“I never lose. I either win or learn.”
Sales professionals come in many forms -- business development, inside sales, pre-sales, sales enablement, sales automation tools, field sales, post sales, customer relationship management (CRM) and more. The list is endless. They indulge in solution sales, product sales, relationship selling and experience sales, but no matter what form or designation they appear in, the goal remains the same: Revenue.
Sales is a very vast domain. It’s the only function on which organisations run. In short, if sale works, then revenue flows and if money flows, then the organisation flourishes.
However, it is also dependent on external factors for a successful functioning.
Industry performance, prospect budgets to the level of prospect mentality and thought process impact the effectiveness of the sales function.
A salesperson’s skill set amongst other internal factors like quality of product/service and inter-departmental efficiency contributes to sales effectiveness majorly.
The very thrill of meeting new people, personalities, the high of winning a deal and the adventure of exploring new cultures and places is a different ball game altogether.
The answer to this is many folds. You might be a born salesperson and have a natural flair for sales, you learn through experience of working in the same industry over decades and ultimately know the right ticks to closing a deal or you simply thank your stars because your product/service sells itself with minimal efforts.
There is no right answer to this. Everything works and might not work.
Over my years of experience, I have had the chance to work with bosses who had an altogether different approach to sales.
My former boss believed that one must first sell oneself, then the company and the product/service after which closures will follow. On the other hand, my current boss affirms that the moment sales becomes a cost center instead of a revenue centre, something is wrong.
While interviewing candidates, I always ask them what are the key skill sets one must possess to sell anything and in reply I get answers like confidence, presentation skills, excellent communication, follow-ups and many more.
While all of these are correct, here are a few guide points for Sales 101 I jot down from my experiences.
DISCLAIMER: The suggestions are purely based on my experience. The author does not say if it is right or wrong. (See what I did there? I just sold you my blog!)
No matter what industry, one must always know what he/she is selling. Possessing industry knowledge can enable one to answer any query by a customer leaving him/her convinced (or not) on the product or service. This saves the salesperson the trouble of a follow-up meeting and results in a shorter closure cycle. What is the added benefit you may ask? If you know what you are selling, then you are automatically confident, your communication improves and so do your presentation skills.
No matter what one quotes, there will always be a competitor, who quotes less.
If you can justify your quoted price i.e communicate your value proposition effectively, then the client may agree to pay the extra delta you charge over your competitors. A clearcut path to more revenue!
Networking works like a charm for a salesperson. Irrespective of whether the deal closes or not, always keep in touch with your prospects, especially the enterprise. It is advisable to keep in touch with your network at least once a month. Meeting them over coffee, calling them for a casual chat and wishing them on occasions add that personal touch to your professional network. This becomes crucial so they remember you and if they hop organisations, they talk to someone who has a requirement in relation to your offerings. A word of caution, however, is do not go overboard so as to invade into their personal spaces forcing them to block you.
The skill here is to know when and how to follow up. Should you make a call or write an email, and how frequently?
This depends on what stage of the sales funnel your prospect is placed. For a deal in the requirement gathering phase, we suggest you follow up once a week. For an opportunity, get a bit aggressive and touch base every two days to push them over to saying yes. A combination of email first, follow-up email and then a call is advisable at this stage of the funnel.
For a B2B segment, more email follow-ups than calls are recommended.
Be professional in emails, but avoid being overtly professional. A tinge of casualness can help you in the networking aspect and help establish the connection.
Sometimes you encounter hard negotiating customers. They negotiate on price or express to add more in the cart at the same price. This, amid severe competition and pricing. But you need to put your foot down and learn to say it is “not possible.” Saying “not possible” can also win you deals. The idea here is to be true to what you can deliver, not oversell or false sell. As this generation of customers prefers honesty, give it to them.
Keep the good, old excel away and move over to sales automation tools. Not only do they automate redundant tasks, but also ensure that you do not miss out on any lead. They save more time, you can reach out to more prospects, which results in more closures. Established tools like HubSpot, Salesforce, Marketo (or any others that your organisation uses) are a boon to sales. Use them.
Keep a track of the latest happenings in the industry and competitors. This will give them an impression that you are knowledgeable in client meetings. They will trust you more and establish a belief system. It’s a cakewalk to closure once this is done.