The six open secrets of successful salespersons
Can you relate to this? As a busy sales representative, you always follow the latest trends in sales and marketing and every now and then a software manufacturer, sales coach or bestselling author claims to have found the philosopher’s stone: THE universal recipe for catapulting your revenues to dizzying heights. We enthusiastically read up on customer centricity, only to discover that the concept is actually no different from the good old style of customer orientation.
Who would have thought it? Of all the trends announced over the years, those that remain consistently relevant are the ones that have always proven to be the most effective and successful. And they are mostly used to promote software-driven sales routines. There are a great many of these digital tools and they are naturally a great source of support, as they help us to get a better reward for our efforts. Yet they will never replace the underlying qualities of a good salesperson. Anyone who believes that software can compensate for a lack of expertise, not being well-prepared for the customer and/or negotiation, or being careless in the follow-up or when addressing weaknesses in the transaction is going to be disappointed.
Here are the six fundamental requirements that make salespersons successful and which also optimise the chances of a achieving an upsell:
1. Know the product.
Successful salespersons do their homework thoroughly. A lot of time needs to be invested in advising on software products that require explanation, and customers will only buy if they have the impression that the salesperson knows what (s)he is talking about. Do you remember the last time that you ate in a fine restaurant? Where the sommelier recommended the perfect wine to accompany your meal and described how it would harmonise with your main course, with the result that you ordered a bottle – without asking how much it cost. He naturally had to prepare for this but knew that takings would be lower if he simply handed over the drinks menu. Never overlook such opportunities, always have the list of features and all innovations at hand and keep up to date – your revenues will increase without fail, not only with new contracts but also from upsells.
2. Know your customers.
Do you know the different types of customers? Old hands in the sales business can undoubtedly recall different variations of this theme. Whether the customer types are described using colours, attributions such as “doer” or “waverer”, or even psychological dispositions such as “sanguine”, all these classification systems have one thing in common, namely that they categorize customers according to their quest for power, security and, yes, also their sense of curiosity. If you are not only familiar with the types but also manage to tailor your sales pitch for them, your closure rate will receive a significant boost. There are essentially only four types and their motivations can be traced back to three major emotion-based mechanisms. Here is a brief description of the four most important customer types.
3. Let the customer take a look in the mirror.
We make 70 – 90% of our decisions unconsciously, circumventing the cognitive areas of our brain, and we often make them very quickly. But what do we or our customers react to? Facial expressions, glances and tone are understood much faster than words and there’s some truth in the notion of the concept of the first impression being the most important – we distinguish between friends and enemies within fractions of a second. That is quicker than we can assign a customer type to the person we are dealing with.
Luckily our own emotional brain is just as quick as our customer’s and we all have so-called mirror neurons. Use them to your advantage. If your customer smiles at you, smile back at them; if (s)he reaches out to shake your hand, do the same.
Yet you can also use these mirror neurons to influence the other person’s behaviour. How? Simply by feigning something. Try it out and beam at someone you see on the street who isn’t smiling. Even if they’d been looking stern just a few seconds earlier, there is a good chance that their mirror neurons will force them to smile back. Generate enthusiasm for your product by showing YOUR enthusiasm and you’ll see how infectious it is!
4. Talk the language of emotions.
Emotions control our decisions. Have you ever had “a feeling” about something? Have you listened to sales arguments and dutifully nodded even though you knew from the outset that you wouldn’t buy the product? No matter how much we who consider ourselves to be tech guys like to see ourselves as rational beings, we hardly ever make any purchasing decision that is not steered by emotions. And these emotions need to be stimulated. A good way to achieve this is through storytelling. As long as it is based on actual facts, there is nothing wrong in telling a story. Depending on the type of customer you are dealing with, it can be humorous, extravagant or concise.
It doesn’t always have to be a complete story. Just like in stories, you can create a bit of suspense through use of just a few words or phrases, such as:
- Visual language, metaphors: „Look …“, „Image …“ „Take a look at …“, „… runs like a well-oiled machine“, …
- Questions and superlatives: „We solved exactly the same problem for [ideally use a well-known company as a testimonial]. Do you want to know how?” „Have you already heard about the latest feature XY?“ „It’s absolutely the best thing for solving XY.“
- Emotional adjectives: „I’ve got an exciting idea to help you solve XY.“ Or: „I’ve got something special for you/exactly what you’re looking for.“
- Mini story: a personal anecdote, a short narrative about the brand, a quote from a satisfied customer – all these things distract from the dullness of the list of features and bothersome price negotiations and generate a positive atmosphere.
It is often even easier to find a story to suit the customer type of existing customers. Simply have one or two stories at hand before making the phone call or practice telling them to yourself while in the car en route to the meeting – you’ll see that it’s worth it.
5. Recognise buying signals.
Salespersons ignore buying signals more often than you would imagine. Some of them can be easily overlooked, particularly if you’re reeling off a routine sales pitch. If we focus too strongly on what we are saying, we may not even notice that the customer’s body language is becoming more relaxed and (s)he might even be nodding in agreement. Yet we cannot afford, under any circumstances, to ignore questions posed by the customer that are relevant once the purchase has been made:
- What are the payment conditions?
- Who is my contact person in the company?
- How long is the delivery period?
- What are the follow-up costs?
The questions you can expect will differ from one sector to the next. Spend time addressing these thoroughly, write them down, learn them off by heart and practice ensuring that you don’t miss any of them.
You can also determine the customer’s willingness to buy by posing some targeted questions to gauge their attitude:
- How does that sound to you?
- What do you think about it?
- To what extent does it meet your expectations?
- What do you find particularly useful about it?
- Assuming that you buy the product, when should we deliver it?
You’ll find more on the aspect of the willingness to buy in our article on use of the so-called pre-close technique.
6. Always set up the next phase.
It can’t be repeated often enough: just as important as preparing for each meeting is the conclusion – and this doesn’t always mean concluding the transaction.
You’ve prepared thoroughly for your interaction with the customer and shaped the start and course of your sales pitch. But beware: it’s not over just because the conversation has come to an end or the allotted time has elapsed.
Imagine that you’re a hunter: a hunter can carefully position his arms and legs, span the bowstring perfectly, focus exclusively on the target – and then miss by a mile because he fails to retain the bowstring tension properly when releasing the arrow.
You don’t want to make this mistake; you want to hit the bullseye! So never forget to close the deal. Use a form with a clearly identified “next phase” field, set an alarm notification on your phone, or get used to writing in your calendar what the next phases are and when they need to be initiated. It doesn’t matter how but always make sure that each phase in the sales process is consistently followed by the next one – a routine that’s 100% worth it.