This is a busy time of year for most businesses with new college graduates coming on board to start their first jobs. Even if your company has a formal sales training program, the sessions are likely spread out over a few months or the first year. You have leads in your CRM right now that need to be followed up on, so informal training needs to start on day 1.
I put together a list of tips for new sales people to help them hit the ground running. While an experienced sales rep already knows most of this, getting back to the basics never hurts.
1. Focus on value
Your prospect is not interested in the features of your product, service or solution. Tell them about your newest product not interested, don't need it. Change your focus to the tangible benefits they can get from using your product - they're all ears. Your prospects are interested in solving business issues shortening sales cycle, driving revenue growth, etc.
Instead of selling the features of your solution, tie them to the benefits. Make sure they pass the "So what?" test
. For example:
Focused on the product's feature: "Our new software includes an easy to use reporting tool."
Focused on value: "Using our software will enable your sales team to spend less time creating reports and more time on revenue generating activities like sales calls."
Remember: Buyers buy solutions and results; they do not buy products or services
2. Ask the right questions
The most effective way to move the sales process forward is to ask quality questions that give you insight into the prospect's issues, purchase requirements and goals. Don't assume you know what matters to your prospects.
Quality questions are not
- What will it take to earn your business?
- What is your budget?
- If I gave you a good price would sign a contract today?
A good rule of thumb is to ask questions that begin with "What", "How", or "When", because you'll get more from the prospect than a simple Yes or No. The questions you ask will vary depending on your product/service and your prospect. However, here are a few sample questions to get you started:
- Tell me why this issue is important to you.
- What areas of your business are being affected?
- What is the impact in terms of dollars, market share, employee turnover, etc.?
- What do you think of our product/service?
Remember: Asking the right questions will help you understand the prospect's issues and hot buttons, and what benefits will be most valuable to them.
3. Actively Listen
Now that you know what kinds of questions to ask, stop talking and start listening. Understanding the prospect's issues and motivation will help you differentiate yourself from the competition and form an effective value proposition.
The ideal talking-listening ratio in sales is a hot debate. Some say the ideal ratio is 80:20 with the prospect talking more, others claim 50:50 is best. I think it's an art, not a science. Your goal is an engaging dialogue where your prospect to shares information and you ask probing questions and offer valuable insight. Being a trusted advisor that can help solve business issues, not a walking and talking product brochure will help you close the sale.
Show your prospect you are serious by actively listening. After the prospect answers your questions, you can confirm that you understand the client's issues by rephrasing what was just said.
For example: "Roger, you mentioned that X, Y, and Z are critical success factors for this initiative. How well does that capture what we need to focus on?"
By using a phrase like the above or "Let me get this straight", you have an opportunity to ensure you completely understand the prospect's position.
Remember: You can ask all the questions in the world, but if you don't listen to what your prospect tells you, you won't be able to present the best solution.
4. Differentiate yourself and your solution
Most businesses compete against companies with similar offerings, making standing out in a crowded marketplace challenging. Differentiating yourself and your company from your competitors is essential to a successful sale. Focusing on value, asking the right questions and actively listening differentiates you from the competition, but taking it further will glean the best results.
Differentiation is found not just in what you deliver your product or service but in how you deliver. Here are some steps you can take to differentiate yourself and your solution:
- Create a customized value proposition based on your prospect's specific needs and priorities.
- Do a competitive analysis so you are familiar with your competitor's product or service, and their strengths and weaknesses.
- Set yourself apart from the competition by building relationships with your prospects, even those that aren't ready to buy yet.
- Be a business advisor, not an order taker. Bring value to the table.
- Present your solutions in person instead of simply faxing or emailing your quote and waiting for a response.
Remember: You want to give your prospects a reason to do business with you instead of a competitor.
5. One step at a time
Today's business to business buyers have long, complex purchasing cycles and more often than not, the decisions are made by a team
rather than an individual. Prospects don't buy when you want them to buy and they don't always move through the sales process linearly. Sometimes you've led them to the close only to find they've revised their purchasing requirements, gone back to their short list for new proposals or changed their budget.
Being able to close a sale is critical; however, there is a difference between strategically moving your sale forward and just rushing your prospect. The more you rush them, the more resistant to moving forward they might become and you risk losing the sale. Slow down and simply advance the sales process one step - one meeting, one call, one email - at a time.
Remember: Get to know your prospect so you can stay in sync with his purchasing process.
Being successful in sales requires persistence, follow up and planning. The best sales people set goals, determine a plan and execute. Once your sales team has a lead, they need to know how to approach the sale. What tips could you give a new sales person that would have the highest impact on success?