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10 Tips to Improve the Performance of Your Sales

 

“80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls after the meeting. 44% of salespeople give up after 1 follow up. – The Marketing Donut

 

“Each year, you’ll lose 14% of your customers.” – BusinessBrief.com

 

“We talk at a rate of 125-175 words per minute, listen at a rate of 125-250 words per minute, but think at a rate of 1000-3000 words per minute.  The processing gap creates opportunities for distraction and failure to listen attentively.” – The Mann Group

 

We would all like to think we’re great listeners that know exactly what our customers need. In reality, that may be far from the truth. Don’t just read these 10 tips; put them into practice in your business to start improving your sales performance today.

 

Tip # 1 – Everybody is a $alesperson

 

 

All employees have the opportunity to be salespeople regardless of their position or job description. Whether it’s Fred the customer service rep or Julie from accounting, here are a few tips on how to make selling a part of every person’s job. It is adapted from Patricia Sigmon’s Six Steps to Creating a Profit (Wiley).

 

  • Give employees an easy to follow instruction guide. This guide can be as simple as a bullet list that gives your company’s messaging about their products and services. It helps to tell your company story and illustrate the value they provide. In this guide, encourage your employees to engage prospects regularly in a conversation about your company’s offerings. The goal is to subtly spread your message, not overselling your product.
  • Make sure every email has a proper signature that has your company logo, links to your website, and information about your products and services. This should go out in every email automatically.
  • Keep an eye out for great talent in your organization. Maybe you have employees with a gift for social media or a writer that can create incredible sales letters. You can uncover some of these people by brainstorming with employees about what they can do to help generate more sales.

 

Tip # 2 – Listening to improve sales

 

One of the biggest challenges of selling is to get your customer talking, not you talking to the customer. Without listening, how will you know how you can help the customer? By letting the customer dominate the conversation, you can learn more about which products and services you can provide for them.

One of the best ways of doing this is a technique called active listening. It requires listening to the person with an understanding for what they’re saying. After they’re done speaking, you respond to them with a brief summary of what they’ve said.

 

 

By doing this you show your prospect that you fully understand what they’ve told you and you can use those clues to help you close the deal. You will also be demonstrating your respect for the prospect, which can build rapport.

Most of us, when we hear something interesting, will start framing a reply or planning what we’re going to say next based on what we’ve heard. The problem is, you’re doing this while the other person is still talking and you’re not listening to what they’re saying. One way to avoid this is to keep your mind on the speaker and mentally echo what they’re saying in your head.

 

Tip # 3 – Closing is a process, not a request

 

If your goal is to help a customer make the best decision, you’ll find that closing requires more than just asking for their business. When you are talking to your prospect, always listen for their pain points and opportunities to help them out. Ask them questions so you better understand their pain. These questions may or may not come from a checklist, but probably from listening to and understanding the person’s pain and how you can help.

 

 

During the closing process, you will transition the prospect by listening to them. Over time, you will gradually move the conversation from “what if” to “when” if the right decision is to buy from you.

 

Tip # 4 – Forget the elevator pitches

 

Elevator pitches have become popular, but in reality they’re a great way to bore your prospect. Do you really want to force them to listen to a 2 to 3 minute spiel about how great you, your company, and your products are? (It’s all about me, me, me!)

 

 

When you stop and think about it, do you like listening to people go on and on when they get to their elevator pitches?

Instead of forcing your prospect to listen to your bland, boring, and never-ending elevator pitch, give them an opportunity to talk instead. Ask them about what they do and listen. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can learn.

 

Tip #5 – Introverts are better sellers

 

 

We all know the stereotype of the fast talking salesperson who appears in movies, television, and other media. However, in the real world people that have a hard-sell attitude can quickly turn off customers. We know that one of the keys of selling is listening, and introverts are far better at this.

Introverts are more interested in hearing what other people have to say. Since they avoid small talk, they are actually able to naturally develop a deeper connection with the prospect.

Introverts are more likely to study and like sales systems, which can be a major contributor to sales success. While extroverts love to engage with people, they are more likely to fight the system because they enjoy seeing unexpected things occur. Introverts, on the other hand, generally like to use less energy and therefore like to use systems to help leverage their energy to get the best results for the effort they put in.

 

Tip # 6 – Cold calling helps you grow

 

Most sales people do not like cold calling. Some would do almost anything to avoid it.

However, picking up a phone and talking to someone you don’t know to see how you can help them is a great way to strengthen your emotional muscle. It will help you learn to deal with rejection and establish rapport with new prospects at the same time.

 

Here are some tips for successful cold calling:

  • Always treat the gatekeeper with the proper respect
  • Make a dedicated time each day for cold calling
  • If you get voicemail, leave a short voicemail message and assume that your call will never be returned
  • Always use your product’s benefits, not features during the call
  • Keep in mind that cold calling on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons will typically have the worst results

 

Tip #7 – Use customer experience to build your brand

 

Most companies become obsessed with branding. In the end, it’s your customer experience that can build (or destroy) your brand.

This is not a new idea. Companies like Starbucks, Costco, and Ritz-Carlton have been using their customer experience to build their brand for a while.

 

 

“Today, there’s no argument that discovering what customers really want, then delivering it through fantastic customer experiences, is a hallmark of strong brands,” says Paul LaBelle at Tibco Blog.

Some top drivers of customer experience are:

  • Communicating with your customers in plain English while avoiding jargon
  • Making sure your customers feel valued
  • Quickly resolving any problems customers may have

 

Tip # 8 –  Take care of your loyal customers

 

Getting new customers can be an expensive and risky proposition. On the other hand, your existing customers have already purchased from you and selling additional items is comparatively easy.

 “Getting loyal customers to buy from you costs nothing and is automatic. Therefore, your priority should always be to transform existing customers into loyal ones; new customers are only a priority when you're just starting out,” says Geoffrey James at inc.com.

If you focus primarily on getting a new customer and at the same time lose an existing one because you ignore them, you will have the same number of customers in the end. However, you will have lower margins because of the additional cost required to get a new customer over retaining your existing one.

 

 

In the end, by adding one new customer for every one you lose, you will actually lose ground and suffer from reduced profits and increased marketing costs as a result.

Make the time to take care of your customers and be sure your products and services perform well for them. Since you already have a relationship in place, it is less expensive to sell additional items from your product line to those that already love your products.

 

Tip # 9 – Sales training does not make top performers

 

If anyone ever tells you that going to a sales training will make all of your sales staff top performers, beware! While good sales training is certainly worthwhile, it’s only going to provide marginal improvement.

 

 

In order to get the maximum return on investment from sales training, it is important that sales managers continue to coach their staff after the training is over.

Unfortunately, most training efforts fail to reach their objectives, in large part because of the absence of any kind of reinforcement or coaching. In fact, one of my former bosses whom I have quoted before, Neil Rackham, conducted a study that indicated that post training, if there was no coaching or reinforcement activity, there was a drop-off of 87% of the knowledge acquired. That’s a waste of 87 cents on every dollar spent on formal development efforts,” says Scott Edinger with Forbes.com.

Some action items from Scott also include developing “a clear line of sight between sales actions, sales goals, and business outcomes” and coaching by asking, not telling.

 

Tip # 10 – Remember that customers love to buy, but not to be sold

 

We all like to buy things, but none of us really likes to be sold. This is why when salespeople try to manipulate customers into buying things, it often alienates and causes resentment.

The main point in selling is to help the customer make the best decision. Doing so will help add pleasure and influence the customer’s inherent desire to buy.

 

 

The key to this is finding out what your customers want. You can do this using customer interviews, where the customer will tell you things that they would probably never mention while people are trying to sell them. You can schedule an appointment and do the interview by phone or in person with structured questions so you can document the results.

 

Conclusion

 

As you have probably learned by now, listening is one of the most important skills when it comes to improving the performance of your sales. Once you listen to get an understanding of what your customer wants to buy, you can then align your business model to meet those needs. You start with a good understanding of what a real customer needs and how they go about finding a solution and meeting those needs. Once you have this information, you can use your great customer service and training to turn your new prospects into loyal customers and reap the rewards.

 

Image Courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos

  • Peter Scholtens

    #9 is false if you get sales training that is ongoing and includes coaching, a la @SandlerLvM