Some say that in sales, there are no shortcuts. Where that may be true, throughout my career as a buyer and seller, I have discovered certain sales tips that make selling a lot easier.
Some of these may sound counterintuitive, and some may sound like simple, common sense advice.
I happen to like common sense advice. There’s a bunch of so-called experts out there trying to make sales more complicated than it really is, and I happen to believe we should be doing the opposite. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not powerful.
So, in no particular order, here are 11 sales tips you’ll need to succeed.
#1. Stop Cold Calling. (Please).
In case you haven’t heard, cold calling is officially dead. According to the Keller Research Center, approximately 1% of cold calls ultimately convert into appointments, and around 9 out of 10 decision makers don’t respond to cold outreach anymore.
Instead of cold calling, you should really focus on getting more referrals. 84% of executives say they would prefer to work with sales professionals who were referred by someone they know, and salespeople are 4.2 times more likely to gain an appointment if they already have a personal connection with the buyer.
#2. Give First, Ask Later
If you visit this blog, my YouTube channel or even my Linkedin profile, you’ll notice that I invest a lot of time basically giving away knowledge and sales tips for free. Even though most people understand the value of content marketing and building a strong personal brand (a must-do if you’re in sales), I still do occasionally get the question « isn’t that counterproductive ? ».
The answer, of course, is no. I have ample evidence that if you give first (content, research, attention, time, …) this will pay itself back many times over later on, and in often unexpected ways.
I’m not being wishy washy here either – the research agrees, and has even reported health-related benefits to giving.
#3. Become a source of inspiration (not frustration)
I haven’t gotten a cold call in years (fingers crossed), but I get more than my fair share of spammy emails and Linkedin messages. It’s now become so common that I have simply tuned out, but interruption-based marketing continues to be a major gripe for many business professionals and executives.
Think about it this way – on a daily basis, we’re bombarded with promotional messages. Where it may not quite be 5000 messages per day, it’s still substantial. On a daily basis, my inbox is flooded with people hawking anything from mutual funds to Viagra to cheap housing « investments ».
The question is : would you buy from those people ?
Now think about who you do buy from. In my case, it’s people who are helpful. Who have an informed opinion, and can get that across. People who share valuable content. People whom – over time – I have come to trust as a source of inspiration and insight.
All that starts with becoming a source of insight. Everything else flows from there.
#4. Qualify early, qualify hard
I’ve written extensively on the importance of qualifying hard (as well as all the good things that will happen when you do) – but in practice, many sellers are still falling short of the mark. How else should we explain the fact that 50% of all proposals are lost, and 25% are lost to doing nothing ?
The reason many sellers don’t qualify hard enough is they don’t have enough opportunities entering their pipeline. Qualification and prospecting are two sides of the same coin. If you find your team is not qualifying hard enough, don’t spend time teaching them how to qualify. Spend time teaching them how to prospect better.
#5. Have Your Answers Ready
According to Sales For Life, 70% of exec-level buyers say that salespeople are not prepared for the questions they ask. And more than 3 out of 4 executives say that salespeople don’t have any relevant examples or case studies to share.
If you don’t have your answers ready, why are you there in the first place ?
#6. Say « No » More Than « Yes »
If you’re in sales, then I’m guessing that at least some of your compensation is based on the actual results you deliver. And if your job is to deliver results, then it’s your responsibility to ensure you organize yourself in such a way that you can maximise the time spent on things that will get you the results you seek.
Learning how to say no is a key part of that. Before accepting or committing to anything, train yourself to ask the following key questions :
- Do I truly want to do this?
- What do I gain out of doing this task or attending this function?
- What has this person done for me lately?
- What else will I do with my time if I don’t do this?
#7. Get a mini-MBA
Part of the reason senior executives don’t like talking to salespeople is because … well, they sound like salespeople. Smart, educated, intelligent people typically don’t like having to sit through a 30-minute (or worse) product pitch, no matter how great the product may be.
Instead, they want to have business conversations. Talk about how to improve their operational performance. Save costs. Increase and grow revenues.
If you’re unable to speak « business language », can’t read a balance sheet or don’t know how to discuss broader economical trends, you have no business selling to the c-suite.
And you don’t need to get a full-fledged MBA like I did either – I heard this book is a good start.
#8. Mind Your Mindset
Results flow from action. Action flows from behaviour. Behaviour flows from thoughts.
It’s that simple.
There is no way that you will succeed in the world of professional selling if you’re headgame isn’t serving you. That doesn’t mean spending your days « thinking happy thoughts ». It means being realistic about how tough things can be, celebrating success when it comes and keeping an open-minded, positive attitude in between.
#9. Become a Professional Planner
In the words of Anthony Iannarino, one of my fellow sales bloggers, « planning how you work is as important as how you sell ». Without planning, you’ll end up distracted, unproductive and prone to either indulging in Facebook or frantic activity that leads nowhere.
This one isn’t necessarily about sales tips, but it’s a rule I live by: if you’re not planning your week ahead, start now.
#10. Start With The End In Mind
The best chess players and the best salespeople have one thing in common : they are always thinking four to five steps ahead. Whether you’re prospecting, growing key accounts or simply closing a deal, always think about where you want to take this within the next 12-24 months.
Start with the end in mind, and you’ll find the journey much smoother.
#11. Spend Less Time Selling
Yes, you heard that right. In spite of all the gung-ho advice that « sales is a numbers game », working harder and working smarter are two very, very different things. One leads to success, achievement and personal satisfaction. The other leads to burnout, dissatisfaction and an early grave.
If you’re wondering exactly how long you should be working, Fast Company quoted some research mentioning that found that « The most productive employees didn’t work full eight-hour days, and they took 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work.”
And just in case you’re still on the fence, check out this advice from Lifehacker.