When I started in sales I made a lot of mistakes.
Enthusiastic and a tad over-eager, I shudder when I think back to some of my first sales calls.
The good news though, is this.
You may think sales comes naturally to some people…
And I’ll agree, it does come easier to some than others.
But sales is a skill you can learn.
A process you can master, no matter your background or how introverted you think you are.
And with a little practice, you’ll start landing deal, after deal, after deal.
Stop making mistakes.
I’ve personally made all of these mistakes (and probably more) at one point in my career or another, and it was only once I realized and corrected the error, did things start to look up.
You need to prepare beforehand
Of course, you probably already know the customer’s name, but it shouldn’t stop there.
Take 15 minutes and do your due diligence before any sales call.
Information is power in these calls, remember that.
Ideally, you’re looking to answer a few pre-qualifying questions.
I’ll start with the prospect, and get some background on their role in the organization (are they the final decision maker, or is someone else involved).
Then comes the company, I try to estimate the revenues and size of the business (so I don’t underprice), and also get a feel for what they are like to work for.
Glassdoor is worth checking too, I’m looking for any “red flags” I need to investigate further on the call, and their employees are a pretty good indicator of what the business is like.
And of course, I need to decide if I think the solution I have will be a good fit.
You need to organize your wild cards
Second part of the preparation is what I call my wild cards.
You don’t want a tricky question to throw off your confidence, or your rhythm…
So, you also need to be ready for any question the client may throw at you.
At a minimum, have things like your pricing, FAQs, testimonials available right there.
Think about potential objections the customer might have, and how you will counter.
All of this kind of stuff, sit down, think it out, and plan how you’ll overcome it.
But don’t forget the wild cards.
Because I already know the client (from step 1), I like to look for a few extra things.
These are my wild cards…
- See if they’ve any public social media accounts, to find a common interest
- See if the company has been in the news recently, and learn what it was about
- See if there’s any breaking news in their industry, or any new emerging trends
- See if there’s any case study’s or examples where I’ve worked with a similar client
- See if there’s any quick wins I can recommend to the client, right then and there
Armed with a few extra tips, insights and proof, I have everything I need to dazzle a prospective client, right from the get-go in that first meeting.
You need to control the meeting
When talking to decision makers, it’s important to control the conversation.
Because they’re used to taking charge, and can de-rail your meeting if you’re not careful.
Be confident, and step in quickly at the start to set the stage.
It looks like this.
Thank them for their time, and tell them exactly what to expect.
“Thanks John for the call today.
To make the best use of these 30 minutes I’ve prepared a few questions that’ll keep us on track, and give me a good handle on what you’re struggling with.
And of course, leaving plenty of time after to answer any and all questions you may have on our products, the business, or anything else on your mind. Sound good?”
Leading in like this lets you take control, without being too pushy.
And the best part, you’ve set the stage to ask the questions you need, to guide that particular prospect on the path you need them to follow.
That is, making the sale.
You need to ask the right questions
Key to all of this actually working, is your ability to ask the right questions.
Your job, is to ask, then shut up.
Sit back, and listen.
With the right questions, your prospect will quickly start opening up, talking about their needs, issues, and any problems they’ve had before, so you can do two things.
First, overcome the specific objections they’ve got in their mind.
Second, position yourself as the authority, and the ideal solution for their needs.
I tend to ask questions like…
- “Tell me, what brought on your call today?”
- “Explain the help you need from me, in your own words…”
- “What other solutions have you tried?”
- “What worked well, what didn’t work so well?”
- “What does the ideal solution look like for you and your business?”
- “Is there anyone else we should loop into these discussions?”
- “What else can you tell me that’s relevant to this project?”
I’ve got a list of questions just like these, that I write up before every client call in my notebook (I’m weird like that, I like writing things down).
Then I make sure we get them answered on the call or in the meeting.
You need to let the client talk
I’m as guilty of this as the next person, but if you remember nothing else, remember this.
Silence gets clients talking.
Ask your questions, then shut up, sit back, and let the client talk.
I know, I know…
It can be very easy to switch into “sales” mode at this point,
Rattling off all of the virtues of your product or the pitch you’ve prepared for hours.
Please, please, do not do this.
You need to let the client talk.
The client doesn’t care about the pitch, or the hundred other things you prepared to say.
The client cares about one thing.
And to close the deal, you need the client to believe your solution solves their pain.
Your job is to listen.
Let them tell you about their business, the challenges they’re having.
Once they’re done, you’ve got all the ammunition you need to set your solution as the ideal.
To tailor your pitch to their exact pain…
And your product as the solution to overcome the challenges they’re facing.
Get it right, and your numbers will go through the roof.
You need to ask for the sale
Notice I say “ask” here and not push.
Pushy sales tactics don’t work, so stop the scaremongering and all the other nonsense.
You don’t need to use pushy sales to sell effectively,
Especially if you’ve got a good product you believe in.
Because if you’ve done your job on the call, the ask becomes the next logical step.
They already know it’s coming.
You’ve heard all about their pains and learnt what they need.
You’ve repositioned your solution as the answer to their needs.
You’ve wowed them with your knowledge of their business and the industry.
It’s crystal-clear at this stage WHY they should buy, so don’t overthink it.
Ask for the sale.
“What day works best to get you started?”
“Here’s the purchase link, let’s reconnect Tuesday and I’ll walk you through the initial steps”
“Great, so that’s it. It’ll be $xxx for [solution], how would you like to pay?
Of course, not everyone is ready for that right then and there, and in these cases I put the ball in their court, giving them an easy out if that’s what they’re after.
“Right, so how would you like to proceed?”
They may need to loop in a decision maker, need time or more information from you for a final approval, or simply prefer to sleep on it and get back to you tomorrow.
Don’t sweat it, if the sale is meant to be (and you’ve done everything on your side), you’re in the best possible position to close the deal.
You don’t need to be pushy about it.
You need to prioritize lead generation
Finally, and this is another that I’m guilty of, but it’s important.
Lead gen needs to play a constant role in your business.
If you want to build any sort of reliability in your income…
You can’t only search for clients when times are bad.
Clients can almost “smell” the desperation when you NEED to close a deal to make rent,
Which not only scares them off, it puts you at a significant disadvantage in the negotiations.
Your goal, is to have an abundance of new clients coming in,
Every week, every month,
So that you’re never in a position where one sales call is make or break, do or die.
Take an hour or so each week, and set that aside for prospecting.
You’ll start to build a solid pipeline of new business,
And once the sales start rolling in, you’ll be glad you did.
Phew. So that’s it. Learn these lessons well and make sure you’re not making any of these mistakes in your sales calls. It may be an adjustment from where you are now, but put a focus on it, and trust me, your bottom line will thank you.