By Scott Francis
From Northwoods Commerce magazine
Even the best sales people can fall into bad habits. When you are successful, you tend to do more of what has made you successful. That’s great. You are probably using your time efficiently, but in doing so you may fall into patterns that, if mindfully addressed, could make you even more successful. Practicing these seven tips greatly increases your odds of keeping and growing your customers:
Lose your ego.
Certainly don’t show it to customers or anyone else you come in contact with during your sales cycle. Yes, having an ego is a good thing. It helps you have confidence and keeps you motivated, but left unchecked or carried too far, it can make you stop listening to what your customer really wants or needs. Worse yet, it can make you stop caring so you lose empathy for your customers and the ability to lead the sale.
Always be truthful.
Never pass the buck or make excuses. Own up to your responsibilities and even those of your support staff and company. (As far as the customer is concerned, the buck stops with you, their trusted representative.) Acknowledge when you were wrong and make a sincere effort to explain how you will make things right. Don’t wait for your customer to find out when something is not right. Explain the truth and what you are going to do to take accountability and responsibility to make things right.
Ask the tough questions to reveal real needs.
Sometimes you need to pry a little bit to get the rest of the story. Know your customers well enough that they are willing to confide in you. Earn their trust. Understanding their real needs will help you be of better service to your customers and gain more of their business. Probe to learn about the customers your customers sell to. Really get to know and understand the issues associated with your customers’ businesses.
Keep your team in the loop.
Don’t think that you can do it all. By keeping your staff and/or other company members apprised of what is going on with your customers, you will get more ideas of how to help and if anything should go wrong, you will have an educated, informed and vested team that is ready and willing to help out.
Plan your work.
Most sales are made after five to seven contacts. Most sales people give up after three calls or less. This simple metric is why there are so few really good sales people. You need to be organized and have a plan to follow up so you can build relationships and trust. When both parties benefit from a relationship, you both have more success. It takes a plan to make that happen. It’s not just about one call.
Keep accurate records about everything the buyer talks about.
Don’t rely on your memory. Have a formal written record that you can easily refer back to prior to your next interaction. Sincerely taking an interest in a buyer’s hobbies, family or career interest and changes will help you develop common connections and trust. People love to discuss what they are passionate about and your sincere interest will help them open up and make business conversations easier. If, for some reason, you need someone to cover for you while on vacation or when you get promoted, having a record of unique buyer interests will be much more valuable to pass on than simple records of past purchases. When you know the personal objectives and values of the people you are selling to, you can concentrate on what is really important to them.
Know the objectives of the business you are selling to.
This is maybe one of the most basic, but also most important, things you can do. It is also the area where even the best sales people fail. Remember, you are not there to sell what you have got. You are there to serve your customer to make their life easier, more efficient, more profitable or more fun. In short, know what drives them and present the best offering you have that meets their needs in a way that addresses those issues better than how they are currently being met. When you take a genuine, sincere interest in helping your customer, you become the winner.
About the author: Scott Francis is president of Topline Development LLC, a strategic marketing group that helps companies and start-ups determine how they can make more money through optimal resource allocation and brand positioning. Topline Development also provides interim CMO services. Learn more at ToplineDevelopment.com or email Scott@ToplineDevelopment.com.