We cover “How to Become a Better Salesperson” in our podcast this week, and if you prefer to listen than to read check it out below or through iTunes and Stitcher.
You are either reading this because you want to become a better salesperson or are looking for talents within salespeople as you build out and hire a sales force for your organization. Either way, you will end up with some key takeaways that will help you.
I wrote this blog post because Ghostit is currently building out our sales team and there are a few things that I have been looking for in our potential hires that if mastered take the typical salesperson from good to great.
Click here to download our case study on how we drove $71,050 in additional revenue using our own product.
When I talk about a salesperson, I am not just referring to your traditional suit and tie persistent used car salesman or Wolf of Wall Street types that won’t leave you alone. That is the stereotypical salesman from the movies but it is not reality. To succeed in sales in the modern age becomes much more about helping people solve their challenges than it is about pushing your products.
All Roads Lead Back To Sales
The higher your position with the company, the more your role becomes about sales.
Let's say you are trying to raise a Series A for your company. Sales skills will help you close the deal.
Trying to land a key hire for your marketing department? You pitching (selling them on) your company is sales skills.
Trying to get your company to pursue a new initiative? Sales skills will help you achieve this.
Having skills in sales is incredibly beneficial, even if your employees or coworkers are not directly making sales, or whose roles do not involve sales. There are a few fundamentals of sales that we’ll cover in this blog which will arguably help you the most in your first couple years in business or in your role as a sales representative.
As a business owner, you’re going to need to polish these skills, because it’s unlikely that you’ll have enough capital to hire your own sales team right off the bat. In my opinion, people often neglect to put enough emphasis on the importance of sales skills.
Many people focus on building their business first before selling when it should be the reverse. How would you know what to build, where to build and how to build if you don’t know what the market for your product will be like? Do your customers really even want what you are trying to sell?
If you are still in the building stages I wrote a blog about business-market fit which dives into these questions more thoroughly which you can read below:
"Strategies to Improve Your Business Market Fit"
I sat down and spoke with Will Fraser from Saasquatch.com to illustrate this point. He spoke about the time when the team was trying to decide which product idea was the best to pursue as a company. The idea they were going to pursue was the one with the most credit card commitments. Today they have a wildly successful growth automation software business which started from sales validation.
You have to know if there’s a market for your product before building it out and the best way to do that is through sales.
When people say the fortune is in the follow-up, I can speak from personal experience that it is true.
Don’t be discouraged by the rejections you receive. I fundamentally believe that no matter how many resources you’re reading to help you shine like on the art of sales, you’ll never get better unless you get your feet wet. Except for this blog post of course.
Sure you’ll learn techniques theoretically, but in order to implement them, you have to practice. It’s similar to playing an instrument. Learn all the theories you want, but muscle memory, the feel of the music, and improvisation skills won’t come unless you physically practice the piano.
Rejection is not a negative thing. Rejection will happen more times than it won’t. Like getting a key wrong in a song before you get it right. Eventually, the areas where you faltered or failed at will naturally correct itself. Moving forward after a rejection is not new advice, and is a pretty obvious reminder. What gets overlooked is when you slow down or falter after making successful sales.
If you’re learning the piano, do you become a master after learning one song perfectly? Would you stop challenging yourself with new songs? The answer is obviously no. The same goes for sales.
People neglect practicing sales after they’ve filled their pipeline. It even happened to me in the early days! It’s easy to get caught up in the success and not realize you’ve stopped selling. For example, Ghostit had an absolutely killer month. We had increased the business by 30% that month but because we spent so much time celebrating our big win and riding out the prospects, we didn’t focus on refilling the pipeline the following month and hit on all-time low two months later.
Take steady action at all level of the sales pipeline regardless of your wins and losses. If you do get rejected, always ask why. You’re most likely going to get a one sentence response. As much as it is hard receiving a rejection, it is equally as hard giving the rejection. People hate saying no. “Ghosting” doesn’t just happen in personal relationships.
People are more likely to give you a vague promising answer after your pitch but then avoid your calls or never move forward. It’s important to find out why a business doesn’t want to work with you because it helps to refine your sales pitch, prepare your answers and understand your market more. Be transparent, and humble when you ask for their honest feedback while making sure to explain why you would appreciate their reason.
On a side note, when asking for a reason why your prospective customer does not want to move forward after say four follow-ups this provides you with two very valuable things.
- Potential failings with your product which you can take back to the team, fix and then hit the market stronger than ever.
- Discover that your lead is misinformed about something specific which can be quickly remedied potentially winning you the deal.
Sales are More Human Than it is Technical
I have read my fair share of crazy complex blueprints that break down a sales process into a 10 step formula and you probably have to. Don’t waste your time, there is no easy sales blueprint that you can download that can make you and your organization sales savants overnight. Sales is a lot easier when you think about it as a relationship.
People often forget that there are real people on the other side of deals. Treat them like people and you will see your conversions increase.
What are sales but a conversation between two human beings trying to find a mutually benefitting arrangement in the form of a transaction? In order to “sell’ to someone, you not only have to convince them that your products solve a problem, but that it solves it better than the other competing products.
First, focus your attention on the person you are talking to rather than your product. Provide that person with all the information they need and keep in mind that this doesn’t mean every product detail. You have to be able to understand the person’s perspective, and overloading them with information that isn’t directly useful is more detrimental to your pitch than it is helpful.
Take the time to make your pitch personal. Your pitch shouldn’t be the same 5 sentence spiel for everybody you talk to. You will get better results when you solve a specific customized problem that your lead is identifying than if you just sell your product.
Secondly, keep in mind when you go in that this is not a one-time transaction. What your gaining by building trust goes far beyond the dollar amount, you’re gaining a lasting relationship. When a sales transaction becomes more than a transaction, you are more likely to develop a better customer relationship that will bring you referrals. This has worked for Ghostit on many occasions. We relate to our customers and establish a relationship which has brought us many referrals. Customer service is one of the things that we take immense price in throughout our entire team.
When you speak to a person who represents a business, be sure to identify that the opinions and feelings exhibited by this person do not represent the business entirely. Every person within that company has their own likes, dislikes, ambition, and biases. Just because a business has said no to you in the past, does not mean they will continue to reject you in the future.
I had followed up with a business almost a year after they turned us down. The business had changed owners, and the new owner had an entirely different perspective on our product. After a couple of meetings, we closed them. (Another example of how the fortune is in the follow up).
You can make sales into something extremely complex, or you can break it down very simply. I generally make it pretty simple for my business – why would you introduce the potential for confusion? I have a very basic plan before going into each sale meeting but at the end of the day, it boils down to something very human – whether that person likes you, connects with you enough to thoughtfully listen and consider your pitch.
Trust is what leads to closing deals. This is what I learned while I was competing with companies three to four times larger than my company. The art of sales isn’t rocket science, and no matter how many guides, blueprints or e-books you download to improve your sales skills, if you’re lacking basic relationship building skills you’re not going to do well. Fix these skills, treat people like humans on the other side of the deal and it will continually pay dividends.
Plan Loosely and Don’t Take Notes
This is probably the opposite of what you usually read but hear me out. I argue that it’s always good to have a plan before going into a meeting but it’s terrible if you’ve planned out every single detail. Believe it or not, life never plays out exactly like you want it to and if you spend too much time detailing, and mapping out everything you will be saying, you’ll be less prepared when you’re eventually thrown off.
The more rigid you are, the more you’ll be derailed on the spot. Having a plan that roughly allows you to stay on track makes all the difference. You’ll walk in on much more confident footing but you won’t be thrown off if someone throws you a curveball.
Don’t just work on your pitch. Do research on the people you’ll be meeting, including learning about something personal that’s beyond their work. This allows you to connect at a human level, and it also gives you insight into their own perspectives and individual goals.
Take a look at your past wins and rejections, paying extra attention to the details leading up to these results. Are any of them similar to the client you’ll be seeing today?
Finally, stop with the note taking and start recording your meetings. It is scientifically impossible to listen and write notes at the same time. You probably think I’m lying but it’s true. Your brain is a sequential processor and it’s unable to pay attention to two things at the same time. No matter how much you praise yourself for being able to multitask, it is just impossible when you’re using the same region of your brain (i.e. language area) while doing two separate things. While it is true that you can capture information via writing it down while you’re listening, chances are your mind isn’t actually recording down the information while you’re writing. Pay attention to your prospect then take notes after.
All you’re doing is hearing the information, which is different than listening. Having notes is extremely useful if you’re able to capture it all, but you’re likely not going to capture every word. People just talk faster than you can write, and while you’re busy reciting the last couple of sentences in your mind as you write it out, you’re missing what they’re saying presently.
Give your leads your undivided attention. Even though they can’t see you taking notes, people notice the difference in attention. You’re faster to react, and faster to ask questions. You’re also focused on building that personal connection rather than cramming down “facts.”