In the decade I’ve spent being the top sales performer in multiple companies and then starting my own, I’ve found there are lots of ways to sell. Interestingly, you could take a whole company of salespeople and give them all the same training, techniques, and tools, and there would still be a big difference in how top salespeople performed against everyone else. Why? It’s simple. The most important element isn’t a technique or tool that any of those trainings will teach you.
My first sales mentor said to me years ago, “Lots of people can sell, but someone who’s in ‘professional sales’ finds a way to help a client be successful. …And everything else just falls into place.”
Another mentor told me, “My job isn’t to make a sale. My job is to make my client a rock star in his company.” In short, the best salespeople are looking to help the clients they’re lucky enough to serve.
It sounds so simple, but it’s also rare. Think about walking into a dealership to buy a car. Two equally knowledgeable salesmen approach you. One says, “Hey, I’m Bob, let me know what we have to do to get you into a car today!”
The other simply offers, “Hi, I’m Jim. Have a look around. If you have any questions or anything I can help you with, let me know.”
Who do you want to spend the next two hours with?
The thing is, you, as a buyer, can feel each salesman’s intent. Bob wants to sell a car. Jim wants to help you.
In any sales situation, your prospect can also feel your intent. That’s why finding the best way to help their client – even if it’s not their product or service – isn’t just a great salesperson’s goal, it’s their secret sauce.
The salespeople focusing on helping are few and far between, but they’re easy to find. They are the top performers at any company that are loved even more by their clients than their sales leaders.
So how do you start really helping your prospects? It starts with the kind of environment you create to build the sales relationship. You need an environment that includes three things: Communication, Trust, and Reliability.
Those of us who love sales are usually big talkers, but the best salespeople are better at listening.
Pay attention to what they’re saying and pay even more attention to what they aren’t saying. Watch their faces, their non-verbal communication with others, and make it okay to ask the “dumb” questions.
If no one is asking the questions you usually hear, bring them up yourself. This is especially important if there are some key questions every prospect asks about how hard the change is, how long the implementation takes, or what they need to budget for your product.
The questions left hanging can be the thing they need the most. Those can be the difference between helping them and making a sale, or not offering value and losing the business.
If your prospect doesn’t know, like, and trust you, you can’t help them and they won’t buy from you.
Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says, “When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”
In my experience, the quickest and easiest way to earn trust is being honest with prospects. I started with telling them what I’d want to know if I were the buyer. I told them what our competitors did better, where our product or service was best in its class, and I’d also share the things we couldn’t do.
Saying yes to everything and acting like your product or service is perfect is a sign of insecurity and dishonesty. Smart prospects know it, too.
Sharing a little bit of what you’re not able to do will go a long way in building credibility.
You aren’t what you say you’ll do. You are what you do.
You will stand out in the sales process by being the person they interact with who they don’t have to follow up with because you rarely drop the ball. In the beginning, you represent everything about your product and service without even realizing it. If you’re reliable and trustworthy, so is your product.
If you sometimes come through when you say you will and sometimes don’t, your product and company feel that way to your prospect. You are their first impression of what it would be like to use your service or buy your product. Take that responsibility seriously.
If you do happen to make a mistake, own it. Share the mistake, and what measures you’ve taken to make sure it won’t happen again.
Those three things are simple. They require little talent and only a reasonable amount of effort. However, the environment employing them creates for both you and your client to succeed is extremely powerful.