There are many posts out there on what sets apart great salespeople from mediocre ones, but I wanted to provide some specific techniques rather than just listing personality traits to look for.
In an effort to make this easier to read, I decided to make this a 2 post series. Part I will discuss 1) Setting Expectations 2) Keeping People Accountable 3) Knowing Your Product
1) Setting Expectations
There are many situations where a salesperson may need to set the right expectations throughout the sales process. The best sales professionals always keep this in mind when interacting with a prospect. From a product standpoint, many of us have probably heard the phrase
“better to under promise, and over deliver”
Simple advice that many reps ignore, especially in a highly competitive quota driven environment. When a sales call is going great, it’s so tempting to agree to everything the prospect is saying and promise that your product can do absolutely everything they need. But sales professionals that understand the value of building a long-term relationship of trust with their client also understand that to ensure that your customer stays invested with your product once they sign the contract, you need to have a way to keep reminding them that they made the right decision. Nothing does this better than surprising them with great customer service and new product features, rather than falling short of their expectations based on early conversations.
Instead of promising the world, great sales leaders know how to appease a prospects concerns that you might not have the same features as a competitor, or have as much funding/revenue. Instead they creatively flip the negative to a positive and educate the prospect on why the competitors features are less important, or why your company being smaller is an advantage because they have direct access to your CEO!
The sales people that close the most deals can do so because they are not afraid to be up-front with the prospect, and set expectations on timing/budget early on. Many sales reps starting out are afraid to talk dollars as not to scare away a prospect. But it’s far better to understand whether there’s a real need and intent to purchase sooner than later. That way you can focus on the opportunities that actually have a chance of closing rather than wasting time with tire-kickers or people that simply aren’t ready to buy even if they wanted to.
2) Keeping People Accountable
As a salesperson, it’s your job to keep the wheels of the deal in motion. This is especially true of products that require a consultative sale that may take months to close. The best reps are not afraid to get commitments from their prospects and keep them accountable to these commitments.
The best way to do this is to end each meeting or call with an ask for next steps. Some questions to ask are:
How does your organization typically make buying decisions?
Do we need to involve anyone else at this point in a follow up meeting?
Are you the only person who will be testing out the product?
Do you have a list of requirements you can send me?
Whatever your ask may be, it’s important to make it clear what each person in the prospect’s company is responsible for in order to move the conversation forward. Now, a good sales rep will always do this, however a great sales rep will be diligent about following up several times via email or phone to make sure that everything is on track to make the deal a success.
3) Knowing Your Product
It might seem like a no-brainer that you have to know what you’re selling, but many people stay too comfortable with only a basic understanding that they might have gotten from a training session. Ask yourself: “do I know the product as well as my VP of sales? My CEO?” You’re in the trenches every day, and are probably the first impression that the prospect gets of your product, so the answer here should be Yes!
If your product is highly technical, you should strive to understand it as well as your sales engineer or even your developer. You might not be as technical, but ask these people as many questions as possible to understand the limitations of your product, as well as what sets it apart in the marketplace. That way you can prepare for objections ahead of time rather than being surprised by a buyer who is well educated on your product and alternatives.
If your company doesn’t already have a good competitor document, ask your manager to help you come up with a list of top competitors that customers typically pin you against, and write down what differentiates your product from the rest.Think of specific use-cases where your offering would stand out, and you will have an arsenal of examples to cite.
Don’t shy away from trying to understand how your customers perceive you in the marketplace by asking them directly. Sometimes you might have all the great differentiating factors in your head, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that other’s must see things the same way. You’d be surprised at how vastly different your various prospect’s answers can be, and when you have a great understanding of the product you can correct them on the spot.
For more ideas around product understanding, take a look at Vadim’s recent post called Training a New Sales Hire: a 6 Step Guide.
Please, let everyone know if you have other thoughts in the comments below.
In Part II of the “What do top sales reps do” post, I will discuss 1) Being Aware of Your Pipeline, 2) Writing/Practicing Your Pitches, 3) Using Internal and External Resources at the Right Time