I wrote recently about the wealth of helper apps and new technologies directed at the sales process. There’s no doubt these tools can be useful but you’re far better off practising the core skills to build a solid foundation in sales.
With that in mind, here are my five tips to build long-term success in sales.
1. Understand the client’s requirement
Make sure you can identify the client’s principal concern; it’s even better if you can quantify it too. Depending on the challenge, quantifying it might be in terms of dollars and cents or in time lost or production delayed. The main point is to understand why the client needs to do something. Many sales people go in with a general pitch that offers to refine business processes or increase productivity. They’re keen to make a sale but the focus on the client’s needs is missing. This type of scenario usually fails to generate much excitement with the client. On the other hand, if you are clear about the specific challenge and how your product or service will relieve the client of the pain, you start to pull away from the pack.
2. Clearly identify how the solution/service will meet the requirement
Of course, this is the bookend to the first point. First know the challenge, then be sure your solution or service will meet the challenge and achieve the outcomes you forecast. Make sure to do your homework here so you can be confident about the benefits to be realised. A great selling tool is to have examples of successful solutions implemented in a similar environment. This is a little more work but can be the killer punch.
3. Understand the needs of the key decision makers
In some instances, your contact at the client’s premises may not be the ultimate decision maker. Sometimes getting access to all the decision makers is hard, but at the very least you need to find a way to understand the factors that will influence them. A department head or top-level manager may have a requirement or need that is not obvious upon first examination. So do your homework and keep listening. Ask more questions to get the insight you need to adapt your proposal to get everyone’s buy in. The more you know, the better your solution will be.
4. Maintain the right perspective
Try to see not only the problem but also the solution from the client’s point of view. If you take the time to understand their operations and challenges, you will be better placed to serve their best interests and build your own success. Remember, they pay you so treat them the way you would want someone you are paying to treat you and your business.
5. Build for the long term
Approach the relationship with each client from a long-term point of view and look after their best interests. Client relationships are not a competitive sport, both sides need to win for it to be successful. If the client has a need and your company doesn’t offer a solution, don’t be tempted to try to make the sale by shoe-horning something to fit. In many cases you simply won’t win and worse, you risk setting yourself up to lose next time they need something. It’s far better to say that you don’t think you can help them in the first instance. The client will appreciate your candour and you have continued to build that most important part of the customer relationship, trust.