Sales isn’t easy. According to a study by CSO Insights (download required), less than half of forecasted business ends up closing, with 2/3 of respondents surveyed reporting that their organizations need “improvement or major redesign” of their processes for capturing new business.
So how do you make sure you stand out from the crowd and get the selling process right?
We posed the question: “What are your tips for how to be good at sales?” to seasoned sales professionals across industries, and here’s what we learned.
Tip #1: Get there early.
One of the best tips that I would give to entry level sales folks is arrive early to work every day. Although “the early bird gets the worm” may sound corny, it rings true in any sales organization. Early arrival gave me the opportunity to get to know my superiors on a personal level, as well as demonstrate my sense of purpose. From a numbers perspective, I was already 20 calls ahead of my team members by the time they sat down at their desks.
- Charles O’Hara, Sales Director, GPSTrackit
Tip #2: Be a good person.
I’ve seen many a good salesperson throughout my years in sales. Reps who would achieve their quota quarter over quarter, and at times, even exceed it. The “100-150 percenters”. I’ve also seen extraordinary salespeople, who absolutely crush it. Every quarter. Every week. Every day. The “400-500 percenters”.
While there are a number of marked differences between the two groups, there is one difference in particular that sets apart the exceptional from the good. Good salespeople focus on being good salespeople. More transaction-minded, they seek to build rapport and make the sale. Exceptional salespeople focus on being good people. More relationship-minded, they act to understand, relate, and create a value-adding relationship.
- From “Don’t Be a Good Salesperson, Be a Good Person” by Sami Halabi, Digital Marketing Specialist, Oracle
Tip #3: Believe in the product.
You must believe in the product you are selling. If you don’t love your product, your customers will sense this immediately.
- Raymond Ciampaglia, Vice President of Sales, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate
Tip #4: Perfect the farewell email.
If you feel you’ve hit a stone wall, send your leads an email that makes it clear that this is the last message you’ll be sending them, as the silence has made it apparent that they’re no longer interested. This method, while might seem rigid for some, actually builds transparency and shows that you respect your leads’ time and don’t want to bother them with an offer that’s no longer on the table. As long as your first interaction with the silent lead was very positive, sending such a farewell email will likely result in a quick response with an explanation for the silence.
- Tom Smyk, Account Executive, Survicate
Tip #5: Did you know that…?
What I’ve discovered is the importance of adding value to the lives of your prospects, specifically by telling them something they didn’t already know. Open by sharing, “Did you know that…” and share some interesting (and relevant) fact about their industry, a competitor, or current event that may impact their business. If the currency of business relationships is knowledge, then always be equipped to have something valuable to share.
- David Ciccarelli, Chief Executive Officer, Voices.com
Tip #6: Speak like a friend.
Early on I was terrified of phone sales which is predominantly what I do now. I was young and eager, and in my first few seconds of conversation I was shrill, which I know now is a big turn off and gets you off on the wrong foot.
Now I speak as though I am telling a secret to a close friend or loved one. I care about the person I am talking with and I am able to get to the source of their pain points quickly and identify if my products and services are a solution for them.
- Katie DeCicco, CEO, of CelebrationSaunas.com
Tip #7: Know your stuff.
You have to learn [a prospect’s] business inside and out, because most people can quickly detect when a salesperson doesn’t really know their stuff. This makes it much easier to approach them because you can immediately point out how you can help them either make money or save money, which is ultimately what drives decision making.
- Tom McGee, general manager of the sales & marketing division, Lucas Group
Tip #8: Don’t be pushy.
One of the best tips for becoming good at sales is to make the business personal without being too pushy. Get to know your clients (and potential new clients) and try to individualize your messages, service offers, etc., to their individual needs and interests. And while some follow-up is good and shows that you are invested in the client, don’t make your approach so aggressive that you turn them off completely. Give the clients some breathing room to think, and consult with them about how much time they need before you check in with them again.
- Nate Masterson, CMO and certified health expert, Maple Holistics
Tip #9: Stop talking.
Selling is oftentimes more about listening than it is about talking. Developing this skill should be at the top of any salesperson’s priority list.
To help yourself remember to display empathetic listening while talking with a prospect, devise a note-taking system that emphasizes your prospects’ needs. If you walk into a meeting prepared to focus on their needs (rather than cramming in all of your talking points), you’ll be primed to listen better.
Your non-professional life is also [full of] opportunities to practice empathetic listening, so take advantage of them. When you chat with your barista every morning, that’s a chance to practice a critical sales skill. Once you get used to activating the “listening” part of your brain, it will stay active in all your interactions.
- Jordan Wan, Founder and CEO, CloserIQ
Tip #10: Be you.
Be you. The best sales professionals have found ways to be the best versions of themselves. They don’t follow [a] script or try to be something they’re not.
- Scott Ingram, Founder, Sales Success Media
Tip #11: Think long-term.
It’s great when you [get] a customer, but it’s even better when he remains happy on the long term (think of referrals). As a result, I love to follow personally on our clients to make sure everything goes well. It’s always worth spending the extra time as it makes people feel you really care about them. And that’s ultimately what this is all about: human beings helping other human beings.
- Flo Defontis, founder at www.air360.io
Tip #12: Stand and smile.
Stand and smile when you call. When you speak to a prospect, you want to convey some energy through the phone. If you’ve been sitting in your chair all day, it’s cloudy and rainy, you’re not going to sound exciting to talk to. If you stand up and smile, your prospect will feel the energy and be more engaged.
- Chris Michaels, Founder, Frugal Reality
Tip #13: Tell a (true) story.
My dad used to say, “The difference between a good salesperson and a great salesperson is that the great salesperson’s stories are true.” Great sales people learn how to connect with people in sincere ways. They listen and then share their own personal stories.
- John Crossman, CEO, Crossman & Company
Tip #14: Plant a seed in fertile ground.
We teach our clients that the receptivity of the customer is actually more important than the message. If the soil isn’t fertile, the seed (your message) will never germinate.
- Tom Standfill, CEO at ASLAN, a sales training company
To learn more about sales performance management solutions, view the Q1 2019 Forrester Wave for Sales Performance Management Solutions.