B2B sales isn’t like a factory assembly line. While some elements of repetition may exist in sales, no customer or prospect in the world appreciates being shoe-horned into a sales process, which doesn’t align with their buying process.
Selling is really the art of understanding people
Yes, there are undoubtedly similarities between customers and sales situations in the past that we can extrapolate information from, but it’s critical you avoid hitting autopilot at all costs. Assuming anything in a selling situation can be a dangerous mistake and yet it’s one that very few of us can avoid:
- He’s a CFO, he must be a details guy ... I’ll focus on the numbers
- She implemented my competitor’s solution before, I’m sure she is biased against me
- We’re presenting to the user community today, we better dumb things down, we don’t want to confuse or scare them.
These and a million other assumptions will trip you up along the path to closing the sale. Above all else, selling is a game of strategy not chance ... think chess, not roulette. Maintaining a high level of intellectual alertness and personal curiosity is essential if you want to build a successful sales career.
So what are my top 3 tips, to help you close more sales?
Tip #1 - Trust me, I’m a salesperson
Above all else, selling is still about trust. If you’re not paying attention to the client’s specific wants and needs, you’re more likely to breach their trust by trying to push them into something they're not ready for.
You know the old expression, “Never let them see you sweat?” Sales reps should retool this cliché into “Never let them feel you sell.”
If your efforts are too aggressive, too transactional, too assumptive, you run the risk of losing not just their respect but their attention. The irony of professional sales is that the best salespeople aren't actually selling, they're simply earning the right to move to the next step of the process. When you earn the right to get to the final step, you make the sale.
Don't get me wrong, if your sales funnel is running dry it's easy to succumb to fear - and believe me, prospective customers are like lions on the hunt - once they sense fear your days are numbered and your deals are discounted!
Tip #2 - Master the art of listening
Being a salesperson is not the same as being a radio DJ. Dead air is not a crime when you’re talking to (or better still, listening to) a prospective customer. In fact, it’s to be encouraged. You’re not going to learn much when you’re talking. Instead practice the art of active listening by:
- Being engaged and present
- Asking intelligent and leading questions
- Probing for insights and understanding
- Replaying key concepts out loud.
“You’ve got two ears, one mouth ... use them in those proportions” goes an old sales adage. It’s sage advice.
I remember vividly as a boy growing up in Ireland, how my mum seemed to have this innate ability to connect with anyone. She would happily chat away to strangers in the street and they would often part as life-long friends. It took me many years and a lot of careful observation to work out her secret: curiosity.
She was genuinely interested and curious about people, their lives, their likes and dislikes, where they had travelled to and where they were going next. Giving someone your undivided attention is such a rare commodity in this hyper-connected world we live in that when it happens, it can be a very rewarding experience for both parties.
Talk less, listen more, and you’ll find the whole game gets easier.
Tip #3 - Cookie cutters are for cookies
I like a cookie as much as the next person, perhaps more, if I’m absolutely honest. But take it from me, you won’t increase sales if you’re not tailoring your approach to fit each client. That’s the irony of sales and marketing automation, it’s wide and shallow versus narrow and deep.
If B2B sales is based (at least partially) on our ability to build relationships, doesn’t it make sense that we treat every relationship with the respect it deserves and recognise that?
One sales rep, who has sold millions of dollars of products over the phone (without ever meeting her customers in person) explains that she instinctively modulates her voice to fit to the tone of the client she is speaking to. Sometimes she lets the conversation flow, other times she gets straight down to business, again she allows her customer or prospect to dictate the pace. The point is, whether in the real or virtual world, our willingness and ability to tailor our approach can have a profound impact on whether a customer decides to work with us or not.
Want to close more sales?
If these quick tips resonated with you, I discuss these and many other sales strategies in more detail in my book Rebirth of the Salesman. I hope it proves valuable to you.