by Adam Honig
My first sales leadership position was with a middleware software company I helped found in the 1990s. The CEO of this company was a bit of a crazy guy and he had some pretty interesting ideas about a lot of things, including who should be on my sales team. Hence our original strategy to hire twelve really smart graduates right out of college and teach them to be the best sales team in the world.
We did pretty well, built the company up to over $30M in sales in four years, took it public and eventually sold it for over $100M. (In the pre-internet bubble days that was considered a lot of money.) Our success was, in no small part, due to this crack sales team we created.
Many people seem to believe that sales skill is inherent in a person, that “learning” sales isn’t something people do. I beg to differ. It’s a skill just like skiing or flying drones; it can be taught to even people who never thought they could sell. Therefore, I’d like to share our methods with you – the five most important things I would teach a new sales rep (And if I had to add a sixth to this list, it would be to use an awesome app, like Spiro.)
Ask Open Ended Questions
If you want your clients to be responsive to your efforts, open-ended questions are the way to go. People want you to understand their specific needs, so position questions to let them tell you. For example, if you ask “Are you interested in this product?” a customer can simply say no and that is it. Instead, if you ask what features they are looking for in a product, they have to start talking. Therefore, consider your sales position investigative in nature. Aim to uncover as much about their needs as possible.
Really Listen Well
I’m a fan of active listening. When you are actively listening to potential clients you are then able to repeat back to them, in your own words, what they have communicated to you. This shows that you are comprehending and retaining the information they are sharing, it also shows (without a doubt) that you are paying attention, not just pretending to. You can then effectively provide them with a personalized solution.
I’m Going To Repeat That: Really Listen Well
Yes, I was serious about it! You really need to be listening. Additionally, I will add here you also need to be able to listen to the things that aren’t said. Body language can reveal a lot about your clients’ interest levels and mood. Focusing on the way your clients move and act will reveal significant depth beyond the verbal answers you are being given. Body language is as valuable as audible words and sometimes more so. By taking these non-verbal cues, you can tell if someone is losing interest or ready to buy.
Learn How to Quickly Build Rapport
Building rapport will enable you to build trust, gain confidence and establish a relationship with your clients. There are three things to learn about rapport building: reciprocity, mirroring and commonality. These might sound a little cumbersome but they basically revolve around giving clients something they want or need, matching their behaviors (and/or tone) and then discovering what interests you share.
The master of rapport building is my friend and former colleague Matt Johnson. I’ve been on hundreds of calls with Matt where we were engaging with people that we’ve never spoken with before. Matt always was able to find a shared contact, anecdote, or something to quickly make a personal connection.
Position with Results NOT Features
Features and functions are directly representative of your product, they come with it no matter who you sell it to. However, your clients are looking for benefits for them, things that will specifically and directly impact their lives in some desired way. Thus, it’s imperative that you tie the features of your products to how they will benefit your customer’s life.
Putting it All in Focus
If you’re a new sales rep, work on your listening. Take notes if that helps you concentrate on what your prospects are saying. Open ended questions will allow the customer to literally open up, presenting more opportunities to listen. Then, build rapport and present powerful benefits tailored to the customer to close the sale. Use these 5 tips and know that sales is a skill than anyone can learn.