With the evolution of civilizations, societies have matured. The way things are run have changed a lot and the biggest contributing factor to that is Employment. Employment of some sorts (Not the conventional way of employment which is seen today) have always been used by humans as a tool to grow and evolve.
Although this such an evolution in the employment standards and the kind of jobs humans undertake, there is one which has stuck on for ages now. SALES!
The textbook definition of “Sales” is an exchange of commodity or a service in return for any form of capital. Well although this is a pretty clear definition, but sales still is probably one of the most dynamic jobs ever. Why?
Well because this is completely a People’s Game. Sales requires you to be on your feet always and needs you to understand human behavior and more importantly the ability to use that knowledge to push your product or service in the market.
Sales is not an easy game. it requires conviction, persistence and the ability to deal with failure. But this is something which can be developed over time. There is no one stopping you to be the best at Sales except you. You are your own enemy here.
We at Jobspire want to change this for you. We believe that everyone deserves to be at the workplace they love doing the job they always aspired for. With this in mind we release to you the “How to be the Best at Sales”.
This is a series of Sales Tutorials which give you step by step insights on how to go about Sales in it’s 3 phases:
1.) Before the Sales Meeting
2.) During the Sales Meeting
3.) After the Sales Meeting
WHAT TO DO BEFORE THE SALES MEETING
RULE #1: Absorb all the knowledge you can on what you are selling, who are you selling it to and why they need it.
Have you ever heard of a designer who does not know what Photoshop is? A web developer not knowing what C/C++ is?
Yes it’s the same when a sales man does not know every detail about the product. You will just make a fool of yourself eventually if this happens. Makes sure you know everything about it. The cost, channel of delivery, troubleshooting everything. This is Sales 101.
Moreover knowing everything about your product is just not enough in today’s world. Everyone works on WIIFM (What is in for me?) in today’s business ecosystem. You need to ask yourself whether what you are selling will be beneficial for your prospect or not.
I was a part of a youth organization called AIESEC where I was responsible for Information Management among other things. I remember this Software Company representative who came to my office to sell me one of their products. Even an amateur would have known that we did not need this product. It was clearly visible through our website. But she was still adamant. And this is true for numerous other Sales people. So make sure you are not among them.
RULE #2: Find a set of your target companies (Your Market) who need what you have.
Understanding your market is your first step to developing a good sales plan. To understand your market you will need to carry out market research.
An effective sales plan relies heavily on market research.
Summarize your business’s target market segments. Describe:
- Your target market segments
- The types of people in that market
- The numbers in each market segment
- Segment classifications according to previous sales volume or potential sales volume.
Based on your market research, explain:
- Why there is a demand for what you’re selling?
- Your current market position – including any strengths, weaknesses, opportunities or threats.
- Your competitors’ strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats.
Your sales plan might also include market research about emerging or forecasted trends in your chosen market.
Now once you have this sort of an elaborate research, you will know exactly which companies to target and which one’s not to.
RULE #3: Identify the decision makers and creatively set up meetings/calls/demos with them.
Imagine calling the janitor at a hospital and asking to book an appointment. Do you think that will work out? (I know it’s hilarious)
Identifying the right point of contact is of utmost importance. This will reduce most of your work. Getting that right person picking your call is the first step to closing that deal.
It not only reduces the amount of effort you are putting in but also prevents the dilution of the information as it climbs up the hierarchical ladder.
RULE #4: Information Management holds the key to simplification.
Isn’t it obvious?
Getting all your proposals, contracts and product catalogs all together is a simple but important step.
RULE #5: Practice. Practice. Practice.
Do you know the single most important behavior a salesperson can engage in to become a better seller?
In Susan Cain’s book Quiet, she dedicates a section to the value of solo practice in developing a skill or expertise in a subject. She cites a study conducted at the elite Music Academy in West Berlin that found that the very best students, those assessed by their teachers as on a path to international stardom as solo performers, spent almost three times more hours practicing alone than did the lowest-ranked third of their classmates. The study’s author, psychologist Anders Ericsson, attributed the power of solo study to something he calls Deliberate Practice – the type of activity in which you “identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly.”
This type of practice can be extremely valuable for sales people, too. Most sales people I’ve encountered have never thought to take the time to practice their selling skills. But sales, like playing the violin, is a skill that can be honed and should be practiced. You might be asking, “How do I practice sales?” Here are three areas to focus on – and how to start practicing today.
Identifying killer problems
We find ourselves telling clients this over and over: you are not a sales person; you’re a problem-solver. You’re a problem-solving machine. In order to be a problem-solving machine, you must also become a problem-finding machine. Developing your ability to uncover, recognize, or sniff out problems will be critical to your success in sales. But how do you practice identifying key problems? First, it helps to know what you’re looking for. Keep in mind that you’re not a broad-brushstrokes problem-solver: your product or service is best for a few very specific problems. Match up your company’s features and benefits with the problems you solve, and you’ll have a list of Common Problems your customers face that you can learn to listen for during sales meetings.
Asking great questions
Coming into a sales meeting with a few truly excellent questions will set you apart from the pack in your prospect’s eyes. Great questions show professionalism, preparation, and deep knowledge of your product and your prospect’s needs. How do you know what questions are “great”, both for your product and for your prospect? Start with the list of Common Problems you’ve been working on from Step 1. Match these problems you solve with key questions to uncover the pain that problem is causing. For example: if you know your product helps customers improve collaboration within their sales team, a great question could be “Tell me about a time your sales suffered because your salespeople didn’t collaborate with each other.” This question flies like a heat-seeking missile directly into your prospect’s pain and should give you a clear opening to demonstrate your product’s value.
Telling great stories
Human beings are wired for stories. Stories have been used throughout human history to communicate, entertain, educate and persuade – and they are a sales person’s greatest tool in building rapport and demonstrating value to a prospect. Top sales people have great stories to tell and know how to connect them to their products and services and to the problems they solve for customers. Take some time to write down as many great success stories as you can. Then start practicing – tell them in different ways, with different terms and focal points so you can fit your story to your audience. You could also practice with a coworker and get their feedback to continue to improve.
Set some time aside today to build your skills in each of these three areas. Identify where you’re weak and plan to keep working on that area until you feel confident in your abilities.
This was a step by step process that you can follow before the sales meeting. In the next edition of “How to be the Best at Sales” we would share some insights on things to do during the sales meetings.