We’re all in sales.
It’s astounding when people refer to themselves as “not a salesperson”, especially when they are actually working in sales roles.
Most people think of sales when it comes to buying or selling something, and people usually only associate negotiating in terms of price, or hostages.
From small business owners to large enterprise, professional speakers, builders and tradespeople, retail workers, lawyers and financial advisors… one thing is for certain, everyone has something to sell.
Here are the 7 attributes that are crucial to sales success.
The 7 attributes that are crucial to sales success
People are unable to sell themselves.
The phrase that usually calls this out is “I don’t like talking about myself”. Or even “I don’t like the selling part of my role, I just want to build homes/help people/ give my advice/make money/insert other expertise here”. One of the most fundamental elements of sales is the ability to sell yourself.
Consider a job interview. The overall aim is to sell ourselves (as a product) in exchange for the highest amount of remuneration and benefits. If you’re the recruiter, your aim is to attain the best possible resource (employee) who will ideally, over-deliver on all your company objectives. The ability to sell either yourself or the role is crucial.
Take it to a business model now. If you or your employee are unable to sell themselves as a representative of your company, how will they sell your product or service?
In addition, how will they convert prospects to customers if they are ever challenged on price or quality?
What problem do you solve?
Unless your business is based around an entirely unique product, service or concept, it’s likely you have competitors… and a lot of them.
Are you losing sales to competitors because your salespeople don’t know how to sell your point of difference?
If you were asked “what problem do you solve?” what would you say? Then, if you were challenged by your customer that your competitors do the same thing, how would you back yourself up?
There are plenty of people in business who can’t answer this question. They can explain their product or service, but cannot articulate what problems consumers would experience if their product did not exist.
Having clarity on this question will make you laser focussed on how you serve your market.
Understanding the difference between selling and negotiation.
Selling is an exchange of goods or services for money. Although mostly transactional in nature, the sales process incorporates many elements of negotiation.
Most people relate to “selling” in the capacity of buying or selling something.
Negotiation on the other hand is a discussion aimed at reaching agreement. It is generally not transactional. Throughout the sales process, negotiation techniques are used with the aim of moving your prospective customer towards a positive buying decision. If handled correctly, even the most hostile of customers can be (willingly) pacified when dealing with someone in customer service who is skilled in negotiating.
Are your salespeople just ‘salespeople’, or are they actually skilled negotiators? This can make the difference between an order taker and a salesperson.
Hiring the wrong type of salespeople.
The old theory used to be to recruit salespeople who will be fantastic relationship builders, especially for those commodities which involve a long sales/decision making cycle. However, this is an absolute killer for your sales.
Research suggests that customers are looking for salespeople who can teach them something new, challenge their current ideas and use creativity to help them solve a problem. The same research concluded that very few customers mentioned “relationship” was something of value in a sales or negotiation process.
For decades now, sales managers have been hiring relationship builders, thinking that someone who is personable, friendly, good at talking to people and can keep in touch will be the answer to all their sales problems.
What they don’t realise is this actually causes them problems as the wrong type of salesperson won’t actually make sales.
Whilst relationship is important, it’s not a top attribute that will make sales. People are far more likely to buy from someone competent, than ‘nice’.
Do you know how to hire the right kind of salesperson? Here are some questions to ask when you’re recruiting:
- How do you sell?
- Can you sell me something simple (like a water bottle, pen or a chair)
- What are the most important elements of selling?
- How do you overcome objections? (Ask them to handle “I’ll think about it” and “I don’t think it’s a good time to buy right now”)
Lack of trust established.
In research conducted by Amy Cuddy, she revealed that when making a first impression, customers are sizing up if they can trust you and if you have competence to be able to assist them. This research also concluded that these two elements must be established in that order. Trust first, competence second.
All too often, business professionals get carried away with talking about how wonderful they are and their company is. The research shows that this rubs people up the wrong way and is unlikely to win business.
To establish trust, you need to make your interaction more about your customer and less about you. The best way to do this is to become a master at asking the right questions.
The “Show up and throw up”
While your team likely believe that your company is a market leader or has a unique point of difference, your prospective customer does not care for that upon their first interaction with you.
Most salespeople get caught up in vomiting their product and company information all over a prospect during the first interaction, after all, they’ve come in to hear about that, right? Wrong.
Your customer has come in with a problem and the role of the salesperson is to give them the right information so they can make an informed decision as to whether your product is the right fit.
How do you know your product is the right fit if you don’t ask the right questions?
Most people in sales are unskilled in their knowledge of questions. Not just what questions to ask, but the type of questions, the number of questions and the order in which they are asked. Ideally, you want to be asking questions that will illicit maximum dialogue in return – these are called “open questions” and some open questions are better than others.
Open questions generally all start with: who, what, when, where, why, how and tell me.
Irrespective of the commodity being sold, there are a handful of questions that are transferable across almost any product or service. Here are just some of them:
- What brought you here today?
- What is most important to you in terms of your purchase?
- How long have you been considering XYZ?
- What has stopped you doing this previously?
- What features are your deal breakers?
- Tell me about your decision making criteria?
- If you kept going the way things are, what would things look like for you in 12 months from now?
Lack of sales process.
Ask any unskilled or unsuccessful salesperson about sales processes and they will tell you “I don’t need a sales process because every customer is different”.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
Like any framework, its benefit is to help you stick to a process of ‘best practice’. A sales process will provide a map of how to identify any problems your prospect is experiencing, whilst allowing your prospective customer to see how you will help them.
A sales process will generally begin with “pipeline management”, which is the strategy of which prospective customers to engage and in what order. Customers should be managed through a CRM (Customer Relationship Management software) which is used for pipeline management, business forecasting and budgeting.
An affective sales process will maximise the number of prospects who convert into becoming actual customers. An ineffective process will see your prospects disengage and ‘opt out’, which is most commonly evident by them not returning phone calls or emails.
What process does your business follow or do each of your salespeople and sales units follow a different process?
If you want to maximise your opportunities for sales success, a sales process is crucial.