Basic (but Effective) Sales Tips and Techniques
Today there are more types of sales styles and techniques than you can shake a stick at. So how do you know what works and what doesn't? It really boils down to what works for you and what works for your product. Think about your target market and their perceptions about your product type. Do they know they need it and simply have to choose from the various brands on the market? Or, do they have no idea how much the product would help them be more productive? Do they even know about your product? Will the sales call be an education for them - or you?

Think through these things before determining what methods might work for your product or service. It goes without saying that a sales method that works for office supplies won't work for management consulting services. Although they are both targeting a similar market, the knowledge and understanding of your prospects will be much different. They have to be educated about how much they can benefit from consulting services, whereas, they already know they have to have binders to put their reports in, or paper for their copiers.

So, even though there are many sales methods, the choices are narrowed as you think about your market and what their needs are, as well as what their expectations may be.

With that said, let's just go over some things that are beneficial in almost any market. These tips are basic guidelines that most any sales person can benefit from.

  • Listen to the emotional side of your prospect or client:
    Emotions are tied into almost everything we do even if we don't realize it. Your client may mention off-hand that they are really stressed-out about a particular project they are working on (even if it doesn't relate to what you're selling them). Make a note of this and see if there is anything you can do to assist them. You may have another client who had a similar dilemma and found a good solution. Make those connections and help where ever you can. You'll be rewarded with loyalty from all of your clients.

  • Focus on your prospect or client's needs:
    We've talked about it before, but it's worth mentioning again. You may be tempted to sell your client your top-of-the-line model gadget when they really only need the mid-line model. By selling them more than they need, you may be cutting off future relations with them. Once they realize (and they will eventually) that they don't need most of what you sold them, they'll feel bitter and resentful toward you for wasting their money and not looking out for their best interest. They'll see you as a "salesperson" and not as a resource.

  • Use language that focuses on your prospect or client:
    Simply changing the way you speak may also make a difference in how you are received by your prospect. Using "you" and "yours," or "you'll find..." rather than "I think" or "Let me tell you about," brings your message a little closer to home and may grab their attention more quickly.

  • Help your prospect see the bottom line:
    If you know your product can help clients save money, or increase profitability, then make sure they understand that. Your product may have an edge in that it includes features that save time. Time is money as the saying goes, and if you can save time your can often sell your product.

  • Find out your prospect's priorities:
    You can save yourself a lot of wasted time and effort by simply knowing how important your product and its benefits are to your prospect. If you've listened to them and determined the need, but still aren't getting anywhere, find out if there are other elements of their business that are taking priority and pushing your sale aside. If you know they have to implement a program before they can spend time considering (or funds purchasing) your product then you can schedule a call back at a later date that may stand a better chance of getting some attention. To do this you have to ask the questions because the information is not always volunteered. (Again, the key is focusing on the needs of your prospect, and having an open relationship already in place.)

  • Know your prospect:
    Find out as much as you possibly can about your prospect before your appointment. This will not only help you anticipate their needs ahead of time, but will also show them you've done your homework and have an interest in their business other than just selling your product. When talking with them, let them do most of the talking. People usually love talking about their businesses and its successes. For example, you might bring up the fact that you saw they won an award at a regional meeting then let them proceed to fill you in on the details. You might also compliment them on the efficiency of their production system or the quality of their products. This will also open the door to more conversation and the opportunity to learn more about their needs and how your product will fit those needs.

  • Focus on why they should buy - not their objections:
    The idea here is that while you are building up the benefits associated with using your product, they will be minimizing their resistance to it. By focusing on what you know the prospect likes, you are building up the importance of the positive and reducing the importance of the negatives.

  • Sell the benefits - not the product:
    You've heard this one before, but it is worth repeating. In most cases, you're not selling your product, you're selling the benefits the product will produce. In other words, you're not selling digital phones, you're selling the ability to communicate from anywhere. You are selling freedom to leave the confines of the office and still be accessible. You're selling the ability to have a more flexible work schedule. You're selling peace of mind for long trips. You're selling security. Get to the emotional or financial benefits and you're on to something!

  • Never rush the sale or the customer:
    Remember the section about building a relationship with your customers? This is a very important step. It can help give the prospect the right perception of you and your company. Rushing them instead of letting them come to their own decision to buy can create hostilities that can't be overturned. It can make the difference between getting the sale and creating a loyal customer, and having to start over with another prospect. In the competitive climate of many markets, you definitely don't want to risk losing a qualified prospect who you know needs your product.

  • Know your products, as well as the market - be a RESOURCE:
    In order to be seen as a valuable resource for your clients, you have to demonstrate that you not only know and understand your products and the market, but can assist them in making good decisions and provide them with tools to improve their business. If you don't have these skills and knowledge, get them. You'll be rewarded over and over by loyal clients who trust your opinions and advice, and buy from you frequently.

  • Follow through with promises:
    If you do nothing else, do this. Always follow through with what you say you are going to do. If you say you'll send a quote by Friday - DO IT! If you say you'll check with someone else in your company about an issue that's come up - DO IT! Don't forget. Use the technology available to you (even if it's a sticky note on your dash board!) and make sure you follow through with your promises. There is no surer way to lose the faith of a prospect (or existing client) than to forget to do something you tell them you will do. If something comes up that forces you to have to delay, call them and give them a heads up. They may have a meeting arranged to present the information you're supplying them with, and if they don't have it you'll both look bad.

  • Focus on your client's success:
    Not to beat a dead horse, but there is tremendous value in being a resource for your client. If you can help them to succeed then they are more likely to help you succeed. Be a coach for your clients (at least in your areas of expertise). You have the unique perspective of seeing how many different businesses operate. Gather this knowledge and share it with your clients or prospects. Make sure they understand that you want to see them succeed, not just sell your products.

  • Use explanations rather than excuses:
    If you do have to explain to a customer why there is a problem with their order, their repair, their service, etc. Explain why the problem is there in the first place, rather than using an excuse. For example, if you provide health care services and you're having difficulty meeting the scheduling needs of the customer, you might it explain it like this, "With this being a particularly bad allergy season we have had more emergency calls due to asthma (or whatever the case may be) and these patients can't wait for a scheduled appointment. Our staff is behind schedule, but we are addressing the problem now by bringing in temporary help for these critical need times. So we should be able to schedule your service on 'x' date." Understanding the problem may help alleviate some of their frustration. Verbalizing the cause may also keep you more aware of the potential problems so you can be more prepared the next time around.
So, there you have some sales tips to keep in mind when you're out there pounding the pavement. Stop, Look, and Listen. It's good advice on the street, and it's good advice in sales. Next we'll talk about some of the cool technology you can use to manage your time and your clients more effectively. Read on...