Sales Tips and Techniques to Boost your Career

When economic times are hard, only the best salespeople survive and thrive. Use these sales tips to give yourself an advantage.

1.) Be Polite and Likeable

Don’t think the best salespeople are loud, aggressive and only interested in getting the sale at all costs. Indeed, the opposite is frequently true, as salespeople that come on too strong often don’t get past the ‘gatekeepers’ (secretaries and PAs) to the real decision-makers in an organisation. And even if they do, they may be unable to close the deal because the reality is that people prefer to do business with someone they like. Perhaps the overly-aggressive salesperson will get the sale once or twice – but only until a competitor who is more likeable comes along!

2.) Be Willing to Negotiate

The best way to get what you’re after is to negotiate. It’s a vital sales technique that can reconcile positions that may initially seem highly incompatible and poles apart. Forming a relationship built on trust is key, as is trying to understand the position of the other party. Set differences aside and focus on finding common ground and looking for a mutually acceptable win-win deal. A former European Minister of Foreign Affairs – an environment where negotiation is a critical skill – explains it thus: “The first thing in negotiation is to understand where the person you’re negotiating with is coming from. What are their interests, their concerns? Unless you understand that, it will be very hard to get agreement; it involves empathy from both sides”.

3.) Be Prepared

‘Be prepared’ is one of the most important, yet underrated, sales tips you’ll ever receive. Research everything beforehand and be ready for different eventualities and objections during your meeting with the potential client. Know the background of the company you’re targeting, the business they’re in, the markets they serve, and the challenges they’re currently facing. Try to find out where they presently buy their products and services, and whether they’re happy or unhappy with the current suppliers. Who is the key person you’re meeting with and what do you know about him or her? A little digging may reveal common ground which can be exploited – like an interest in golf or a shared previous employer. Check to see if they’ve perhaps been a client of your company in the past. If so, why did the relationship cease?

4.) Diagnose the Client’s Pain

“It’s not about selling what you’ve got – it’s about a thorough diagnosis of what the client actually needs in order to solve the problem,” advises sales & business consultant, Frank Tilley. He warns salespeople against trying to prescribe a solution before they’ve diagnosed the client’s “pain”. “Would you allow your doctor to prescribe you medicine before fully diagnosing your ailment?” asks Tilley, who goes on to recommend that salespeople first take the time to understand the potential customer’s  problems – and the required solutions – before jumping in with generic proposals, unrealistic prices and irrelevant product offerings. “The secret to great sales is great diagnosis, so that you can match your product or service specifically to the client’s pain,” he advises.

5.) Be Clear as to Your USP

Define the ‘unique selling proposition’ of your product or service and then articulate this clearly and frequently to potential clients. But says Ian Rheeder, a sales & marketing trainer based in Johannesburg, understand that it must be defined from the point of view of the customer and not the salesperson or his company. “The value proposition must be created from factors that mean the most to your target audience,” he advises. Rheeder also cautions that ‘different’ doesn’t always mean ‘benefit’. “Being different doesn’t necessarily equate to a competitive advantage,” he explains.  For example, Capitec Bank sees its USP as being smaller, more innovative and more in touch with the market than its bigger competitors. It translates this into less bureaucracy/complexity, more flexible opening hours and reduced banking charges.

6.) Aim High

If you’re confident in your product or service, then there’s no need to be embarrassed about trying to get the best possible deal for yourself and your company – after all, you can always negotiate downwards. But the words “best possible” are key here; it’s suicidal to take yourself out of the game by coming in at twice the price of what you know your opposition is charging – unless of course you have a clear product/service advantage. At the same time, coming in with an upfront price that’s too low can indicate that you have no confidence in your product or service and that it’s inferior. Worse still, it may smack of desperation, which could lead a savvy customer to try and drive the price down ever further. Knowing when a price is fair to both parties is one of the most difficult sales techniques to master.

7.) Plan for Tomorrow

The business world is full of salespeople who live from deal to deal and commission cheque to commission cheque, with scant thought for creating long-term sales opportunities. By planning and organising now, you can reduce the time and effort spent on ‘reinventing the wheel’ when you go back to the same potential customers a year from now. Plus, you can use the knowledge gained to perhaps give yourself a competitive advantage that you didn’t have the last time around. Take detailed notes during and after client meetings and file them away for future use. Also be sure to keep any research you did on potential customers – you never know when planning for tomorrow can result in an unexpected sales success today.