Traits of Top Salespeople

"Top salespeople are creative: they can think outside the box and develop innovative solutions."

Author: Sean O'Shaughnessey

What do you do if you want to build rapport with potential clients during a sales call?

What do you do if you want to build rapport with potential clients during a sales call?

In my role as a fractional Vice President of Sales, I frequently coach relatively inexperienced salespeople on techniques to improve their revenue. Recently, I was asked, “What do you do if you want to build rapport with potential clients during a sales call?” It was a great conversation with this inexperienced salesperson, and I wanted to share the highlights of our conversation.

Building rapport is critical in any sales process as it helps establish trust and create a favorable environment for business discussions. Here are several effective strategies to enhance rapport-building during sales calls:

Engage with Personalized Approaches

Start by researching your potential client. If possible, understand their business, industry challenges, and personal interests. This information allows you to tailor your conversation, making it relevant and engaging right from the start. Personalization shows that you value the client’s unique needs and are not merely delivering a generic sales pitch.

Practice Active Listening

Active listening involves more than just hearing the words another person says. Active listening is understanding the underlying emotions and intentions. Show that you are listening by summarizing the client’s words and asking clarifying questions. This ensures you are on the same page and demonstrates your respect and attention to their concerns.

Share Relevant Stories and Experiences

Stories are a powerful tool in building connections. Sharing anecdotes that relate to the client’s situation can illustrate your understanding and empathy. Whether it’s a challenge you’ve helped another client overcome or a personal story that relates to the topic at hand, make sure it resonates with the core issues or interests of the client.

Remember, stories will be remembered. The better you tell stories, the more the listener will remember and appreciate you.

Mirror and Match

Mirroring and matching are techniques where you subtly mimic the client’s body language, tone of voice, or speech patterns. This should be done cautiously and naturally to avoid seeming insincere. When executed well, this technique can lead to increased feelings of alignment and comfort on the client’s part.

Use Positive Language

Positive language can help foster positive interaction. Even when discussing challenges or responding to objections, frame your responses positively. This helps maintain an upbeat atmosphere and encourages a constructive dialogue.

Actionable Advice for Implementation

At the end of your next sales call preparation, take a few moments to:

  1. Gather insightful information about the client and their business.
  2. Plan open-ended questions that encourage discussion.
  3. Think of relevant stories and experiences you can share.
  4. Practice mirroring techniques with a colleague to get feedback on your approach.

By consciously integrating these practices into your sales calls, you’ll find that building rapport becomes a more natural and effective component of your sales strategy. Remember, the goal is to make the potential client feel valued and understood, paving the way for a successful business relationship.

The Power of Decision Timelines in Streamlining Sales Processes

The Power of Decision Timelines in Streamlining Sales Processes

In situations where complex deals and large buying teams are the norms, the path to closing a deal often feels like navigating a labyrinth. My discussions with clients have illuminated the critical role of a well-structured approach in guiding selling and buying teams through this maze.

A pivotal element in this structured approach is the adoption of a Decision Timeline (DT): a collaborative project plan outlining action items for both parties to facilitate a decision that leads to a financial transaction for a product or service.

Understanding the Decision Timeline

A Decision Timeline serves as a high-level agreement on the activities between the sales organization and the prospect. It’s not about detailing every step with meticulous precision but about establishing a roadmap that guides both parties to a decision point. The timeline aims not to rigidify the sales process but to provide flexibility, allowing for negotiation and adaptation as new needs arise. It’s a tool to set expectations, with checkpoints for both parties to confirm their willingness to proceed. This approach fosters transparency and mutual understanding, addressing potential roadblocks early and ensuring alignment on the ultimate goal: a decision that culminates in an order.

A Decision Timeline is a strategic framework designed to address the buyer’s pain points throughout the sales cycle. By involving potential customers at every stage, DTs can significantly shorten sales cycles and increase the likelihood of closing deals. This collaborative approach aligns the selling team with the customer’s outcomes and actively engages the prospective customer in crafting the solution.

Benefits of Decision Timelines

One of the primary advantages of a DT is its ability to create a more engaging and collaborative environment for the prospective customer. Instead of being passive recipients of a sales pitch, customers become active participants in shaping the solution. This involvement can lead to quicker resolution of sales objections and a deeper understanding of the value and impact of the solution. Furthermore, DTs provide a clearer projected revenue forecast, allowing sales teams to predict deal closures with greater accuracy.

Implementing a Decision Timeline

Outline Roles and Responsibilities

A successful DT begins with clearly delineating roles and responsibilities, transcending traditional job titles. For instance, a salesperson might assume the role of project manager, while the primary contact might be responsible for data access and metrics. It’s crucial to define these roles within the context of the DT to ensure all needs are met and priorities are aligned, thereby facilitating buyer engagement.

Map Out Your Timeline

An explicit timeline is essential for guiding the mutual action plan to completion. This timeline should accommodate both parties’ deadlines, significant milestones, and any personal time off. Flexibility is key, as adjustments may be necessary, but proactive planning can mitigate potential disruptions.

Add Action Items and Deliverables

With the timeline established, the next step is to define specific action items and deliverables, assigning responsibility to team members. This clarity ensures accountability and facilitates progress tracking, keeping the plan on course towards completion.

Projected Outcomes and ROI

A critical element of the Decision Timeline is documenting projected outcomes and ROI calculations. This ensures that the expectations and interests of all stakeholders are addressed, reducing the risk of last-minute objections or deal loss. Engaging the buying team in this process is a safeguard, ensuring that the solution meets their needs and expectations.

Use Decision Timelines in all of your Complicated Deals

Adopting Decision Timelines represents a strategic shift towards a more collaborative and effective sales process. This tool facilitates better alignment between selling and buying teams and offers a structured approach to overcoming obstacles and achieving mutual success. By implementing these strategies, sales professionals can navigate the complexities of the sales cycle with greater clarity, efficiency, and predictability, ultimately leading to more closed deals and satisfied customers.

As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape of sales, the importance of mutual understanding, flexibility, and collaboration cannot be overstated. Adopting Decision Timelines is not merely a tactical choice but a strategic imperative for those seeking to thrive in the competitive arena of B2B sales.

Staying Top of Mind: The Power of Sharing Industry Insights with Customers and Prospects

Staying Top of Mind: The Power of Sharing Industry Insights with Customers and Prospects

Staying top of mind with your customers and prospects is crucial for long-term success in B2B sales. As a salesperson, you understand the importance of improving a company’s revenue generation capability. One often overlooked strategy is the art of sharing industry and management articles with your clients. In this blog post, we’ll explore why successful salespeople who read and share articles can be a game-changer for your sales strategy.

The Value of Industry and Management Articles

Sales professionals are often the front-line ambassadors of a company, representing its products, services, and values. To be effective in this role, they must stay informed about industry trends, management best practices, and emerging market dynamics.

In the ever-evolving landscape of sales, the role of a salesperson has transformed from being a transactional agent to that of a trusted advisor. Today, being well-read is a valuable asset that can elevate a salesperson’s credibility, effectiveness, and success in the field.

Knowledge is synonymous with authority; therefore, salespeople who invest time in reading and staying updated on industry trends, market dynamics, and management best practices are better equipped to provide valuable insights to their clients. This knowledge sets them apart as trusted advisors who understand their clients’ challenges and can offer tailored solutions.

Because reading enhances a salesperson’s knowledge, broadens their horizons, and deepens their empathy, a well-read salesperson is more likely to understand their client’s unique needs and pain points, enabling them to build stronger, more meaningful relationships. This understanding is the foundation of trust.

Sales professionals who regularly consume industry-specific literature, market reports, and business books are constantly expanding their knowledge base. This knowledge encompasses the features of their products or services and a comprehensive understanding of the broader industry context, market trends, and competitors. This knowledge empowers salespeople to speak confidently, answer client questions, and offer well-informed recommendations.

Truly successful salespeople won’t limit reading to industry-specific content, though. You should also include exposure to diverse viewpoints and ideas from various authors and disciplines. This diversity of thought broadens a salesperson’s horizons, allowing them to approach problems and challenges with a more open and creative mindset. They can draw inspiration from various sources, adapt strategies from different industries, and think outside the box when solving client issues. As a result, they become more adaptable and innovative in their approach, which is particularly valuable in today’s dynamic business environment.

Please understand that reading isn’t solely about acquiring knowledge; it’s also about gaining insights into the human experience. Well-written literature, biographies, and psychology books can help salespeople develop a deeper empathy. When they read about the struggles, triumphs, and challenges faced by characters or real-life individuals, they can relate these experiences to their clients’ situations. This enhanced empathy allows them to connect with clients more personally, truly understanding their needs, aspirations, and pain points.

Armed with knowledge and empathy, well-read salespeople are better equipped to offer tailored solutions. They don’t resort to one-size-fits-all approaches but instead craft strategies and recommendations that specifically address each client’s unique needs. This level of personalization demonstrates a genuine commitment to the client’s success. It reinforces the perception that the salesperson is a trusted advisor with the client’s best interests.

Reading also improves a salesperson’s communication skills. Exposure to well-crafted prose and persuasive writing helps them articulate their thoughts more clearly and persuasively. They can convey complex ideas in a simple and compelling manner, making it easier for clients to grasp the value of their recommendations. Effective communication builds rapport, and fosters trust.

Combining knowledge, empathy, and effective communication creates the ideal environment for building deeper, more meaningful client relationships. Well-read salespeople can engage in insightful conversations, actively listen to client concerns, and provide thoughtful solutions. Clients, in turn, feel heard and valued, leading to a stronger emotional connection and a greater likelihood of ongoing collaboration.

The business world is changing constantly, and being well-read ensures that salespeople can adapt to new challenges and opportunities. They can pivot their strategies and recommendations based on the latest insights, demonstrating their agility and commitment to their client’s success.

Well-read salespeople often position themselves as thought leaders within their industry. When clients perceive a salesperson as a source of valuable information and insights, they are more inclined to seek their guidance and trust their recommendations.

Knowledge generates awareness, and this awareness creates authority. Well-read salespeople better understand their capabilities and the solutions they provide. This assurance resonates with customers, making them more likely to trust their suggestions.

Sales is not only about promoting products or services; it’s also about resolving problems. Well-read sales professionals are adept at locating and tackling their clients’ issues in imaginative and effective ways, showing off their problem-solving skills.

I regularly discuss that there are three things that each salesperson sells to every prospect:

  • their product,
  • their company,
  • themselves.

Because most products have an equivalent competitive product and competitive companies are usually quite adequate and rarely convince a prospect to NOT purchase, it is not unusual for a prospect to buy due to their trust towards the salesperson. Being well-read assists the salesperson in building credibility and potentially becomes the difference between winning the order or losing the order.

Reading is a multifaceted tool that enriches a salesperson’s professional and personal growth. It equips them with knowledge, broadens their perspective, and deepens their empathy – all of which are essential for building trust-based relationships with clients. Through a commitment to continuous learning and reading, salespeople can elevate their effectiveness and stand out as trusted advisors in their field.

The role of a salesperson has evolved into that of a trusted advisor who guides clients toward the best solutions for their needs. Being well-read is a powerful tool that helps salespeople embody this role effectively. It enables them to offer valuable insights, build strong relationships, and position themselves as experts in their field. So, whether you’re a seasoned sales professional or just starting your career, remember that the path to becoming a trusted advisor begins with gaining your prospect’s respect.

Tips for Effective Article Sharing

Now that we’ve established the value of sharing industry and management articles, here are some tips to make the most of this strategy:

Engaging with clients goes beyond transactional interactions. Sharing articles initiates meaningful conversations and encourages clients to share their thoughts and insights, further strengthening the relationship.

1. Curate Relevant Content: Ensure that the articles you share are directly related to your clients’ industries or pain points. Tailor the content to their specific interests to make it more meaningful.

2. Add Personalization: When sharing an article, include a personal note explaining why you thought it would be valuable for the recipient. This personal touch shows that you’ve considered their needs and interests.

3. Consistency is Key: Don’t make article sharing a one-off activity. Consistency is vital to maintain top-of-mind awareness. Create a schedule for sharing articles, but avoid overwhelming your clients with excessive emails.

4. Encourage Discussion: Encourage clients and prospects to share their thoughts and opinions on the articles you send. This can spark meaningful conversations and help you understand their challenges and goals better.

5. Measure Engagement: Use analytics tools to track open rates and click-through rates for the articles you send. This data can provide insights into which topics resonate most with your audience.

Long-term relationships are the most invaluable in sales. Well-read sellers have sufficient understanding and proficiency to nurture strong client connections that can result in repeat business and referrals. By sharing key articles and 3rd party information, you will build a longer-term relationship with your prospect.

Staying top of mind with your customers and prospects is a strategic imperative in professional selling. Sharing industry and management articles is a powerful and subtle way to maintain meaningful connections, foster trust, and position yourself as a valuable partner in your clients’ success journeys. Embrace this practice, and watch as your revenue generation capabilities soar to new heights.

Header Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava
The Quintessential Salesperson: Navigating Trust, Value, and the Art of the Ask

The Quintessential Salesperson: Navigating Trust, Value, and the Art of the Ask

In the exciting world of sales, getting swept up in targets, quotas, and the rush of closing deals is easy. Yet, as a young salesperson just starting out in your career, it’s crucial to remember the essence of your role: You’re not just a seller; you’re a valuable addition to your customers’ lives and their companies. You offer a benefit that goes beyond the product you sell – you provide solutions, help achieve goals, and in doing so, create value that far outweighs the monetary cost of your product.

The Value Proposition: Solving Problems, Achieving Goals

In sales, the first step is always about understanding your product and its inherent value. Your product is not just a commodity – it’s a tool that solves a problem and facilitates the achievement of a goal. Your customers are not merely trading their money for your product; they are investing in a solution that is valuable to them and helps them conquer challenges and move closer to their aspirations.

Remember, if your product doesn’t solve a problem or help achieve a goal for your customer, they probably shouldn’t buy it. It’s your responsibility to ascertain whether the product you’re selling aligns with your prospect’s needs. Hence, the questions you ask before they become a customer are crucial. Those questions are designed to allow you to help them. The design of those questions enables you to discover if the prospect has a problem that your product can help with and if they have a goal that aligns with what your product offers.

In the memorable words of Jerry McGuire (a sales movie masquerading as a love story), discovery questions are simply asking the prospect to help you so that you can help them.

Trust: The Foundation of Sales Success

As a salesperson, trust is your currency. Your belief in the ability of your product to solve a problem worthy of solving is the foundation upon which you build your sales strategy. Your job is not just about making a sale but transferring that trust from you to your customer. And doing it quickly enough to matter to your timeline, be it this quarter, this month, or this year.

The trust you build with your customers also extends to understanding that your product might be a better fit for some companies. Discerning the right fit requires asking probing questions to determine if the prospect has a problem big enough and a goal valuably sufficient to warrant the investment of the company’s resources.

The Art of Asking: Confidence and Curiosity

As a salesperson, your strength lies in your product knowledge or persuasion skills and your ability to ask the right questions. This requires a blend of confidence and curiosity. Confidence stems from your belief in the product and the value it provides. Curiosity comes from your genuine interest in your prospect’s needs, challenges, and goals.

You’re not merely trying to sell a product; you’re attempting to do your prospect a favor by offering a solution that will make a difference in their lives or businesses. This perspective empowers you to ask difficult questions. It gives you the courage to delve deeper into your prospect’s needs and challenges to discover the true extent of the problem they’re trying to solve and the value of the goal they’re trying to achieve.

Remember, as a salesperson, you’re a problem solver, a goal facilitator, and a trusted advisor. You offer a benefit, provide a solution, and create value. Your job is not just about closing deals but about making a difference. And that, a young salesperson, is the essence of a successful sales career.

The Pride of Problem-Solving: A Salesperson’s Badge of Honor

In the grand tapestry of business, the role of a salesperson is often underestimated. The skills and tenacity it takes to close a deal are frequently overlooked, and the value a salesperson brings to the table can sometimes be undersold. But if you peel back the layers of what it truly means to be in sales, you’ll discover a role that’s integral, important, and worthy of great pride.

As a salesperson, you’re not merely a cog in the business machine but a problem-solver, a facilitator of goals, and a conduit of value. You’re the key that unlocks the door to solutions for your prospects, the bridge that carries them toward their goals. And that’s something to be incredibly proud of.

When you help a prospect solve a problem or achieve a goal, you do more than just sell a product. You’re making a tangible difference in their lives and businesses. You’re helping them overcome hurdles, reach new heights, and achieve success. The pride that stems from this role isn’t merely about the deals you close or the targets you hit but the real and meaningful impact you have on the people and companies you interact with.

So, as you step into the shoes of a salesperson, remember to carry with you not just your product knowledge and sales techniques but also a sense of pride in your role. Because you are more than just a salesperson – you’re a problem-solver, a goal-facilitator, a value-creator. You are a catalyst for change and a harbinger of success for your customers. Wear your salesperson badge with pride, for it is a testament to your ability to make a difference, one solution, one goal, and one sale at a time.

Header Photo by Mizuno K
You Need Timed Repetition to Influence Your Prospects

You Need Timed Repetition to Influence Your Prospects

In the world of sales and marketing, there is a principle known as the “Rule of 7.” The Rule of 7 is a principle that states that a prospect needs to see or hear a message at least seven times before they take action.

The idea behind the Rule of 7 is that a prospect must be exposed to a message multiple times before being motivated to take action. This principle was first introduced in the 1930s and has been used in the sales and marketing industry ever since. However, exposure alone is not enough. The timing of these exposures is just as important as the frequency.

The science of memory

For the sales message to be effective, it must be remembered between occurrences. This implies that salespeople should have a basic understanding of how memory works so that a great salesperson can purposefully create messages that have the desired effect.

Memory experiments provide empirical evidence for the effectiveness of the Rule of 7 in sales. According to short-term memory capacity, most adults can store between 5 and 9 items. Miller’s (1956) theory of the “Magic number 7” suggests that short-term memory can hold 7 (plus or minus two items) because it only has a certain number of “slots” in which items can be stored. If we want our marketing messages to be remembered, we must ensure they are repeated at suitable intervals.

There are two ways in which capacity is tested in memory experiments. One is span, which refers to the number of items that can be held in memory simultaneously. The other is the recency effect, which relates to things presented at the end of a list as more likely to be remembered than those shown in the middle.

Items can be kept in short-term memory by repeating them verbally (acoustic encoding), a process known as Rehearsal. Suppose we want memorable sales messages. In that case, we need to repeat them at the proper intervals so they can be rehearsed and encoded into long-term memory. For example, a study by Atkinson and Shiffrin (1971) found that the duration of short-term memory is between 15 and 30 seconds.

Another study by Jacobs (1887) used the digit span test to test short-term memory capacity. He found that people find it easier to recall numbers rather than letters. The average span for letters was 7.3, and for numbers, it was 9.3. To make our sales messages memorable, we need to use simple and unique phrases that can be easily recalled. We should also use numbers in our sales messages whenever practical.

A study by Cowan (2001) found that working memory capacity is limited to four items rather than the seven items suggested by Miller. This means we need to be even more strategic in using the Rule of 7 and ensure that each repetition provides valuable information that can be easily encoded into long-term memory.

Memory experiments provide evidence for the effectiveness of the Rule of 7 in sales. However, we also need to be strategic in using the Rule of 7 and ensure that each repetition provides valuable information that can be easily encoded into long-term memory. Doing so increases the chances of our prospects remembering our message and taking action. By understanding the capacity of short-term memory and the importance of repetition at the proper intervals, we can create marketing campaigns that are effective and influential.

The Forgetting Curve

To understand the importance of timing in marketing, we must first understand the concept of the forgetting curve. The forgetting curve is a psychological phenomenon first discovered by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885. The forgetting curve shows that we forget information at an exponential rate. In other words, we forget most of what we learn within a brief period.

According to the forgetting curve, we forget up to 90% of what we have learned within the first week if we don’t reinforce that knowledge. This curve means that if we want to remember something, we must revisit that information multiple times and at the proper intervals, to avoid forgetting it. The same principle applies to marketing messages. Suppose we want our prospects to remember our message and take action. In that case, we must reinforce that message multiple times at suitable intervals.

So, how often do we need to expose our message to our prospects, and at what intervals? The answer to this question varies depending on the source. Still, the consensus is that it takes between 5 and 12 exposures to get a prospect to take action. However, it’s about more than just the number of exposures but also the timing of those exposures.

In a study conducted by the Association for Psychological Science, researchers found that the timing of repetition plays a crucial role in memory retention. The study showed that participants exposed to information at spaced intervals were better able to recall that information than those who were exposed to that information at massed intervals. In other words, it’s better to space out your marketing messages than to bombard your prospects with them all at once.

Spacing out our messages allows our prospects’ brains to rest and process the information. This gives their brains time to encode the information into long-term memory, making it easier to recall later. On the other hand, if we bombard our prospects with messages all at once, we overload their brains, making it difficult for them to process and retain the information.

Message content

In addition to spacing out our messages, it’s also essential to consider the context of those messages. For example, if we are trying to sell a product or service, we must consider the prospect’s buying and seller’s selling cycles.

During the seller’s Discovery and Scoping stages, the prospect must be made aware of their need for our product or service. Our sales messages during this stage should focus on understanding the prospect’s goals and how our product or service can help them achieve them.

During the Scoping stage, the prospect tries to understand how to achieve their company goals and initiatives. Our sales messages should focus on our product or service’s unique benefits and features during this stage.

Finally, during the Validation stage, the prospect is ready to purchase. Our sales messages during this stage should focus on closing the deal and providing social proof.

To effectively influence our prospects, we must tailor our sales messages and space out those messages at the proper intervals. For example, during Discovery, we might send an initial email introducing our brand and providing valuable information about the prospect’s goals. Then, we might follow up a week later with another email or blog post that dives deeper into the benefits of our product or service. Another week later, we might send a case study or customer testimonial demonstrating our solution’s effectiveness. By spacing out our messages and providing valuable information at each buying cycle stage, we are more likely to influence our prospects and turn them into customers.

It’s also important to consider the medium through which we send our sales messages. Different mediums have different levels of effectiveness depending on the context of the message and the target audience. For example, email marketing is a highly effective medium for B2B marketing, as it allows us to personalize our messages and reach decision-makers directly. Social media marketing and outreach might help to “surround” the prospect, allow for a more extensive reach, and provide for 3rd party validation of the message. General social media posts will enable us to get a larger audience and build brand awareness.

However, regardless of the medium, the key is to space out our messages at the correct intervals and provide valuable information at each stage of the sales cycle. Doing so increases the chances of our prospects remembering our message and taking action.

The biggest challenge of using the Rule of 7 in sales is that it is a lot of work and can be haphazard. Effective planning needs to occur, and a system is required to use the knowledge of how the mind works. In my book Eliminate Your Competition, I explain the 6-3-1 program, which touches the prospect 13 times with four communication channels. It systematizes the Rule of 7 in a straightforward process every salesperson can use to engage with new prospects.

You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers, such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at retailers like AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

The Rule of 7 is a marketing principle that has stood the test of time. However, it’s about more than exposing our prospects to our message seven times. The timing of those exposures is just as important as the frequency. By spacing out our messages and tailoring them to each stage of the buying cycle, we increase the chances of our prospects remembering our message and taking action. Marketing is a process requiring patience, persistence, and strategic thinking. By understanding the importance of timed repetition, we can create marketing campaigns that are effective and influential.

Header photo by Vlada Karpovich
5 Sales Success Tips By A Multi-Decade Sales Professional

5 Sales Success Tips By A Multi-Decade Sales Professional

My good friend, Dean Wiener, published the following post on LinkedIn about some of the “secrets” to his success over many decades. He was kind enough to allow me to embed his post into this article.

Let’s explore each of these items in a bit more detail.

1. I attach my solution to a big problem/pain/goal.

As a salesperson, it is your job to understand your prospect’s needs and offer a solution that meets those needs. However, simply offering a product or service is not enough. You also must demonstrate how your solution can address a specific problem the prospect is facing. Doing so will make you much more likely to close the sale.

Attaching your solution to a goal the prospect wants to achieve has several benefits.

  • First, it helps you to focus on the most critical aspects of your product or service.
  • Second, it allows you to position your solution as the best possible option for solving the problem.
  • Third, it makes it more likely that the prospect will take action and buy from you.

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for problems.

First, ensure that you are addressing the prospect’s real problem. If you try to attach your solution to a problem that does not exist, or one that is not relevant to the prospect, you will not be successful. This is why I suggest that salespeople look for company goals to attach to rather than simply looking for problems. By looking for goals, you can be confident that the company will devote resources to achieving the goal. They may choose to live with a problem because other problems are more immediate or damaging. A stated goal that they want to solve that problem ensures that resources are applied to the problem.

Second, clearly explain how your solution can solve the problem. The more specific and detailed you can be, the better.

Third, ensure your pricing is aligned with the market’s expectations. If your prices are too high, prospects will be hesitant to buy from you. But if they are too low, they may not perceive your solution as valuable enough to solve their problem.

Finally, attaching your solution to a big problem is just one part of the sales process. You also need to build rapport with the prospect, establish trust, and address any objections they may have. If you can do all those things, you will be much more likely to close the sale.

Start by attaching your solution to the prospect’s most significant problem or goal to increase sales. This will help you focus on the most critical aspects of your product or service and position your solution as the best possible option for solving the problem. Just remember to focus on real issues that prospects are facing, and be sure to explain how your solution can solve those problems clearly and concisely. Do all of this, and you’ll be well on closing more sales than ever!

2. Early and consistent engagement with the decision maker

To be successful, salespeople need to have early and consistent engagement with the decision maker. This statement may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many salespeople make the mistake of trying to engage with the decision maker too late in the process. By then, it’s often too late to turn the tide and win the sale.

Why Is Early Engagement Important?

Salespeople who engage with the decision maker early on in the process are more likely to build a relationship of trust and respect. This is because they can establish themselves as a credible source of information and insights from the very beginning.

Early on, engaging with the decision maker also allows salespeople to better understand their needs, wants, and pain points. This, in turn, allows them to tailor their pitch in a way that will be most relevant and resonant with the decision maker.

Finally, early engagement allows salespeople to establish themselves as trusted advisors. Being there from the very beginning, the salesperson can help guide the decision maker through every step of the process and ensure that they’re making well-informed decisions.

Why Is Consistent Engagement Important?

Once you’ve established early engagement with the decision maker, it’s essential to maintain that engagement throughout the entire process. This means following up regularly, keeping them updated on your progress, and proactively addressing any concerns or questions they may have.

Consistent engagement reassures the decision maker that they made the right choice in working with you and instills confidence in your ability to deliver on your promises. It also allows you to continue building trust and rapport, which are essential for maintaining a good working relationship.

3. A strong and effective champion selling on my behalf

A Champion is not a coach (although the Champion might give advice). Champions have influence and may have power. Regardless of power, champions have respect among the top decision-makers. The ultimate Champion says, “I will quit if we don’t buy this product.”

You can have more than one Champion, but the Champion must be loyal. It is not just about achieving the goal but about achieving the goal with your product.

Every single purchase ever made in a business had a champion. Since salespeople are rarely present during the final decision when the Decision Group is asking, “Is everyone ready to buy this product?” the Champion is the person that says, “We should buy this product from that vendor to achieve the goal of the company.” Someone always makes that statement; therefore, there is always a champion for every B2B purchase. The issue is that you may not know your Champion.

Champions are respected stakeholders within your prospect’s business who meet very distinct criteria:

  • They have power and influence (power and influence are non-negotiable)
  • They are selling internally for you
  • They have a vested interest in your success

If your Champion has the other two qualifying criteria but is without power and influence, they are a Coach, not a Champion. Whereas you can work with your potential Champion to help them sell internally for you and to have a vested interest in your success, power and influence are non-negotiable. If they lack it, you can’t change this factor, and you will need to find a true Champion. 

Selling Internally is easily identifiable.

Often sellers think it is not easy to identify if their Champion is selling internally for them, but it is easy. You ask your Champion: “Has our solution come up in discussions with other stakeholders?” If it hasn’t, then this is a red flag for your deal, but if it has, then it is vital to understand how your Champion acted in the discussions. 

  • Did they talk about your solution positively?
  • Did they stick up for your solution if anyone had any criticisms? 

You can find out the answers to these questions by asking your Champion. 

Having a vested Interest doesn’t mean bias.

For a Champion to have a vested interest in your success, your solution’s value must align with your Champions’ goals. This can mean your solution will solve your Champion’s problem, making their job more manageable, or they’ll get a bonus or promotion. 

Having a vested interest doesn’t necessarily mean a bias towards your or your company—quite the contrary. Your Champion will lose credibility if they are seen to be biased.

4. Clear/differentiated solution tied to value/metrics

If you’re in sales, you know that the competition is fierce. To succeed, you must ensure that your selling effort has a clear and differentiated solution tied to your product’s value. In other words, your product needs to offer something unique that sets it apart from the competition and provides value to customers.

A value proposition is a statement that outlines the unique solution that your product offers and the benefits that come with it. Value propositions are essential for any sales effort. For a value proposition to be compelling, it needs to be clear, concise, and tailored to the specific needs of your target customer. It should also be differentiated from the competition so that customers can see why your product is the better option.

A compelling value proposition will do more than list the features of your product; it will also address the pain points of your target customer and show them how your product can provide a solution. For example, if you’re selling a new type of software, your value proposition might address the need for a more user-friendly interface or faster performance. Whatever it is, make sure your value proposition is clear and easy for customers to understand.

Once you have a compelling value proposition, you must ensure it’s communicated throughout your entire sales process. This means using it in your marketing materials, such as website copy, brochures, and email campaigns. It should also be incorporated into your sales pitch so that potential customers can see how your product can solve their specific problems. By communicating your value proposition throughout the entire sales process, you’ll be able to increase closes rates and win over more business.

An effective selling effort must have a clear and differentiated solution tied to the product’s value. This solution must be communicated throughout the entire sales process to increase conversions and win over more business. If you’re unsure where to start, begin by creating a powerful value proposition that addresses the specific needs of your target customer. From there, make sure to use it in all of your marketing materials and sales pitches so that potential customers can see how your product can help them solve their specific problems. By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to success in no time!

5. Committed compelling event (go-live) with a date attached.

To close a sale, salespeople must identify a specific event that will incentivize the prospect to purchase. This event is known as a “compelling event.” Without a compelling event, the prospect has no reason to act now and may never act.

Compelling events can take many different forms. For example, a prospect might face an impending deadline, such as the end of a fiscal year or the expiration of a limited-time offer. Or, a prospect might be experiencing pain points that your product or service can address. By understanding the prospects’ needs and identifying a compelling event, salespeople can close more deals and drive revenue for their company.

Types of Compelling Events

As we mentioned before, compelling events can take many different forms. Some common types of compelling events include:

  • An impending deadline: This could be the end of a fiscal year, the expiration of a limited-time offer, or any other time-sensitive issue.
  • Pain points: Is the prospect experiencing problems that your product or service can solve? If so, addressing those pain points can be an influential motivating factor.
  • A change in circumstances: Has the prospect recently changed their business (e.g., they’ve merged with another company, acquired, etc.) that has created new needs? If so, your product or service may be able to fill those needs.
  • Competition: Is another company trying to win over the same prospect? Positioning yourself as the better option can create a sense of urgency and help you close the deal.

Identifying Compelling Events

So how do you go about identifying a compelling event? There are four key steps you can take:

  1. Research the prospect: Start by doing your homework on the prospect. In addition to basic research like reviewing their website and social media presence, try to find out as much as possible about their specific circumstances. The more you know about them, the better positioned you’ll be to identify a compelling event. This research may require talking to others in their organization or conducting secondary analysis (e.g., reading industry reports).
  2. Build relationships: Once you’ve done your research, reach out and build relationships with key decision-makers at the target organization. The goal is to get to know them personally and understand their specific needs and challenges. The better you know them, the easier it will be to identify a compelling event.
  3. Listen carefully: When talking to decision-makers, ensure you’re really listening to what they’re saying (and not saying). Pay attention to both their words and their body language; they may give you clues as to what’s really on their mind. Frequently, prospects will provide you with information that will help you identify a compelling event without even realizing it.
  4. Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask probing questions that will help you uncover someone’s real needs and motivation for buying. For example, you might ask them what their top priorities are for the next fiscal year or what challenges they’re facing hampering their ability to achieve their goals. By asking tough questions, you’ll be able to get to the heart of what’s important to them and identify potential compelling events.

Compelling events are essential for closing sales; without them, prospects have no reason to act now and may never act. By understanding prospects’ needs and identifying a compelling event, salespeople can drive revenue for their company and close more deals. There are many compelling events—deadlines, pain points, changes in circumstances, and competition—and salespeople must identify the right one for each individual. Researching prospects, building relationships with decision-makers, listening carefully, and asking probing questions are all great ways to uncover someone’s real motivations and identify potential compelling events.”

Header Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash
Sales Training is Crucial for Businesses

Sales Training is Crucial for Businesses

The sales profession is incredibly difficult, and failure is common. There is no profession (aside from marketing) where the expectations are so significantly missed. It is not unusual for 10-20% (or even 30%) of a sales team to not achieve their company-set goals. If accountants failed at that level, most companies would get fined by the SEC and the IRS. If product engineering failed at that level, the products we buy would constantly fail.

Some of this is the way that companies set their quotas. It is common practice that companies will set quota (i.e., the expectation of success) so that only 60-70% of the sales team achieves quota.

Doing sales training well could be significant. 37% of salespeople do not think their company can provide the techniques and training they need to be successful.

Salespeople are not typically trained in universities, with only 59 universities offering a major in sales. Comparing this to the above professions, accounting is offered in over 1,800 universities. This means that sales managers cannot rely on the university system to offer them quality candidates.

Universities Don’t Offer Sales Education, So Businesses Need to Offer It

It’s no secret that the traditional university education system is lagging behind when it comes to teaching students the skills they need to succeed in the modern workplace. As we can see above, this is no more evident than in the sales field. With the ever-changing digital marketing landscape and data analysis’s increasing importance, today’s salespeople need to be equipped with a more diverse skill set than ever before. However, universities fail to keep up with the times, leaving businesses to pick up the slack.

The Importance of Sales Education

To be successful, salespeople need to be able to understand and employ a wide range of skills, including but not limited to market analysis, lead generation, product knowledge, presentation skills, objection handling, and closing techniques. In addition, with the rise of digital marketing, many salespeople now need to be proficient in using various software platforms and tools such as Google Analytics, Hubspot, and Salesforce. The problem is that most universities don’t offer courses that adequately prepare students for a career in sales.

It’s no secret that businesses invest a lot of money in sales training to fill the gap of the lack of university-led training. In fact, U.S. companies spend over $70 billion annually on training and an average of $1,459 per salesperson — almost 20 percent more than they spend on workers in all other functions.

The Case for Businesses Offering Sales Education

Given the current state of affairs, businesses can’t afford to wait for universities to catch up; they need to take matters into their own hands and start offering sales education themselves. By doing so, they can ensure that their employees are equipped with the skills they need to be successful in today’s competitive marketplace. In addition, offering sales training can help businesses attract top talent and retain their best employees.

Universities aren’t doing enough to prepare students for careers in sales, so businesses need to step up and offer sales education themselves. By doing so, they can ensure that their employees have the skills they need to be successful in today’s competitive marketplace.

Sales training is crucial for businesses because it helps them close more deals, increases customer satisfaction, and grows revenue.

Here’s a closer look at each of these three benefits:

  1. Sales training helps businesses close more deals.
    Sales training gives salespeople the skills they need to succeed. When salespeople are properly trained, they’re more likely to understand their customers’ needs and pain points, know how to tackle objections, and have the confidence to close more deals.
  2. Sales training increases customer satisfaction.
    When salespeople are properly trained, they can provide potential customers with the information they need to make a purchasing decision. This leads to happy customers who are more likely to become repeat buyers and sing your company’s praises to their friends and family members.
  3. Sales training grows revenue.
    It’s no secret that businesses exist to make money. By investing in sales training, businesses can see a direct return on their investment in the form of increased revenue. Skilled salespeople mean more closed deals, which leads to a boost in the bottom line.

Effective sales training includes role-playing.

Role-playing is one secret ingredient that can make all the difference in sales training. Role-playing allows trainees to practice their new skills in a low-stakes environment by simulating real-world sales scenarios. Not only that, but role-playing also helps trainees to better understand their customers’ needs and how to best meet them.

Why Role-Playing Works

In a role-playing exercise, trainees are placed in simulated sales situations and must use what they’ve learned to succeed. This allows trainees to get a feel for using their new skills in the real world and helps them identify areas where they need further training. Additionally, trainees are more likely to retain the information they’ve learned by seeing firsthand how their newly learned skills can be applied.

Role-Playing Helps Trainees Understand Customers’ Needs

It can be difficult for trainees to understand customer needs if they’ve never been in a sales situation before. This is where role-playing comes in. By putting trainees in simulated sales situations, role-playing allows them to experience firsthand what it’s like to interact with customers and understand their needs. Additionally, by allowing trainees to try out different approaches, role-playing can help them determine which approach is most effective for meeting customer needs.

Role-Playing Builds Confidence

Another benefit of role-playing is that it helps build confidence. Sales can be daunting for anyone, especially if you’re new to the job. Role-playing allows trainees to build their confidence by practicing their sales skills in a safe and controlled environment. Additionally, role-playing allows trainees to get feedback from trainers and other participants to improve their performance and build up even more confidence.

Role-playing is essential to any successful sales training program because it allows trainees to put their new skills into practice in a low-stakes environment. Additionally, role-playing helps trainees understand customer needs and build confidence. If you’re looking for a way to improve your sales training program, then consider incorporating role-playing into your curriculum.

You may want to check out my article on maximizing your sales training budget. In that article, I list four ways to make sales training fit into your tight budget.

Sales training is essential for any business that wants to close more deals, increase customer satisfaction, and grow its revenue. If your company isn’t investing in sales training, it’s time to reevaluate your priorities — because you’re leaving money on the table!

Header Photo by Jeremy McGilvrey on Unsplash
Successful Salespeople Must Learn To Lead Or Follow In A Sales Situation

Successful Salespeople Must Learn To Lead Or Follow In A Sales Situation

When it comes to sales calls, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Some prospects want a salesperson who will confirm their existing thoughts and perceptions, while others are looking for someone who will challenge their assumptions and prescribe a new solution. The key is to be able to read the situation and adjust your approach accordingly.

If you sense that the prospect is resistant to new ideas, it may be best to focus on reaffirming their existing beliefs. However, if the prospect seems open to new possibilities, you’ll have an opportunity to introduce them to a solution they may not have known about. By being attuned to the prospect’s needs, you’ll be able to deliver a sales pitch that hits the mark.

What selling style do prospective buyers prefer? A survey by Harvard Business Review shows that 40% of study participants prefer a salesperson who listens, understands, and then matches their solution to solve a specific problem. Another 30% prefer a salesperson who earns their trust by making them feel comfortable because they will care for the customer’s long-term needs. Another 30% want a salesperson who challenges their thoughts and perceptions and then prescribes a solution they may not have known about.

A successful salesperson knows that the key to making a sale is understanding the prospect’s needs. The best way to do this is to ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. Only then can the salesperson begin to match their solution to the specific problem the prospect is facing.

This process begins with identifying the need, which can be done through active listening and probing questions. Next, the salesperson must determine whether their product or service is a good fit for the need. If it is, they can then begin to present their solution to demonstrate how it will solve the prospect’s problem. By genuinely taking the time to understand the prospect’s needs, a salesperson can increase their chances of making a successful sale.

In any sales situation, building trust with the prospect is essential. This can be done in several ways, but one of the most important is to make the prospect feel comfortable. When a prospect feels at ease, they are more likely to be open to what you have to say. They will also be more likely to remember the interaction positively, which can help to build long-term relationships.

There are a few simple ways to make prospects feel comfortable.

  • First, use open body language and make eye contact.
  • Second, avoid controversial topics and steer clear of anything that might make the prospect feel uncomfortable.
  • Finally, be genuine in your interactions and take an interest in what the prospect says.

Anyone who’s ever been on a sales call knows that the key to a successful pitch is making a personal connection with the potential customer. One way to do this is through open body language. This means keeping your arms uncrossed and your hands visible.

It also means maintaining eye contact throughout the conversation. This shows that you’re interested in what the other person has to say and that you’re trustworthy.

Additionally, open body language can help put the other person at ease, making them more likely to listen to what you have to say.

It’s essential to be respectful of your prospect’s time and to stay on topic during a sales call. You should avoid anything that might make the prospect feel uncomfortable, or that could potentially be controversial. Stick to discussing the product or service you’re selling and trying to gauge the prospect’s level of interest.

Know when to lead the prospect

Some prospects want a salesperson who challenges their thoughts and perceptions during a sales call. They want someone who will listen to their needs and prescribes a solution they may not have known about. This type of challenge can help make a sale, but it can also be daunting for the salesperson. It requires them to understand the prospect’s needs and come up with a solution that meets them. Additionally, the salesperson must communicate the solution’s value effectively to the prospect. This can be a challenge, but it can be overcome with practice and understanding of the sales process.

The above-mentioned HBR article noted that under 20% of accounting and IT staffers want to be challenged from a departmental perspective, while 43% of the engineering department does. Over 50% of marketing and IT prefer a salesperson who will listen and match a solution to solve their specific needs. The sales department preferred having a salesperson listen and translate their needs and being challenged; HR was equally split across all three selling styles.

An interesting explanation for selling style preferences is based on whether the buyer is comfortable with conflict. 78% of participants who preferred a salesperson who would listen and solve their specific needs agreed with the statement: “I try to avoid conflict as much as I can.” Conversely, 64% of participants who preferred a salesperson who challenged their thoughts disagreed with the statement and were comfortable with conflict.

To be successful in sales, it’s crucial to be able to read your prospect and adjust your approach accordingly. Some prospects want a salesperson who will confirm their existing thoughts and perceptions, while others are looking for someone who will challenge their assumptions and prescribe a new solution. The key is to be able to read the situation and adjust your approach accordingly. When you can lead and compliment when appropriate, you’ll be well on your way to sealing the deal.

Header photo by Sora Shimazaki: