Sales is critical to any business, and in an evolving world of multiple businesses, competing across multiple markets, with multiple products, it is necessary to adopt tactics that optimize the effectiveness and reach of sales.
There is an enormous amount of material on sales strategies and tactics, ranging from the technical knowledge and experience of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, to the rigor of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by the social psychologist Robert Cialdini.
As much as sales is about hard work and industry, it is also about working smart and finding ways to multiply the force of your efforts. Using certain tactics can make the entire sales process much easier and less frustrating, as well as help turn a “No” into a positive “Yes”.
1. Don’t Be Boring
David Ogilvy, the legendary advertising executive who founded Ogilvy & Mather and one of Inc’s 10 Greatests Salespeople of All Time, created iconic campaigns for Hathaway, Schweppes and Rolls-Royce. He began his career in sales, selling cooking stoves door to door in Scotland.
He was sufficiently successful that the company he worked for, AGA, commissioned him to write an instruction manual titled “The Theory and Practice of Selling the AGA Cooker”, distributing it to their sales force. Amongst it’s pearls of wisdom was this little chestnut:
What Ogilvy is saying is that you need to attract and maintain your customers’ attention because you’re not just selling a product or service. You’re selling an experience. You’re justifying a customer’s attention and time, and the easiest way to justify it is through entertaining them.
The easiest thing a salesperson can do is to ask a customer about themselves. Once you get people talking about themselves and their own interests, it’s less likely you’ll be boring them.
2. Be a Sales Consultant
Many salespeople start with the goal of selling the product, ignoring the customer and their needs in the process. But what a customer wants is for you to listen to them, understand their problem and help them solve it! Zig Ziglar, a legendary salesman and motivational speaker, shared that:
“You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want”.
You are there to be a consultant, selling them a solution to a problem. You’re there to listen to their problems, understand them and fix it. Listen to and know your customer, then present the solution to that problem. Why sell them a vacuum cleaner when all they want is a broom?
3. You’re a Sales Processor & Problem Solver
The Founder & CEO of the National Cash Register Company, John H. Patterson, is most famous for firing Thomas Watson Sr,, the GM and then President of IBM. But, John H Patterson was also renowned for his famous his micromanagement style, as well as being the founder of modern sales training.
The first industrialist to conduct sales training programs, he also established the world’s first sales training school at Dayton, Ohio on NCR’s factory campus in the early 20th Century. NCR provided salespeople with scripts, encouraging them to view the sales cycle as a process with key segments:
- the initial approach
- the proposition
- the product demonstration
- closing the deal.
Contemporary consumers are more sophisticated. So, you now have to add on two extra steps: solution implementation and the follow-up. This ensures that the solution you sold them is implemented, serving their needs and laying the ground for potential new sales. A salesperson is a problem solver, there to manage the solution. And you need to be there all the way through the process with the customer.
4. Identify leads clearly, spend time wisely
Time is a finite resource. To gain the best returns, you need to identify the best opportunities for a sale. This requires clarity and collaboration between marketing and sales.
A lead is a potential buyer with the means, inclination, and need to buy a solution from you. Marketers providing leads to salespeople who have neither expressed an interest nor given contact information are simply wasting time that’s better spent.
Consumers who respond to email marketing, roadshows and other outreach forms are leads, so prioritize them, rather than non-customers who have expressed no interest. Cold calling is old-fashioned and still works, but its’ inefficient. Rather than cold calling, follow up with warm leads that potentially generate a sale. Why bother the random person on the street when you can sell to the individual on the phone who called you?
Selling products intelligently and providing excellent service is more crucial than ever. Being aware of the best sales knowledge and applying it makes your job that much easier. It is the duty of sales managers to seek out and apply this knowledge, because in an ever-competitive and constantly evolving marketplace, the rule of the game is survival of the fittest. And the fittest to survive are the ones that know how to be intelligent about how they sell.