Sales is ultimately an exercise in relationship building. If you or your reps aren’t building effective relationships with the people you talk to, you’re missing out on big opportunities. Of course, sales can often come down to money, timing and “fit,” but at its heart, sales is still about building trust and rapport and showing respect between two professionals.
After over 25 years of selling or advising companies on how to increase sales, I’ve seen all kinds of mistakes when it comes to closing the deal. If you want to improve your company’s sales performance, hone in on your relationship-building skills by remembering the following:
1. Be yourself
Just because sales is about relationship building doesn’t mean it’s about glad-handing. Being friendly and outgoing can help make a sales person successful, but personality and charm isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. No matter how outgoing you are, your prospective customer still wants to feel like you appreciate and understand his or her needs.
But don’t assume that just because you’ve got a good rapport with a customer, that they’re ready to buy. More than a friendly smile, it’s your expertise and focus on the customer's needs that will help you close the deal. You should always have available an interesting article to share or a piece of business intelligence that will make you a trusted source of helpful information. This helps you open up you call with substance rather than irrelevant small talk.
2. Be a great listener
Instead of doing a lot of talking, do a lot of listening. Every sales call is an opportunity for you to learn more about customers and their companies. Sure you can ask questions and probe for problems, but when a decision maker starts talking, that’s your cue to listen and identify important “sales drivers” that will help you close the deal. For example, if you are talking with an IT director and he mentions that his company is having a problem managing malware on its servers, you should ask more about the issue and what steps (if any) the company has been taking to solve the problem. Do this before immediately offering to sell him a new anti-malware suite.
3. Be original
Does your presentation sound too scripted? Try to customize your meeting by covering topics that are important to your potential client. And by being a great listener, as we discussed in the previous step, you can empathize with the client and offer truly insightful solutions that don't sound cookie-cutter or that don't address the need or problem. It may also help to share stories of other companies you've helped in the past.
The key to solid, consistent sales is to stay true to yourself and your business. Then ask the same of your workers. (Don't assume that they are on the same page and using these tips.) You could even e-mail them this article as a friendly reminder.
OPEN Cardmember Al Davidson is the founder of Strategic Sales & Marketing, a “leading light” among lead generation companies, helping to deliver B2B lead generation and appointment setting services for global clients ranging from local small businesses to Fortune 100 companies.
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