Last month, we explored “Ten Sales Techniques for Elite Performers.”
In that column, I evaluated the performance of a luxury fractional ownership sales rep and pointed out where he succeeded and where he failed, suggesting that some of my elite sales techniques might have enhanced his chances for success.
The column hit a nerve with readers. There were three types of responses:
- “Why are you teaching gimmicks?”
- “You were just a tire kicker wasting his time.”
- “Great stuff - take a deeper dive into this.”
With this kind of diverse comment pool, there was only one thing to do: Strap on your air tank – let’s take that deep dive together.
Techniques, Strategy or Gimmicks?
There is a perception in the business world that using sales techniques or planning a sales strategy is in some way a form of manipulation or a gimmick. Using fundamentally sound techniques as part of an overall strategy to earn business is no different than the fundamentals used by a baseball player when batting.
Like a ball player, a sales rep only gets so many at bats during a season. Sometimes, there just isn’t an opportunity to execute. In some instances, the sales rep gets an illegitimate prospect to work with – the ballplayer just doesn’t get a pitch he can hit.
Sales and baseball hitting have always been a numbers game and that is why fundamentals are so critical. The baseball batter who follows the correct form every time and the sales rep who uses sound techniques every time will both execute when true opportunity presents itself.
Fundamentals are the furthest thing from gimmicks. Proper use of fundamentals by a sales rep is the only ethical way to sell. It is the lack of fundamentals that leads to gimmickry, buyers making wrong decisions and ultimately, unhappy clients.
From Elite Sales Techniques to Key Messages
Today’s buyer is beyond sophisticated. They do their own research, are typically well-prepared to meet with you and will be quick to dismiss you if you send the wrong message. Accordingly, you better be prepared to use those elite techniques to send the right messages.
The Four Key Messages all begin with C
Message #1 – Connection
Choose the right account executive to handle the account. This may frost some people, but age is a factor. There was a point in my own career, in my late 50’s, when I realized that my 27-year-old rep had a much better chance of connecting with a 24-year-old prospect at a fast-growing tech company than I ever could. There is a time to sell and a time to manage. Sometimes, it makes sense to bring in a “pinch hitter.”
Elite Sales Techniques that will send the message of Connection:
- Being Prepared – Knowing something about the prospect and their company before the meeting.
- Special Attention to Detail – Bringing along a specialty advertising item that will appeal to that specific decision maker. Are they a golfer, a gym rat, a music fan? Do some research.
Message #2 – Credibility
Product knowledge is critical. No gimmickry here. Know your business inside and out – know the possible scenarios in advance - be prepared to offer solutions. Earn confidence by making it obvious that you are an expert that can be trusted.
Elite Sales Techniques that will send the message of Credibility:
- Offer relevant success stories – This will showcase your knowledge and credibility.
- Offer reviews – Your ability to produce positive feedback from similar clients will put the prospect at ease.
Message #3 – Caring
This is the core of ethical and professional selling. Helping the client see the light and make the right decisions. For the sales rep, it isn’t about chasing every available dollar, or selling the product with the biggest incentive. It is about making sure that the supplier and the client will be happy with the outcome. It is a challenge that only elite sales pros can execute.
Elite Sales Techniques that will send the message of Caring:
- Ask questions – Your interest in the prospect’s needs is what a caring approach is all about.
- Identify the hot button – Your questioning seeks to identify the hot button issue – the one critical issue that needs to be satisfied because you care about their satisfaction.
- Sell, don’t just present – Your understanding of the client’s needs opens the door for a personalized presentation, an approach that hits home with the prospect – not some canned speech.
- Deliver the experience – You care enough about the potential client to understand their needs, identify their key issues and personalize the presentation. Now, earn the business by delivering the experience with compelling language. “When my company is selected to serve your account, this is what you can expect…
Message #4 – Conclusion
Newsflash: When an account exec does their job correctly, the client wants to see the deal closed. They want nothing more than to see that selecting your company is the right decision. They want that little cherry on top that slams the door on the deal and allows them to move on to the next project.
Elite Sales Techniques that will send the message of Conclusion:
- Use the if-then proposition – This technique organizes thought, allows the prospect to close the deal themselves and brings about a clearly defined conclusion – the sale.
If the hot button was saving money, then the proposition might sound like this:
“Mr. Prospect…you have seen plenty of evidence of our company’s history of exceptional performance, our many solutions, our ability to serve your industry and our commitment to deliver a customized program. That said, accomplishing all of this - if we can save you money in the process, then do we have your approval to move forward on this project?”
Sales Training: More important than ever
The goal of selling in today’s world is to help buyers make the right decisions, even if that means they don’t choose your company or your product. Your company’s solution either works for the client or it doesn’t. Elite sales techniques bring out answers that lead to identifying solutions that work.
Managers: Invest in sales training. A baseball batter that uses proper form (combined with natural talent) every single time he steps to the plate will end up being an MVP candidate. Same goes for sales reps. Proper fundamentals work beautifully over time, even when you encounter a “tire kicker.” Of course, a sales professional with a long-term view knows that today’s “tire kickers” are often tomorrow’s buyers.