statements such as “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” may seem tacky, but these questions force the customer to say yes throughout the sale. The more often the customer says yes during the presentation, the more likely they are to say yes when it’s time to close the deal.
When combined with a genuine interest in the needs and wants of the customer, this tactic provides a very positive overall experience for the customer. If a customer has enjoyed the experience and does not feel that they were pressured into something they were uncomfortable with, you are in a much better position to ask for the sale and join the ranks of elite salespeople worldwide.
Working with your potential clients isn’t all about the product. As a sales professional, you should also focus on the customer has an individual when appropriate.
This could be as simple asking about the customer’s family or sharing personal stories of your own that you think the customer might be able to relate to. Remember to be genuine; however, because most customers can sense if you are simply leading them along or trying to “butter them up” in order to get a sale.
Building rapport is a two-way street. As you are attempting to be personable and learn more about who your customer actually is, you are also showing the customer that you are a person too. Referring to the sales stereotypes mentioned previously, an easy way to break through to a client is to be yourself. If you try to build a friendship during the sales process, it becomes much easier to not only ask for the sale at the end, but your chances of actually closing the sale also improve greatly.
In The Natural Selling System, you learn how to provide a high value, low pressure environment for your customers that will greatly improve your rapport and ultimately, your bottom line.
Perform a Thorough Product Demonstration Whenever Possible
Unfortunately, many sales people become complacent. If you have been in the sales world for any length of time, you have probably encountered these individuals. They try to pre-qualify customers based on traits that have nothing to do with the sales process.
These people might say things like “They aren’t buying…look at the clothes they are wearing” and similar prejudicial statements. Not only is this unfair to the customer, but it can also cost you a lot of sales.
Another aspect of this complacent attitude is not performing a full product demonstration whenever possible. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to sell a car, a house or an expensive software solution to a financial institution – if you aren’t providing your customers with a full demonstration each and every time you are losing out on sales.
Especially when it comes to big, expensive purchases, customers want to see the product actually work so they can assess for themselves whether the product meets their needs. Far too often, salespeople skip this step. Maybe it’s because they have already dismissed the customer as a window shopper not worthy of their time or maybe they are hungover from a long night, but either way, skipping the demonstration phase of the sales process could cost you a lot of sales.
Even if you are fortunate enough to still get the sale with a substandard or non-existent product demonstration, you will have to combat more objections. Specifically, many customers want to haggle over price. Since you did not show customers why your product is a perfect solution for them, most customers will have difficulty seeing the value in the product and may look for steep discounts before making a purchase.
Not only can this greatly reduce the size of your commission check, but it also leaves the customer feeling like the experience was everything they hoped it wouldn’t be. The result is that you have reaffirmed the customer’s preconceived notions about salespeople in general and the likelihood that you will get another shot with that same customer is very small.
Make Sure Everyone Knows What You Do
An often overlooked aspect of becoming a sales professional is making sure people know what you do for a living. A successful salesperson never misses an opportunity to share their profession with others. It could be your family, friends or people you meet during community activities.
After all, if people do not know what you sell, how will they know to contact you when they are in the market for the very product you’re selling?
Business cards are a good way to spread the word about your product, but this is quickly becoming an antiquated method in the Information Age. If you do use business cards, try to have keep them simple and straightforward.
Other options include creating a personal sales website where people can look at your products, learn more information about you and hopefully contact you when they are ready to learn more or make a purchase decision.
This and other tactics are discussed in Sales Hacking: An Introduction.
Creating Opportunities Equals More Sales
In addition to letting people know what you do, you should always be looking for new opportunities as a sales professional. Even the best salespeople do not have a 100% conversion rate, so it only makes sense to provide yourself with as many sales opportunities as possible.
You could be at a neighborhood event, a child’s little league game or a birthday party. If you hear an opportunity to mention your product or services, take it. Of course, there is a fine line between coming off as tacky and coming across as a professional that is confident in his or her product, so use your own judgement when deciding if a sales pitch is ill-timed or not.
If you do attempt to share your product with others and they are not receptive, don’t get upset. Simply move on and look for another opportunity. As a general rule, if you are genuine with people in every aspect of your life, you often find sales opportunities that would not be available otherwise.
Another way to create new opportunities is to ask current customers for a list of friends and family that might also be interested in your product. If you have done a good job of building rapport with your customer, they should have no problem providing you with the names and contact numbers for people they know. The best thing about these referrals is that you already have a rapport with your customer so it is usually much easier to build rapport with friends and family members of your customer.
It’s not uncommon for a sales professional to get most of their business from referrals like this. Again, a genuine concern for your customer’s needs can go a very long way when building a referral network to further your income potential.
The technique of looking for new sales opportunities is known as prospecting. You can learn more about creating new opportunities in Sales Prospecting for Beginners.
Asking for the Sale
One mistake made by far too many salespeople is not asking for the sale. Your presentation, product knowledge, understanding of customer needs, etc. could all be perfect, but if you do not actually ask your customer for their business, your success rate will be marginal at best.
Your customers are there to make a purchase. You know that, they know that and they know that you know that. Despite this common knowledge, you might be surprised by how many people are never asked for their business. They go home to “think” about the purchase only to go to a local competitor to make the purchase. The reality is that the customer probably would have purchased your product had you simply asked for the sale.
Never take this simple tactic for granted. Assuming you have done a thorough job demonstrating the product and building rapport with your customer, asking for the sale doesn’t have to be a confrontation. In fact, it should come naturally as you finish your sales pitch. Surprisingly, however, many salespeople have a difficult time asking for the customer’s business directly. This is another one of those areas where there is a significant difference between a salesperson and a sales professional.
While a sales professional is confident and has no problem asking for the sale, many amateurs feel embarrassed to ask the customer to make a decision. Unfortunately, this accounts for at least as many other lost sales as practically any other missed step. People need to asked. In fact, studies have proven that many people that hold off on making a purchasing decision were actually never asked directly for the sale. Once that customer leaves your showroom or meeting without committing, you have much less control over the sales process and your hard work could be in vain.
Don’t assume a customer knows what’s on your mind. Clearly and politely ask for the customer’s business once you have concluded your presentation and decided on a product that meets or exceeds the customer’s expectations. Leaving this critical step out could have a serious impact on your conversion rate and the overall success you experience as a sales professional.
You can learn more about effective closing techniques in Sales Training: Secrets of a Master Closer.
Keeping in Contact with Customers After the Sale
Many sales people make the mistake of losing contact with customers after a successful sale. What many people fail to realize is that these customers will likely need another product in the future. Whether you are selling cars, houses or computers, most customers will need to replace the item you sold them at some point in the future.
Doesn’t it make sense to keep in contact with these customers to secure future sales?
A true sales professional looks at each customer has a potential future sale. Since you already gained their trust during the sale, it is usually much easier to secure subsequent sales from the same customer, their friends and other referrals you might get from them.
Depending on what type of product you sell, there may also be opportunities to sell existing customers additional products before they are ready for a full replacement of their current product. Software sales is an excellent example because their is often an opportunity to sell additional support services and products to these customers months or someties even years after the initial purchase.
The best way to keep track of your customers is through readily available sales software. These programs are relatively inexpensive and keep track of each contact you have with a customer. It could be a client that wasn’t quite ready to purchase last time you spoke with them or it could be a list of referrals you have compiled from satisfied clients, but once again, it’s about creating opportunities both now and in the future.
Sales tracking programs make it very easy to document every contact with your customers as well as any special notes such as birthdays or other significant dates. Although these notes may seem trivial, reaching out to customers with personal information goes a long way toward establishing a strong rapport with your customers and hopefully, securing more sales.
Never Forget the Law of 250
The Law of 250 is pretty simple, but extremely important to the success of your business. Basically, most people know around 250 people. If you are unsure, ask a wedding caterer or a funeral director. As a general rule, people invite about 250 people to their wedding and about the same number of people attend the average funeral.
This means that your customer knows 250 people well enough that they would invite them to their wedding. It’s reasonable to assume that a good rapport with this one customer has the potential to bring you 250 or more referral leads.
More importantly, if you upset one customer, you could lose out on 250 other potential customers who heard about the bad experience you gave a customer. This is not the way you want to do business if you’re serious about becoming a sales professional!
Don’t Join the Club
The club means the place where you work. It could be a car dealership, a real estate office or a life insurance company. Although you are paid by your company to do a job, sales is always a solo effort in the end.
You have probably heard some of your colleagues complaining about various aspects of the job. “They aren’t giving us any good leads” or “How can I sell this product at this price?” are good examples of typical sales club talk.
Do not get involved in this thought process. It’s always easier to think the grass is greener somewhere else, but the truth is that you are building up your own sales business no matter who signs the paycheck.
Instead of complaining about conditions at your workplace, use that time to create new opportunities with new and/or existing customers. There are countless stories of slow car dealerships where the average salesperson only makes $30,000 per year. At that same dealership; however, there will be one or two people making six figure incomes. These are the true sales professionals – the people you should be learning from. These individuals realize that sales is a small business and the only one who can make it profitable is them. Instead of sitting around in the break room complaining, these are the people on the phone following up with leads or contacting previous customers to check in with them.
It is these types of activities that build wealth in sales, not sitting around waiting for the opportunity to walk through the door.
The Golden Rule of Sales
If you learn nothing else from this guide, please remember one thing. The more customers you talk to, the more sales you will make. For instance, if you have been consistently selling 50% of all potential customers you work with and you have 4 opportunities each day, you will sell approximately two products each day.
Now, suppose you work hard to bring more people in the door. You are working with 8 people on average each day and using the same 50% figure, you are now selling 4 products each day. You can double your income without learning anything about becoming a better salesperson.
More opportunities means more sales – it’s imperative that you work hard to meet new clients. Instead of hanging out in the break room on your next shift, ask yourself what you could do to create new leads. You could call some of the referrals you have hopefully collected during the sales process, you could call a client that wasn’t ready to make a purchase decision last time or any other number of activities designed to bring sales to you.
It’s impossible for anyone to sell every customer, every time. By increasing the number of opportunities you have, you greatly increase your profit potential and your network of satisfied customers. The Master Sales Training program teaches you how to maximize the sales you do land.
Although this guide used a few examples that pertain directly to automobile sales, the sales principles discussed above can be used in any sales situation. That’s the beauty of sales. The process is always the same no matter what product you are selling and the tips in the guide work equally as well in any industry.
If you are already in sales, try adopting just a couple of these suggestions and watch your paychecks get larger. If you haven’t started your sales job yet, try to keep these principles in mind when you start. By developing good sales tactics now, you will be in a position to transform into a sales professional with a respectable income much sooner than you think.