Trending This Week: Back to Sales Basics

Sometimes we’re so focused on the technical side of sales that we forget about the most fundamental skills. Here’s a quick refresher.

June 2, 2017

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While we’re busy accounting for growing buying committees, complex decision-making journeys, and the next wave of sales tools, it’s easy to forget about the selling fundamentals. We get so focused on performance metrics and ROI that we quickly lose our perspective, some of us even psyche ourselves out.

It can happen to any individual in any industry. A recent article by the Harvard Business Review brought some much-needed clarity to the challenges salespeople face today, outlining some of the basic steps any professional (not just sales) can take to sharpen their skills.

If you’ve been making sales harder than it needs to be, here are a few basic bits of advice to get you back on the right track.

Understand Your Audience

What motivates your customers to buy? This is the central question for any salesperson. As Rebecca Knight writes for HBR, answering this question is often the easiest way to create a framework for your selling strategy.

Whether you’re selling B2B solutions or appealing to a consumer’s emotional desire for a new product—or even convincing your boss to sign off on a new business technology—understanding your audience starts with having conversations and getting to know these needs more intimately.

Don’t try to sell yourself right out of the gate. Start by listening closely and focusing on how your offerings might make life easier for the customer. You can tailor your approach later, but it won’t be as impactful if you don’t take time to understand the heart of the issue.

Practice Your Pitch

Sometimes, what your approach really needs is a little bit of polish—and practicing your pitch just might do the trick. By using buyer personas to role play selling scenarios, you can build comfort as the seller while experimenting with different approaches.

As HBR points out, this isn’t a process to uncover the hidden secrets of successful selling. Instead, you’re simply trying to get more comfortable in this selling environment. The more you hear questions and concerns from your customers, the more naturally you’ll be able to respond to them in the flow of the conversation. Through practice, you can make your mistakes in a risk-free setting and walk into future meetings with much more confidence.

Don’t Get Desperate

Energy and tone can have a palpable influence on your sales efforts. Whether you’re selling in-person or creating digital content, you don’t want your emotions to get the best of you. Maintain an even keel regardless of how your efforts are going.

Stay calm when things aren’t going well, and stay humble when good things are on the horizon. And don’t get pushy: Not only does this go over poorly in traditional selling environments, but it can torpedo the success of your digital strategies, which fare much better when you focus on serving the customer while making a more subtle, non-aggressive call-to-action.

Remember the Big Picture

Veteran salespeople have learned the lesson that failure comes much more often than success. But this can be hard to remember, especially when you’ve hit a rough stretch, or when your boss turns up the heat to get quick results.

Even so, remember that a single success or failure doesn’t determine your fate. Despite short-term adversity, it’s important to step back and think about the big picture. Worrying too much about short-term results can only muddle your focus, short-term thinking also encourages bad selling habits that will undercut your efforts in the future.

If you’ve made your best efforts to convert an opportunity and it doesn’t happen, politely thank your prospects for their time. Who knows—in a few months, you might get another crack at winning them over.

Although these suggestions apply to sales professionals, they’re also good advice for professionals in other areas of business. Educate yourself, prepare, keep your composure, and don’t sweat the small stuff: This is a great blueprint for professional success.

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