During his keynote address at the 2010 HSM World Business Forum in NYC, Jim Collins, author of the best sellers including ‘Good to Great’ commented that every overnight night success is typically about 20 years in the making. Wow, that’s two decades and about the length of time it takes to raise a new generation! Although there may be a few exceptions, that statistic generally stands true of most successful companies. And often these successes stem from the persistence, determination and hard work of the sales team.
With sales closing ratios averaging about one sale for every 10 calls, how do sales representatives and small business owners stay motivated? What does it take to be a sales success? I recently had the opportunity to meet with a group of successful business owners to get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to be successful in sales. I walked away having heard stories about their successes, lessons learned and a few golden nuggets on winning sales strategies.
First we talked about the sales life cycle. It generally looks like this and remains fairly constant:
- Getting in the Door – cold-calling or referral
- Understanding your Prospect or Customer – trust building
- Closing the Sale – keeping the lights on
- Delivering on what you said you would – building credibility / gaining more referrals
It’s a continuous loop and successes nourish the overall sales cycle. The good news is the more you deliver on what you’ve agreed, the greater the percentage of referrals you can expect to see.
Sales people are actually selling from the moment they start conversing with a prospect. There are indicators in each conversation to recognized in order to understand the customer and the best way to approach closing of the sale. A few of those golden nuggets:
1.) Listen, listen, listen. Let your customer do the talking. Be intentional to keep the conversation focused on the customer and understanding their needs.
2.) Know when to be quiet. Sales are sometimes lost by salespeople saying too much or talking after the customer has agreed to make the purchase. Know when to stop talking.
3.) Keep the conversation focused on the product or services you represent. Remain objective and neutral on conversation topics known to stoke emotion.
It was interesting to listen to people from different industries and find both commonality and distinctions between closing approaches. Here are a few I heard:
- ‘That’s Perfect’ Approach – Be ready to transform each objection with a ‘That’s perfect’ reason to move forward!
- Assumptive Approach – This is situationally appropriate but be careful that you don’t appear unappreciative of your customer’s business.
- Close on the first Visit – When is this a red flag? Evaluate. Are there credit issues? Is the client difficult to deal with? Or are they simply urgently in need of your product or service?
- Referring to the Proposal – In the proposal we talk about starting on next week, how does that timing work for you?
- Direct Approach – May I have the order?
- Dale would be Proud Approach – We take Cash, MasterCard or Visa, which do you prefer?
The psychological characteristics surrounding the sale were also noted as significant to increasing the probability of closing the sale. Here are a few tips to improve the odds of a success.
- Visualize. As you go into the sales call visualize something that makes you happy or something you’re looking forward to in the future. It helps you to feel relaxed and optimistic.
- Smile. (Even if you’re on the phone.) Your smile will be conveyed to your prospect or customer and will make a difference in how the conversation progresses.
- Be yourself. Let your authentic style shine.
- Be confident. You have worked hard to gain your experience and are good at what you do. Do not undersell the value of your experience and services you provide.
- Trust yourself. Most of us have ‘been there’ so be open to input from other people you trust to help you through the rough places.
- Be persistent. Just because you’ve gotten a NO, evaluate what you learned from the experience and how you can apply what you learned to your next sales call.
Summary: The responsibilities of the sales representative are often both challenging and rewarding. These tips offer an opportunity to look at your own sales techniques and perhaps even improve your closing ratios. You’re invited to share your sales tips by commenting to this post.