If you struggle with sales, there are a number of steps you can take to get better at it.
Not everyone likes selling. Actually, a lot of people hate it – usually because they've had bad experiences with pushy salespeople who refuse to take no for an answer. You know the type.
So, the last thing you want is to come across the same way. The problem is, to get a business off the ground and make it grow, you need to learn how to do something most people aren't comfortable with. At some point, you have to be able to sell your product or service, even if it's just to generate enough to hire someone who can take this job off your list.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a Wolf of Wall Street character to be a good salesperson. You don't need a degree in psychology, or training in Jedi mind tricks (although, a little psychology and confidence do help). You don’t even have to like selling. You just need to ask the right questions, actively listen, and show potential customers how you can help them. People don't want to be sold at, but they do want particular problems solved. That is how to be great at selling when it isn’t your thing.
Here are 10 tried-and-tested tips to make you better at sales
1. Know your audience/customers
The most important part of selling is to know exactly who your target audience is. Trying to sell to an audience that is too wide is a waste of time, energy and money. You can't be all things to all people, so find the people that are most likely to benefit from what you offer. The best way to do this is to create customer personas – semi-fictional representations of your customers based on answers to the following questions (this is a B2B example, but you can always do the same with B2C):
- What type of company is the right fit for your product/service?
- How big are these companies?
- How much revenue do they have?
- Where are they located?
- Can your product help solve their problem?
- Why would they need your product/service?
- Do they have the budget to buy your product/service?
- Who are the decision-makers?
- Where do they hang out online?
- What social media channels do they use?
- Which conferences and industry events do they attend?
2. Get to know your target customers
Building customer personas lets you learn more about how your target audience ticks; how they behave when making purchases.
People react differently depending on the size of the investment. Buying a bar of chocolate, for example, is much more of an impulse purchase than, say, buying a new Rolex. And the same is true when making B2B decisions. Software that's cheaper than $100 per month might be an easy purchase, whereas new equipment worth $100,000 needs a more involved process.
The sales process for big-ticket items lasts a lot longer than it does for low-priced goods because the risk is greater. Customers need more nurturing. They need assuring and convincing.
Looking at customer behavior will also help with pricing. If customers are questioning the quality of your product or service, your prices might be too low. If they're questioning the price, they might be too high – in which case you either lower them or work on how to justify the investment.
3. Set goals
Which areas of your selling process need improvement? Where do you struggle? Write them down and work out how to put steps in place towards getting better. If your phone selling could be improved, set yourself the goal of making a certain number of calls every day or week. Remember, in the early days, this is often a case of trial and error. Find out what works for you and your potential customers.
Setting goals gives you focus and lets you channel your time and energy. Always keep goals realistic, though. Otherwise, they can have a negative effect.
4. Work on your confidence
In terms of skills, confidence is the most important of all. You can have the best strategies in the world, but if you don't have confidence the sale simply won’t happen.
Whether you're dealing with customers in person or on the phone, people can sense a lack of confidence. And lack of confidence in yourself results in a lack of customer confidence in you and your business. Confidence comes from knowing your product inside out, asking the right questions and knowing when to be silent.
5. Ask the right questions
Every purchase has a reason behind it. Business buyers usually have a problem that needs solving. The customer has an issue, and your product or service is the solution. Empathy is a great sales tool. Before going all-in on a sales pitch, find out what problems the customer has. Listen to challenges, and make sure to use active listening so you understand them and talk about what you can do to fix these problems.
When bestselling author and all-around marketing expert, Guy Kawasaki, was asked about important characteristics in a good salesperson, he put empathy at the top of the list:
6. Never assume anything
Nothing in sales is a given. Never assume what a customer is willing to pay or that a sale is already locked down. Don't even assume that they've ever heard of you. Go into every sales conversation with the intention of learning about the prospect. Teach them about your product or service, find out what their motivations are and learn about their purchasing criteria.
7. Love your customers
Love your customers and they'll love you back. People are more connected than ever to their favorite brands. Thanks to social media, they're also more influential than ever. If they hate you, there'll be 500 friends on Facebook and a whole bunch of hashtag followers on Twitter that will know about it.
Customers shape your reputation. While you can't please all of the people all of the time, do everything you can, especially in the early days, to give customers an unforgettable experience – one they’ll be happy to review and shout about.
Answer queries, respond to feedback, deal with complaints efficiently and reward customers for their loyalty. It's basic customer service, but it goes a long way to establishing your brand and makes selling a whole lot easier.
8. Be seen, be heard
Once you've built up a relationship with a prospect or customer, make yourself visible. Be everywhere that they are. Don't give anyone the chance to forget you.
Send out newsletters, keep social media profiles up-to-date and publish regular blog posts. The longer you keep on someone’s radar, the more receptive they'll be to sales conversations when they are ready to make a purchase.
9. Shout about success
There's nothing like a name drop or an impressive stat to show-off your credibility. If you've had successes, share them. Tell prospects about big-name clients and share the details of how your product or service helped improve business for a similar company. You don't need to do this in a boasting way, just in a "this is what we're about" kind of way.
Doing this shows your authority and gives the assurance that you are someone who knows what they’re doing, with a product or service that works.
10. Become an expert in the craft
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a craft. Author and entrepreneur, Tim Ferriss, believes you can become world-class in any skill in six months or less, which sounds a bit more appealing. The point is, becoming an expert seller takes practice.
Every day is an opportunity to learn and become better. Study other salespeople, learn new tactics and try new techniques. From presentation to negotiation, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different sales strategies you can try. Set aside some time to learn sales, and practice in real scenarios, and the results will speak for themselves.