In the ever changing world of the business marketplace, sales tactics are always forced to adapt. Sales pitches that worked five months ago might now be obsolete because of an advancement one company made that meant everyone else had to catch up.
Sending a pre-written email detailing the benefits of your product might have guaranteed a sale 10 years ago when internet marketing/sales was fairly new, but today, that email could very well wind up in the trash without ever having been read. In an age where automated telephone services are the new norm, calling someone and having an actual conversation can make a lasting impression on a potential client.
While there isn’t any one magical tool to guarantee a sale, there are a number of tactics that can be used collectively to make a conversion highly likely.
1. Knowing the customer’s company
Each of these sales hacks is important, but this tactic can be the most influential in turning a lead into a customer. Nobody wants to feel like just another data point during a sales pitch, and knowing the details of their respective companies can go a long way. That doesn’t mean that name dropping the CEO will get you a sale, but knowing the intricacies of how their company works just might.
According to Salesforce, “82% of sales people are not aligned with the needs of their buyer. If you’re only espousing why you like the product — that value may be completely lost on the buyer. Your sales pitch should be different each time you deliver it. This can’t be emphasized enough. If you come in with the story from only your angle is it any wonder that it doesn’t resonate with your audience?”
While numerous companies are similar in nature, whether they’re selling identical products or services, no two companies are exactly alike. They each have their own successes and failures, different bottlenecks that prevent them from reaching their potential, and ways to capitalize on unique aspects of their brand. As such, they should be treated differently, which should be accomplished by conducting thorough research.
2. Don’t be too formulaic in your sales pitch
Having a sales script, or a general outline is nice, but it’s not hard for someone on the receiving end to know when they’re not having a real conversation. A good sales pitch is a lot like a conversation, rather than having a list of predetermined questions and answers.
In 2011, Heinz Marketing posted a blog addressing the issue with sales scripts.
“Good salespeople don’t work from scripts, because they know that they simply don’t work. If you’re reading from a script, you’re not listening. If you’re using a script, you’re not customizing the pitch to what your prospect cares about. If you’re using a script all day long, you’ve already made the assumption that every prospect is exactly alike.”
This goes hand in hand with knowing the customer’s company before the call begins. While you may not be using a script in the way that telemarketers do, after pitching the same product numerous times, you can slip into a pattern that addresses the same five bullet point, and uses the same closing sentence; and unfortunately that doesn’t work.
3. Free stuff
Everybody loves free stuff. Whether it’s a free trial to Netflix, free tickets to a baseball game, or a free sandwich from your local deli, having to pay a grand total of nothing for something of value is always appreciated; and while you can’t give away your product completely for free, you can give away more detailed pieces of information than are readily available to the public.
As Digitalux phrases it, “everyday more and more people are using search engines and social media to search for content and socialize on the web. In order for your business to succeed, you need to drive these people to your website.”
The context of this quote was in relation to content marketing, and while that’s not exactly the same as sales, the general principle remains the same. Any potential customer can do a Google search and read the mission statement of your company and the reviews of the product you’re selling, but without full access, there’s only so much they can find out.
Selling something is essentially like a job interview; they’re going to want to know exactly how and why the product they’re buying into is going to help. The Office isn’t generally a great source for business information, but an exchange between Will Arnett and John Krasinski perfectly illustrates the point of offering up as much information as possible.
Krasinski: “Your paper experience is very interesting, do you think you could use that experience to inform decisions here?”
Arnett: “Absolutely, yes. In fact, I actually have a three step plan that I believe could effectively double your profits.”
Krasinski: “Really? What is it?”
Arnett: “Nice try.”
Arnett’s character goes on to say that he won’t give them the full plan until he’s hired, because as he points out, they could simply steal his plan after the interview is over, and not hire him. That logic is sound, at least in a very elementary way.
We of course know that his logic doesn’t make any sense in the real world, as nobody in their right mind would hire someone without being sure that they could handle their new responsibilities; and this holds true for someone in the market of buying a product.
If a customer is searching for ways to improve their company, regardless of how they want to do that, they’re going to look at multiple services. If one company offers a more detailed view into how their product is going to increase productivity, that’s likely going to be the winner.
4. Know the reputation of your product and your company
No matter where you work, there are likely going to be some negative reviews of the company. Yelp’s practice of “shady pay-for-play” is well documented, and it would be disingenuous for an employee to completely dismiss those allegations. That doesn’t mean if a customer calls and asks about it that they should respond with a complete affirmation of Yelp’s wrong doings, but rather, that they shouldn’t skirt around the issue.
With an internet connection and a computer, the average person has an abundance of information at their fingertips. They can access ratings systems, editorial pieces expounding on the failures of certain business practices, and countless details about various companies.
Essentially, there’s no reason to try and avoid something negative that’s been said about your company. Instead of trying to deflect attention from that subject, address it head on. Have a response ready before the question is asked. Let the customer know how the problem is being fixed, what lead to the breakdown, and why it won’t happen again.
By doing so, you’ll let the client know that they can purchase your product without the shortcomings of its earlier iterations. More importantly however, it will also show that they can trust you, the salesperson. At one time or another, we’ve all been in a situation where we wanted to buy something, but didn’t feel comfortable in the environment that it was presented in, and walked away. While there may be some lingering feelings of disappointment over not leaving with the product you had your sights set on, nobody ever regrets walking away from something that makes them feel uncomfortable; and if a potential client doesn’t trust you, why should they buy your product?
5. Make your customers part of your sales force
This is something that the NBA understands perfectly. While the NHL, MLB, and NFL all fight to get unlicensed video clips (gifs, Vines, Snapchat) off social media sites, the NBA has embraced them; and by doing so, they’ve effectively turned every fan with an internet connection into a marketer for their product.
By allowing these videos to circulate the internet endlessly, the NBA is making it extraordinarily easy to connect with their content. While selling a phone integration system isn’t the same thing as trying to get people to buy tickets to elite athletes shooting a ball into a hoop, the ideas behind them are.
In an interview with Salmon Khan, Elon Musk explained how PayPal ultimately grew its user base.
Khan: “And how did it start. How did people just even know to use it? I mean, obviously, both buyer and seller have to be involved.”
Musk: “Yea. Well, we started off first by offering people $20 if they opened an account. And $20 if they referred anyone. And then we dropped it to $10. And we dropped it to $5. As the network got bigger and bigger, the value of the network itself exceeded any sort of carrot that we could offer…
And then we did a bunch of things to decrease the friction. It’s just like bacteria in a Petri dish. So what you want to do is try to have one customer generate like two customers. OK? Or something like that. Maybe three customers, ideally. And then you want that to happen really fast. And you could probably model it just like bacteria growth in a Petri dish. And then it’ll just expand very quickly until it hits the side of the Petri dish and then it slows down.”
Salespeople can only accomplish so much during the day, regardless of how productive they might be. If each call takes ten minutes, and you don’t take a lunch break for the eight hours you’re in the office, you can reach 48 people in a given work day. However if there’s an incentive for clients to try and push your service to other companies that might be interested, you’ve successfully turned one conversion into a chain of multiple conversions that can continue without your involvement.