Many would-be salespeople complain that “sales is tough”. They argue that dealing with prospects and customers is a losing proposition. Well, do you ever notice that some sales professionals really stand out among the crowd? How do they become so successful while many do not?
It might be true that training, coaching, skills and a reputable product or service can all make a difference in whether an individual is successful at sales. But, more importantly, it takes a focused approach to developing behaviors that will enable more effective sales situations.
When we talk with sales professionals, we have found seven common behaviors that have enabled their success.
Behavior # 1 – Selling value over price
All too often, sales agents become focused on price. Sure, buyers have to pay a specific price in return for your solutions. But often salespeople find themselves battling price concerns when they should be convincing their prospects of the value they will receive for that price.
selling value over price
According to Tom Reilly, author of Value-Added Selling, “two-thirds of sales managers feeling that selling value is the most perplexing problem facing salespeople.” Although price can be a significant hurdle, the cost of acquiring a solution is not usually the only objection buyers present. It can be a smokescreen used to get certain concessions or added features. To be effective at overcoming price objections, successful sales professionals refocus their prospects on the value being delivered.
When price is addressed (which should come towards the end of the sales process!), you should reinforce the value that your solution brings to the table. Your first objective should be to make sure the solution you’re offering addresses their recognized needs. Once you’ve gained agreement that the solution will solve those needs, keep hammering the point that you can easily eliminate her need, right here, right now.
Behavior # 2 – Being flexible and creative
Okay, there will be times when you can only offer a specific price. Today’s consumers feel empowered because of the abundant access to information. Even in the most commoditized industries, you can achieve success by creating options that can satisfy the most resistant buyers.
Most companies look to salespeople to hold the gross margins built into their pricing. You can do this by offering more attractive payment terms or include add-ons which increase the value of the solution. Successful sales agents act as consultative problem solvers, holding the line on price but exploring options that can close the deal.
Effective tactics include:
Offering a trade-up – “I can offer you an additional month of service at the original price.”
Offering a discount in exchange for a longer commitment – “If you agree to a two-year commitment, I can offer you 10% off the original price.”
Offering additional service options – “We can provide platinum-level technical support at this price, which typically includes silver-level support.”
Offering a more attractive payment schedule – “If you sign today, we can accept a four-payment plan rather than a one-time payment.”
Behavior # 3 – Spending adequate time with prospects (and customers)
Sales teams are often conditioned to get the sale and move on to the next conquest. However, this can be counterproductive to long-term sales objectives. Most consumers want to be sold a solution then ignored, right? WRONG! Today, buyers expect to feel a connection with the companies they do business with.
Spending adequate time with prospects (and customers)
One of the keys to sustainability as a sales pro is to engage with your buyers on a consistent basis. This doesn’t mean you have to be making weekly follow-up calls, but you should set a schedule to discuss issues that are relevant to their business or relevant to the solutions you offer. This is true for both prospect and customers.
An often quoted statistic claims that only 2% of sales are closed on the first visit. That means 98% of your opportunities require multiple engagements! Tenacity is a critical behavioral characteristic that most effective sales agents possess. Unfortunately, salespeople have a bad habit of giving up early in the game. Although we found conflicting numbers on multi-touch sales,
44% of sales people give up after one “no”
22% give up after two “nos”
14% give up after three “nos”
12% give up after four “nos”
48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect
25% of sales people make a second contact and stop
12% of sales people make three contacts and stop
10% of sales people make more than three contacts
we know that customers are not typically going to buy on the first contact. Successful salespeople commit themselves to appropriate follow up activities.
You’ve got to put in the time with your buyers to get the payoff. The trick is to make each contact a valuable and productive engagement. Don’t simply send company sales collateral; help your prospects out by showing you understand their challenges. Provide helpful information. Ask more questions. They look for you to establish trust, concern for their well-being, and reliability, which can only be accomplished over multiple touches.
Behavior # 4 – Building relationships across customer organizations
When you think about who you’re selling to, do you only consider the decision-maker(s) in your target’s enterprise? Yes, the decision-makers are crucial to successfully closing a deal, but there may be others who can influence the buying decision. For example, in many high-cost situations, such as industrial heavy equipment, there are end-users who may impact the success of a sale. This can also be true for less expensive items like medical supplies, where hospital staff may influence which products are used in their organizations.
Allow your focus to expand to other individuals in your prospect’s company. Spend some time reaching out to those who will ultimately use your solutions. It can also be beneficial to connect with finance staff and/or purchasing agents to ensure that the acquisition of your solution fits within their team objectives. Those who are successful at sales over the long run understand that there may be many players who contribute to a buying decision.
Behavior # 5 – Having well-developed networks within your own organization
This one might not be obvious, but we have found that those who have developed solid networks within their own enterprises are more successful than those who don’t. Why would it be important to establish an internal network? Because there are likely coworkers who can help sell to a specific customer, share insights into how other salespeople have found success, or suggest tactics that can help improve close rates.
Having well-developed networks within your own organization
Large companies that sell technical solutions may often have others who participate in the sales process, such as technical support staff or product managers. These individuals (and others) can provide valuable assistance with closing the deal. Get to know coworkers who can help you convince a prospect that your solutions is the one they should go with. It can be a key differentiator against competitors. Internal networks can be a valuable asset to your sales toolbox.
Behavior # 6 – Spending time with senior internal people
Again, this one might not be obvious, but successful sales pros typically have good reputations with their sales managers and C-level executives. Spending time with your manager and other senior people can benefit your sales career in four ways:
Alignment with enterprise goals – ensuring that your productivity, tactics and other elements match the overarching objectives of the company
Recognition of achievements – leveraging your accomplishments for a higher sales position or executive role
Access to undisclosed information – receiving “inside information” that can help in your sales activities
Deeper sense of purpose – having a clearer vision of how your activities affect the company as a whole
Spending time with senior internal people
Getting in tune with company leaders can also help you forecast more effectively, improve your understanding of your role within the organization, and support others on your sales team (such as inside sales reps). [Tweet “Expend some energy engaging with upper management and you’ll find advantages that other people in your sales organization won’t have.”]
Behavior # 7 – Continual skills improvement
Now, this one might be obvious to sales success, but it is a behavior that few salespeople focus on. Successful sales agents understand that selling skills are difficult to perfect. They may encounter any number of situations as they move through their territories, therefore, it is necessary to study and practice their craft on an ongoing basis.
Continual skills improvement
Here are two examples of skill-building needs that many sales agents neglect to address successfully:
Handling objections, complaints, roadblocks and negotiation. In order to advance the buying process, salespeople must be able to overcome sticky situations and sales-killing objections. While some scenarios may be common among purchase decisions, each scenario brings unique obstacles. A product demo gone awry. A problem with a recent purchase. You should continually consider how you would approach unusual circumstances and/or firm rebuttals to your offers.
Recognizing the stages in the buying cycle for each prospect. These days, buyers are empowered to do their own research, which can affect where they are in the buying cycle when you contact them. You have to recognize how far into that cycle each individual decision-maker is as you engage them. For example, you have to know when to avoid uncovering needs when a prospect has completed their information search. And just as critical, successful sales agents know how to interpret post-purchase behavior to make sure there are no unspoken issues that could put the next sale at risk.
Your sales skills are likely not going to be at their peak when you are hired. Therefore, to be successful over the long haul, you must pay attention to your shortcomings, and find ways to improve. Whether you attend training classes, read books by successful sales pros or spend time talking with other salespeople, your desire to improve your skills will pay off.
When you adopt these behaviors, you’re more likely to have the successful sales career you envision. Even if you experience early success, there can be unforeseen challenges that will impact your monthly, quarterly or annual goals. Take some cues from the most successful salespeople and the results will probably be surprisingly good!
OCTOBER 21, 2014/BY JEREMI JOSLIN
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