I have been into marketing and sales work and mentality the last ten years: cocks and valves for households and enterprises, tactical and hunting equipment for geeks and amateurs, transport and logistics, IT services and other nuts and bolts. Geography of my sales ranged as far as Russia and Europe to North America and back to Asia and Australia. No more, no less – all is mine, by Jove.
The interesting and confusing thing about sales though, despite all my experience, is that I never may be sure if I am a good enough salesperson, every now and then feeling like a newborn, pure and innocent, trying to make head or tail of the very same sales I have been into the last ten years. Quite an eye opener: never get complacent and always learn.
And still, taking into account the above, what would make a good salesperson by modest me?
1. Have the Attitude
They say “If there’s a will, there’s a way” – a good salesperson must have that will to break his way to sales. Lack of will to do so, will not help much and lead you into oblivion as a salesperson. In other words, originally you must want to sell and must not be afraid or ashamed of making your pitch. Being communicative, outgoing, self-assured and above all willing to achieve will initially help you as a salesman on your long and bumpy way to successful sales.
In my ten years I have seen quite a few sales folks, who seemed to be rather gone astray off their right path into sales and whose selling was rather a torture both for them and their fellow workers. They were scared out of their wits of speaking with customers, personally or on the phone, bored of sending emails, lazy advertizing new stuff they had.
2. Know the Product
Knowledge of what you sell and being sure what you sell is real good, is crucial. It’s true there are sales connoisseurs who may get by just upon a Cheshire smile and the right attitude depicted in item 1 without being well acquainted with the stuff they pitch, but even they won’t get far in the end. It’s good, sound knowledge of your product, awareness of its advantages and disadvantages, how it functions and what consists of, that will always be a benefit.
3. Evoke Trust
If it’s not war and famine, nobody will buy from you anything if he doesn’t really trust you. Trust is an essential, primordial element of relationships between humans, integrated deeply in our genes – trust is a must between a salesperson and customer. And the bigger the sale is, the longer it will take to establish trust and credibility between you, as a salesman, and your customer.
Establishing trust may be problematic due to the lack of time, especially in the first contact, means of communication and poor knowledge of your customer’s language and cultural peculiarities and may take weeks, months and even years in the long run. Ruining trust with your customer may take a minute or two – one bad call or one wrong email and your sale is in tatters.
That is why it’s important to keep away from lying to your customer or making your product appear better than it really is, especially if you want to have a long and successful relationship with him.
4. Do the Listening
Some sales gurus say the salesperson’s ability to persuade a customer into a sale with the help of suave and eloquent speech is a top talent. I would advise “suave and eloquent” listening to the customer rather than speaking.
All people like speaking themselves and want to be listened to. It’s a double must with your customer: first, he wants to speak himself and be listened to, because it’s his natural instinct, and second, he has a thing or two to tell you about the product he wants as a customer. So, why wouldn’t you let him do the speaking and evoke that very warm feeling about him which is evoked in us by our patient listeners? Listening to what your customer really wants rather than speaking about what you have to offer him is lots more important.
When I feel tempted to listening to my heavenly voice making a pitch to my client and do the talking myself, turning my customer into an involuntary and ungrateful listener, first, I go against my customer’s instinctive grain, second I miss out on the important details about the product he wants to get. And what’s the use of trying to sell a pair of Nikes if your client needs a new T-shirt no matter how great your pair of shoes is after all?
5. Shake a Leg
“The beginning is half the battle”: the ability to act fast right in the first contact with your customer is more important than a careful, well-judged and thought-out sluggish action. All big and later-on carefully thought-over deals usually take off on hot emotion and quick motion. Most human relationships start with first, quick impressions. Most decisions whether to keep on communicating with you as a salesman further or not are made within the first hasty talk on the phone or in your first email. And on them shall we build our long-term relationships.
I have lost the most of my “one-in-a-life-time” deals just because I couldn’t or wouldn’t act quickly enough and my “time is money”-customers decided I was to heavy-footed and -minded and turned to other, more agile suppliers.
6. Meet the Expectations
“Failed expectations make people hate” – wrote philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. And it’s also in everybody’s nature. If you do not meet your potential customer’s expectations, or make him nurture false expectations, you are bound to fail with him sooner rather than later. That is why it’s important to heed your customer’s desires, set the record straight right off if you can’t meet some of his terms and follow the plan.
My experience says expectations on behalf of a client need time and adjusting. I nearly always ended up in trouble of one kind or another when I hastily grabbed the deal without trying to agree on terms to a T with my customer. One should remember: your customer is like a baby that needs repeating and clarifying for your future successful relationship.
7. Mind the Follow-up
Follow-ups are critical in pushing to the necessary trust level with a customer and closing the first deal. A rare purchase takes place “at first sight”, especially if this sight is out of reach of your customer and he can only have a vague impression of you and your product. Usually it takes from 10 to 50, sometimes even more, communication exchanges supported by timely follow-ups before your deal finally happens. The number of such follow-ups may range from several to tens.
I am sure I could have made many more customers had I regularly and conscientiously followed up on all my first contacts. Actually there’s a gold mine out there in the shape of your first contacts awaiting to be discovered – followed up.
The above is no news for most of us who are into sales. But do we mind and follow these simple rules, and if we do, to what extent?