Sales – what job could be easier? Make a few calls, fill in a few order forms, take a few clients to lunch… easy as pie. Except, as any decent sales representative will tell you, it’s not that simple. Sure, anyone who follows the basic steps will probably make one or two sales… eventually. But all the good sales people will tell you there’s a lot more to doing well in sales than just going through the motions.
To help you find your inner super-seller, here are 45 tips for being a better sales rep
1 Set measurable goals
Set goals for yourself – how many calls you’re going to make each day, how many appointments you want to make and so on. Make them reasonable and make them measurable, so that you can work out if you’re doing enough or too much.
2 Prepare, prepare, prepare
Don’t go into anything blind. There is information out there to be had, if you just take the time to find it. Learn what you need to know about your potential clients, and make the effort to prepare your pitch, answers to any questions that may arise, and alternative options for the client.
3 Adapt your sales pitch
Not every joke, anecdote or offering is going to work for every client. Your proposal and its delivery will need to be adjusted to suit your audience. Don’t be precious about it, be willing to adapt.
4 Be consistent
Your company probably spends a good deal of money on advertising and marketing, so make sure you know what’s being said. Be consistent with the company line – and never, ever poke fun at or show disdain for it.
5 Don’t sound like you’re reading off a script
Nothing is more off-putting than a call from someone who sounds like they’re reciting a pre-written script. If you have a script, practice it, record yourself and play it back until it sounds like you’re speaking naturally.
6 Have a good work ethic
Be disciplined, show up for work on time, don’t take extended lunch breaks. It will give you the edge over those who’ve watched one too many stockbroking movies and think it’s all about the party.
7 Personality sells
You don’t need to be overtly in-your-face, but a welcoming personality is one of the most important weapons in a top sales rep’s arsenal. Be interesting, as well as interested, warm but polite, open and friendly, but remember to…
8 Be professional
Personality without professionalism can become overly familiar, which could leave your clients feeling uncomfortable. Remember, you’re not here to make friends, you’re here to build strong professional relationships.
9 Confidence is a winner
Be confident in your pitch, your knowledge of the product and your client’s need for your services. You know they need it, you just need to explain to them why.
10 Be resourceful
Use the resources at your disposal and, if you need to, find other resources. Client can’t do a face-to-face meeting? Arrange a Skype call. Client’s in another country at the crucial deal-signing time? Use a local printing and document delivery service. Make it work. Research, comprehensive knowledge of what your company can offer and up to date market awareness are your friends.
11 Focus on the job in front of you
Sales isn’t all about the fancy lunches. Sometimes it’s about plugging away at phone calls and emails, sometimes it’s about updating your admin, sending out invoices and collecting outstanding payments. Whatever the job is you’re doing, focus on it, do it right and get it done. Don’t try to multi-task too much, or you’ll end up dropping the ball.
12 Do your admin
Especially for dynamic, on-the-go sales people, admin can sound deathly boring or feel like a waste of good selling time, but making sure your client information is always up to date, your orders are properly filled and filed, and your billings are sent on time means you don’t end up overwhelmed and scrambling to catch up at month-end.
13 Don’t lose your clients to someone else in your organization
It can be super frustrating for a client when, after a brilliant and convincing sales pitch, the rep fails to call them back, answer their email with a few questions, or return calls. If they really want your product, they may place the order with the first available alternative rep.
14 Don’t suck up and don’t condescend
We’ve all seen it – the car salesman who ignores the wife and keeps talking to the husband only to lose the sale because she’s the one buying the car, the hot shot sales rep who impatiently dismisses the questions of the quiet, unassuming person in the meeting only to discover he was actually the CEO… Don’t make assumptions about who’s who, or their level of intelligence.
15 Measure yourself
Keep a record of what you’re doing – how many calls you make, how many appointments you get as a result, how many sales it leads to. By knowing how much you need to do to make a sale, you can plan better.
16 Own your stats and results, including failures
If you aren’t making enough sales, don’t try to throw blame around. Take ownership of how much effort you’re putting in (or not) and whether it’s doing the trick.
17 Learn from your mistakes
It’s great to be able to stand up from a fall and keep going, but it’s pretty important to learn from your failures, too. Don’t just keep making the same mistakes – take the time to go over where you might have gone wrong and fix it next time.
18 Be competitive
It’s in our nature to want to be the best and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially in sales. Make the effort to sell more, make better quality calls and have more in-depth product knowledge than your colleagues. That said, this shouldn’t be your only goal – don’t get obsessed with it, but enjoy some healthy competition.
19 There is always someone better out there
Like I said before, don’t get obsessed with the competition. There’s always going to be someone out there who has a better day, week, month, year than you. Get over it, move on and keep doing what you do.
20 Nobody cares if you are having a bad day
It sounds harsh, but whatever you’re going through, chances are nobody really cares – at least in terms of your clients. It’s extremely rare that a client wants to hear about your kid’s fight at school, the horrible flu you had last week, or the breakdown you had in your car. Don’t pile it on looking for sympathy. If you had to postpone a meeting because of something personal, just make a brief, polite apology, thank them for accepting the change in time and move on.
21 Go after the deals you want
Think big, aim high, reach for the stars – it may feel clichéd but there’s a good reason for that. Sure, you may need to pay your dues with a few small clients, but if you want to make the big corporate deals, then try for them. Do your prep, pull your confidence together and make that call.
22 Be proactive with your clients
Things are going well with your new client. They’ve placed some orders and you’ve collected a couple of payments. Don’t let it stagnate now. Call them up to find out what else you can help them with, do some research to find out what deals they have in the pipeline and how you can leverage those to your advantage – be creative!
Unless you have just one product, one service offering, try and sell more. If the client took product A, try and sell complementary service B, while finding out if they could use completely different product D. What could help you do this is…
24 Broadening your relationships within existing client companies
If you’ve gone for the big corporates – or even smaller companies, depending on what they do – they may have different divisions that need various different services or products that you sell. Don’t just get to know one person in the company, get to know as many as you can. There’s another good reason for this: people move on and when one person leaves for greener pastures, you could lose the entire contract if they were your sole point of contact.
25 Believe in your product or service
If you think your product or service is stupid, pointless or redundant, it’s going to come through in your sales pitch. If you really don’t believe in what you’re selling, it may be time to move on. Otherwise, get into it; believe in what you are selling and you’ll have an easier time convincing clients to buy it.
26 Stay up to date with the market
Whatever you’re selling, someone, somewhere is trying to come up with a better version. Keep yourself up to date with who’s doing what and how they’re doing it, so that you can not only know how to argue your point, but can also pitch to your own company that your offering may need updating.
27 Don’t be afraid to learn
Knowledge is power and you shouldn’t be afraid to expand yours – learn what you can about your own company, product and service, about your potential clients, about your competitors and about the market.
28 First impressions count, but so do last ones
No matter how good your first impression and your sales pitch is, a wishy-washy end to a meeting can undo all your hard work. That’s why you should…
29 End on a strong note
You’ve made your pitch, you’ve got a follow-up meeting set up, or an order placed. Now make your final statements and…
30 Don’t be afraid to walk away
Don’t overstay your welcome. If you’ve taken your client for lunch, pay the bill and bring it to a close. If you’re at their offices, know that there’s a time to thank them for their time, get up and walk away.
31 Be persistent, not pushy
Don’t hound the client to irritation, but do keep at them. Sometimes people just get busy and forget about the meeting, so you could just need to send them a personalized, handwritten note to remind them about the meeting you had and to urge them to order. It may take a couple of calls, or calling their assistant to set up another meeting.
32 Know your stuff
Become an expert on your product or service. Be the go-to person that even the other sales reps come to for answers.
Communication isn’t just about talking and talking and talking. It’s about having something concrete and significant to say, and being willing to listen.
34 Know what your competitors are doing
When your potential client turns around and asks you to compare your offering to your competitor’s, you need to be able to do it, confidently and accurately. Work on the assumption that your competition knows how to do it to you.
35 Understand your client’s pain points
Every single client is going to be unique. Even two similarly sized companies in the same industry won’t have exactly the same needs to address, so find out, whether it’s through research, or through picking up the phone and asking, what needs they have that need addressing.
36 Get an answer
Make sure any and every contact elicits some kind of commitment, whether it’s an appointment for a meeting, an agreement to look over a contract, a placed order, or even a clear “no”. That way, you’re going to waste less time following up on dead leads, and you’re also going to have more concrete sales.
37 Don’t just follow the routine
This is related to being willing to adapt your pitch. Just plodding along, saying the same thing over and over, isn’t going to net you much success. Be willing to shake things up, do something interesting from time to time – investigate new ways to do presentations, new tech that could help you sell, even old-school tricks that could give you the edge.
38 Get clients to come to you
Your company’s sales and marketing is designed to generate interest in your product, but you can also attract their attention. Find out if there is budget for you to send a small desk-drop item; send a specially-crafted email or letter; grab their interest and make them call you first.
39 Shut your mouth and listen
Do a good sales pitch, but leave enough room for the client to be able to ask questions. People enjoy feeling as though they have something to contribute, and if they have what they believe to be intelligent questions, it turns the pitch into a conversation, rather than a monologue. Have the answers prepared, though, to make sure you’re not flailing about looking for answers.
40 Honesty, not overselling
It can be tempting to make your product or service sound like the very last word in whatever, but bear in mind the maxim “under-sell, over-deliver”. If you oversell, it can only lead to disappointment for the client; however, being honest about what your product does and knowing its limitations upfront means clients are going to appreciate you more.
In this era of easily accessible online traffic reports, there is no reason for you to be late for a meeting. Whether your client is a micro-enterprise or a multinational conglomerate, respect the fact that the person you’re going to see is probably busy, and tardiness on your part not only messes up their day, but immediately puts you on the defensive, forcing you to make up ground you didn’t need to lose. If you are worried about not making meetings, or wasting time in your car, arrange for online conference calls, or find another way.
42 Deliver on your promises
You still have to deliver what you say you will, though. This is why you shouldn’t oversell. If you do, somehow you’re going to have to deliver, at risk of losing the contract, and that could mean pushing staff to work overtime, the factory to produce beyond capacity, or having to hire extra people or machinery to get it done. All of that is going to build resentment within your own company, or is going to lead to shoddy work. Make sure you can deliver what you say you will, because broken promises mean lost business.
43 Know who at your client is responsible for what and get to know them
Get to know more than just the decision-makers at your client’s offices. Know who is responsible for settling bills, who is assistant to whom, when there are big staff shake-ups. This way, you won’t be bothering the CEO over settlement of a few hundred dollars, nor will you be speaking to a call-centre agent about a multi-million dollar deal.
44 Ask for referrals
I know a lot of sales reps dread this part – asking the client to refer them to another potential client. This doesn’t have to be a pushy, fill-in-my-form kind of question though. Try just dropping into the conversation that they are welcome to pass on your information to anyone who could use this product.
45 After sales service!
Once you’ve made the sale, don’t start ignoring the client, or just following up for more orders. Make the effort to keep in touch. Send a handwritten letter to congratulate them on choosing a great product; remember to wish them a happy birthday (which you’ll know from all that keeping your records up to date); make sure to follow up to find out if they are happy with the product or, if not, what you can do to make things right – it could be as simple as arranging a training session for them. After sales service could very easily turn into another sale, as well as a recommendation from this client to a new one.
Finally, as an old teacher of mine used to say: Don’t hurry, you’ve no time to waste! Taking the time and effort to prepare yourself and do things systematically will not only help you waste less time and energy, it will really help you boost your sales career to new heights.