How to be outstanding in sales – Part 1

By Mike Yates

As you may be aware, one of the keys to success in sales is to build trust with your prospects and clients. The best way of building trust is by listening to people talk about their problems and their needs. The only sure fire way to do this is by listening and then asking questions. One of the first lessons I learnt when I started out in my sales career was ‘you have two ears and one mouth – now use them proportionally!’

The very best salespeople have one thing in common – they are excellent at asking questions. The questions you ask are your ticket to sales success.  Additionally you may wish to consider reading their ‘buying signals’ and concentrate on asking the right questions at the right time.

This is where the fun comes in however as, for various reasons, most salespeople are nervous when they are in a ‘sales situation’ with customers and prospective clients.  By the way – if you are thinking that you must ‘overcome this’ or that the ‘nervous bit is wrong’, then I can assure you that it is good to have that feeling when in front of prospects – as this keeps the adrenaline flowing and keeps you sharp.  Sometimes we just need to tap into this in the right way to maximise our performance. 
So why do we feel nervous? There are many reasons but the common ones are:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Fear of Rejection (they might say ‘no!’.  Now how scary would that be?)
  3. Fear of looking stupid or not being able to close the sale

The list is endless.

However, when we are nervous we tend to do lose our normal or ‘natural’ flow.  We tend to either speed up our speech or we become much quieter and say very little.  Another result of nervousness can also be no longer being ‘present’ with our prospect i.e. worrying about the outcome of the meeting, or what we are going to say next.  The end result of this behaviour can generally be for us to miss crucial ‘buying signals’ and then to wonder what happened and why we didn’t close the sale.  The danger here also is that we then go on a downward ‘results / reinforcing negative beliefs cycle’.  End result? We tell ourselves: ‘I’m no good at sales’

So the important thing to remember first is ‘questions’.  So you may be thinking to yourself – so what questions should I ask?  Firstly, consider this: Do the top salespeople just have ‘the gift of the gab’ and ‘wing it’ with general questions when in a sales situation?  The answer is a resounding ‘no!’.  Why though?

Because they prepare their questions in advance. They prepare their whole meeting in terms of questions.

On the flipside I am sure we have all been sold to by what I call the traditional salesperson (door to door double glazing perhaps?).  They think the best way to get the order is to talk you into submisison.  Not only do they talk, and talk, and talk, and talk but they also tell you how wonderful THEY are and THEIR PRODUCT is.

Now another lesson in sales is to understand that the prospect doesn’t care too much about YOU or your PRODUCTS (sorry to dispel that belief!).  They do care big time though on what your product may do for them in terms of saving them something or making their life easier in some way.  There is no skill in talking – anyone can do that.  There is a high level of skill, however, in structuring your presentation and guiding your prospect into understanding how your product will help them.

Here’s another point.  I’m highly into ethical selling.  What do I mean by that? Ok, imagine I am in front of a business and offering our services to help their business.  If I can’t identify a need and the business owner doesn’t fit our criteria for being a great client, then I will not pursue the sale.  We won’t sell our services unless our prospect has a strong need and they will benefit in some way.  Now why would we do that?  Easy, because this business wants great clients who will refer other clients to us – we don’t want businesses who don’t have the right attributes to be a great client and who may feel they have been miss-sold a product.  They just aren’t good long term clients.  And it’s not good for them.
Think about that for a moment in your own business – who are your best (and worst) clients? What are their attributes? Which ones would you really not wish to sell to again?  What was different about them?

Some food for thought for your business this week…look out for part 2 where we will home in further on what type of questions you might like to ask in a sales situation…

This article is contributed by Mike Yates, Business Growth Specialist,

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