Change Your Sales Techniques and be a Star in 2018
by Benjamin Von Seeger
December 21, 2017
As 2017 comes to a close and you look back on your overall sales performance, are you happy with the results, or are you looking for new techniques that will make you a star in 2018? Becoming a star is not as difficult as you may think. Astute salespeople understand that the key to success is effective communication. You may think you are an excellent communicator, but are you really?
From my experience, the biggest challenges (or mistakes) with most salespeople is they don’t listen and they don’t pay attention to details. How can you learn about a prospect’s business, and their needs, if you are doing all the talking and aren’t listening to their needs? How can you build a trust relationship when you don’t allow the customer a get a word in edgewise? To understand their needs, you have to tactfully uncover the prospect’s pain points by asking questions and letting them talk.
Research – Get to Know Your Potential Customer
I can’t stress enough how important it is that you know as much as possible about your prospective client. When I first got started in sales, the internet wasn’t what it is today. If I wanted to do research on a company, I had to pay someone to get that information. Today, it’s easy. You can do all your research on a company or individual simply and quickly right from your desk or smart phone. Remember, the more prepared you are, the better your chances of successfully closing the deal.
- Start by going to the company’s website as it contains a plethora of information. There you can learn not just about their products and services, but also who the players are within the company structure, as well as information about the company culture.
- Read through their press releases to gain information about new products, achievements, acquisitions, etc.
- Get to know their leading competitors as well as their successes and failures.
- Use social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google News or other venues that will allow you to look deeper into the company or executives of a company.
Cold Calls and Networking
Cold calling is the art of approaching someone, professionally, openly and meaningfully, with a sensible proposition. With all the technological tools available today, there is still nothing more effective than a phone call. Why? Because, unlike email, for example, when you make a phone call, you connect on a personal level with your prospective client. You aren’t hiding behind an email where the receiver can just click on delete after reading the first few words, if they even open it.
Phone calls are the most effective way to build relationships. That’s not to say that introducing yourself to people at trade shows, marketing via various venues – even in an elevator or a hotel lobby – isn’t important; they are. But ultimately, they all lead up to a phone call. If you make 1000 phone calls and identify 10 as prospects, you are successful.
In Gene Bedell’s book, Three Steps to Yes: The Gentle Art of Getting Your Way, he states, “Good Salesmanship can make the difference between being in line for a job promotion or being in the unemployment line.” Networking, whether it be via a phone call or in person, plays a crucial part in staying off the unemployment line.
When you have your first meeting with the prospective client, don’t jump right into your agenda. Instead, first show them you are approachable and put them at ease. Try to find something in common.
- Start with a general subject such as sports, some recent event or industry trade show that you attended.
- Look up your prospective client on LinkedIn to see if there is a certain person you both know. If so, say something about that. “I noticed on LinkedIn that we both know Michael Hill. How did you two meet?”
If you already know their interests (such as golf, art, etc.) then you are that much ahead of the game. After your initial introductory chat, then you can discuss the purpose of the meeting.
Face to face meetings are priceless.
Everything You Do in a Meeting Matters
Listen, concentrate and pass out material that will bring the meeting attendees together. If you hold the meeting in their office, it’s easier to make the sale because they are on their home turf and they are, therefore, more comfortable and at ease. Additionally, you can glean certain information from their surroundings if you pay attention to details.
- As an example, I had a prospective client who kept talking about his biggest customer – a bank – but he wouldn’t tell me the bank’s name. I wanted to know because I wanted to build a case scenario around that customer. However, when we entered his office, I immediately knew who that customer was because the calendar on the wall had the name of the bank. I did the research on the bank and was able to build and present a case scenario, much to the prospect’s amusement. That can only happen if you pay attention to detail.
- Create the trust and an open conversation. Break the ice! In one conference room setting almost everyone was sitting in a closed body position with their arms crossed, leaning back away from the table, or arms close to their body and hands in their laps. Their body language was speaking volumes. I knew I had to get their attention and build excitement. So, I cleared the table. I pushed away the flowers along with the coffee cups and laid down an open map, then pointed to Shanghai and Frankfurt so we can discuss the requirements of a colocation infrastructure. That got their attention and they all gathered around to see what I was doing. That gesture broke the ice and put them at ease because they knew it wasn’t going to be a stuffy, boring meeting. Thinking outside the box does the trick every time. But always pay attention to your own body language as well. Project confidence by opening up your body.
- Use emotional intelligence. Compliment them on a company success. “Congratulations on getting your recent product to market. That was an excellent team effort.” Zig Ziglar said, “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”
- Talk about the benefits of working with you and the potential partnership.
- Look at their body language. Who is the most important person of the room? That’s not necessarily the highest-ranking person. It is the person asking all the right questions and the one that has the answers to your questions. The one that asks for the follow-up is the champion that is going to lead your project to success.
Presentation vs. Conversation
PowerPoint kills the presentation, start having a conversation! How are you delivering your message? Are you putting your prospects to sleep with PowerPoint presentations? How about starting up a real conversation instead?
- When having conversations, taking long and frequent breaks are the keys to guaranteed success. Pause five to seven seconds between your messages for impact. This also allows them to digest the material you just discussed.
- If they talk amongst themselves, just listen. Don’t interrupt. They need to assimilate the information they just received.
- Ask questions to make sure they understand what was discussed.
Bill Stinnett, author of Think Like Your customer says, “Ninety-five percent of what’s sold in the world isn’t an end unto itself, it’s a means to an end.” In your conversations with your prospects, outline how your product will make their lives less stressful and more enjoyable.
After a successful presentation, you have come to the next milestone step, responding to their Request For Proposal (RFP).
- Identify opportunities and the prospect’s needs. RFP responses should focus on solutions for the prospect’s needs and not on selling your solution.
- The RFP process sounds pretty straight forward but it is full of landmines that can destroy any relationship you have built if you falsely say you can meet the required list of features when you can’t. By answering the questions honestly, you’ll save yourself a world of headaches later.
- The prospect sends the RFP to multiple providers and selects the provider that best meets their requirements. However, the RFP can be a source of major headaches for both companies. Unclear language, confusing terminology and the prospect’s indecisiveness of features are just a few of the many reasons why this process brings more problems than it solves.
- Surprisingly, the internal sell may be the toughest. Use your internal resources to convince executives you are doing the right thing for both parties.
- When responding to the RFP, focus carefully on the requirements. Be sure your solutions address the client’s pain points. That’s the most effective way to convince the prospect you are their partner of choice.
Close the Deal and Follow Up
Tons of books have been written on deal closing techniques. Whatever closing technique you use, be sure to ask for the deal. If you don’t ask, you won’t get it.
- When you are confident your solution beats all the other RFPs, then ask for the sale. For example, “Since you don’t have any more questions, let’s discuss the contract.” Or, “What can we do to win the deal?” If you established a great relationship and respect with the customer, they will tell you. It’s not always the lowest price that gets the deal. There are many other factors more important than the cost. One of the worst things you can do is low ball the costs and later find reasons to hike them. That brings a whole new set of problems and destroys the relationship.
- With the success of being awarded the deal, send thank you notes. They work magic because a hand-written thank you note is personal. Always follow up with the customer because the potential for more business is always there. The follow-up can lead to your next big thing. I was knocking on a prospect’s door for 9 months and nothing happened. But, finally they gave me a small deal, which later lead to bigger deals. Don’t be satisfied with a small deal; always go after the bigger fish. Do not underestimate the value of the follow-up. Go big or go home!
About the Author:
Benjamin Von Seeger is the newly appointed VP of Global Network Service Providers at Cyxtera Communications. He is an entrepreneur, frequent C-suite member and telecommunications expert with twenty years of global business experience. He speaks five languages and graduated with degrees in Business Administration and International Relations from Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich Germany. He is attending the Advanced Management Program, Business Administration and Management, at Harvard School of Business. His Axiom Business Award winning book, The RiVal: Play the Game, Own the Hustle, Power in Competition, Longevity in Collaboration, draws on vast personal experience and proven philosophy to inspire a new generation of businesspeople and students. Visit his website: BenjaminVonSeeger.com and follow Ben on Twitter: @benvonseeger.