No doubt one of your sales team’s New Year’s resolutions is to drive sales growth. Of course, you’ll need a game plan to make that happen. Because everyone makes resolutions they can’t keep, we propose a few simple yet powerful strategies that cost nothing to implement and require only slight adjustments to your approach. Commit to these five “resolutions” and your sales team will drive more growth and make 2017 a year to remember.
1. Reframe your questions
When a car salesman wants to know your budget, he doesn’t ask “How much money do you make?” Like religion and politics, income is a sensitive topic. It’s a surefire way to turn off a prospect, and most car buyers know that by answering they give up their negotiating power.
You don’t have to explicitly ask for information to get it. People will often volunteer it if you reframe the question. A car salesman might casually ask, “What do you do?” during small talk. This is less touchy and more conversational, prompting the prospect to share rather than withdraw. Most buyers enjoy talking about their job, and their response reveals an approximation of their income.
Let’s run through a more relatable example. You’re selling SaaS, on a per user basis. On the phone is a prospect and you want to know the size of the potential deal. It’s natural to ask, “How many seats are you interested in?” However, it can be offputting, as your prospect may have heard, “How much money will this deal make me?” They may think you’re more concerned with commission than solving their problems. Not a good start.
Fortunately, you can get an answer without the risk of souring the relationship. A little tact is all that’s required. You could instead ask, “How many of your colleagues might benefit from our product/service?”
Likewise, asking point blank if the person you’re talking to has decision-making power may not be wise. No one likes to feel insignificant. What they might hear is, “I want to talk with someone who matters.” Suddenly they’re defensive, bitter, and not responding to your emails.
A better way to learn who’s in charge is to ask, “Who else is affected by this decision?” or “Who else needs to be looped in?” These questions are less likely to collide with your prospect’s ego and you’ll be armed with information to move forward.
2. Quit chasing maybe’s
The worst thing a salesperson can hear at the end of a pitch is “maybe”. That might sound weird. Surely “no” is worse. “No” means there will be no sale. It means you don’t make any money. While that might be true in the short run, in the long run “no’s” do lead to revenue. That’s because no’s free up valuable time to pursue other sales. And as we all know, time is money.
“Maybe’s” on the other hand, are a time suck. They offer a glimmer of hope, but direct your most valuable resource in an unproductive direction.
Consider dating. Would you continue to date someone who—after months of dinners and conversation— “maybe” liked you? If you’ve done all you can, move on. Don’t worry about the time you’ve invested. Don’t fall prey to sunk costs. The prospect can always come back. Instead, use your time pursuing other deals.
3. Respect the clock
Your prospect’s clock, that is. Just as you should always allocate your time wisely (and not waste it chasing maybe’s), respect your prospect’s time. I’m not referring to being on time to calls, remembering to send follow-up emails, or having a flexible schedule. You already do all that.
There are a few important things you may not be doing. These conversational adjustments may seem small in the grand scheme of things, but they’re easy to implement, and will only improve your chances.
For starters, clearly state your phone number at the end AND beginning of voicemails. That way, when prospects replay your message, they won’t have to wait until the end to jot down your number. It doesn’t matter how long your message is. No one likes re-listening to voicemails.
Another courtesy you can incorporate into the beginning of calls is to ask, “Did I catch you at a bad time?“ This tip comes from Aaron Ross, author of Predictable Revenue,
“This is my all-time favorite question for opening any conversation…It’s much better than “Is this a good time?” (No — it’s never a good time for busy people)…By asking “did I catch you at a bad time,” you are showing your respect for their time by asking permission to chat. It takes them off the defensive. It demonstrates that you’re not a sales jackass…this question is most useful with unscheduled calls, when the person isn’t expecting you (even if they know you).”
Finally, at an early point during your meeting, ask your prospect if they have any hard stops. The last thing you want is to run out of time or make your prospect late for their next appointment. It’s also valuable to know if there aren’t any hard stops. Why rush through your agenda if you don’t have to?
4. Be a doctor
Prospects have access to more information than ever before. Anything they want to know is a click away. Today, buyers come to the table armed with information they used to depend on salespeople for. But that doesn’t mean salespeople are less important. If anything, the opposite is true.
Think of yourself as a doctor. Your customers are patients. They come to you because they’re in pain and need your help. As a doctor, you wouldn’t prescribe something before you know what’s wrong. First and foremost, your job is to listen. Only after you understand what’s bothering them do you make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment.
Nowadays, patients come in with more of their own information, opinions, and self-diagnoses. They’ve done their research on Google and WebMD. So while listening is important, it’s also vital to remember who the expert is. Doctors don’t acquiesce to “well informed” patient opinions. They listen, answer questions, handle objections, and apply their knowledge to prescribe a solution.
Salespeople need to follow the same model. This requires having better command of their products, industry, competitors, etc. Since customers have easy access to this information, a huge part of the salesperson’s job is to help their customers make sense of it all.
5. Tap into emotions
Buying isn’t an intellectual decision. It’s an emotional decision. Usually, people only rely on intellect when they want to justify a purchase. Therefore it’s essential to tap into people’s emotions if you want to sell.
You can do this with positive and negative emotions.
Take the iPod, for example. When Apple came out with the iPod, they emphasized the emotional side of selling. Remember their ads with the dancing silhouettes? These ads didn’t promote the iPod’s functionality or practicality. They sold a lifestyle. A lifestyle that millions of consumers wanted to live. Contrast this with Microsoft’s Zune (maybe you don’t remember it). In many respects the Zune was technologically ‘better’ than the iPod. But it couldn’t compete. Apple was selling more than just a music-playing device.
You can also sell by tapping into people’s negative emotions. This involves identifying a pain, then removing and replacing it with a working solution. In many cases, pain looms larger in our mind than gain. Therefore, the key is not to emphasize (initially) what your solution can do. Instead, focus on what their current product/service isn’t doing. In other words, identify their pain. As David Sandler put it,
“Pain is such a strong emotion that prospects will do anything to avoid it. When you get your prospects to feel pain, especially pain in the present, and then demonstrate that you can end their suffering and hurt, you’re a step closer to the sale.”
Remember, no pain, no gain!
There you have it — five tried and true selling resolutions for the new year. These suggestions not only work, they’re easier to stick with than that gym membership you’ve barely touched. We’re confident they’ll lead to stronger customer relationships and more sales (and commissions) in 2017. Good luck and good selling