3 Keys to Sales Excellence

Even if you don’t have the word “sales” in your title, don’t be fooled into thinking this post isn’t for you. Everyone who works in business is a salesperson, whether you’re selling an actual product to a client or an idea to a team member.

#1: Nail the Big Five Traits

When I worked in the agency world, there were certain individuals who could always be counted on to bring in the big clients.  My boss used to say that these guys had “the magic touch,” but that wasn’t necessarily true.  They actually possessed very concrete traits, including the following, which encompass the first part of sales excellence:

Good Listening: Top salespeople don’t go into a client meeting and dominate the conversation.  Instead, they get the customer talking about what pains him and what he needs.  They ask probing questions until they can determine the best way to solve the problem.

Concise Speech:  People who close deals easily don’t waste the client’s time with a lot of irrelevant information.  They communicate in a manner that’s easy to understand and follow and choose their words carefully depending on the specific situation.

Persistence: In most cases, even people will excellent persuasion skills will not be able to make a sale right away.  A huge component of sales effectiveness is being able to stay focused and approach a goal from different directions.

Internal Motivation: Although some salespeople thrive based on external quotas and managers hovering over their shoulders, they are not in the majority.  Top salespeople know how and when to begin an initiative and the steps they must take to see it through.

Confidence: The best salespeople are not deterred by negative customer reactions or temporary setbacks.  They believe in themselves and their abilities, and this natural self-assurance.

#2:  Find the Target, Hit the Bullseye

Even if you’re not in a direct sales role now, it’s in your best interest to become proficient at lead generation, which is one of those transferable skills that’s handy to have in your back pocket.

It’s easier to sell a single piece of software than an solution with lots of components.  The more complex an offering is, the longer the sales cycle, and so it’s good practice to maintain a strong pipeline that will bear fruit over the long term.  Here are some ideas that go beyond the typical database poach:

Define your value proposition:  Imagine you are trying to sell to your very first customer.  Why should they choose you over the competition?  What does your solution bring to the table that a customer can’t get anywhere else?  How and why is your solution critical to the customer’s business?

Target your ideal customer: Make a list of the characteristics that define your best possible customer.  How is this customer’s business organized, what is your key contact looking for, and why are you the perfect partner?

Talk to group members and mentors: Approach colleagues to find out more about successful partnerships your organization has had in the past.  Are there customers whose engagements have lapsed who you can re-approach?  Read the news and trade publications to brainstorm additional possibilities and discuss them with senior mentors.

Customize your offering for each client:  Prioritize your top 5 targets and work to set up a meeting with a decision-maker in each organization.  The purpose of this first meeting is information gathering – you want to find out what is ailing this particular business so that the two of you can custom-create a solution to solve those problems.

Find the diamonds in the rough through a multi-pronged approach: Now that you have initiated a deep, strategic approach, you can cast a wider net through lead generation vehicles such as e-mail and social media marketing, online events, and in person speaking engagements.  The more substantial your presence, the more interest you will receive from potential customers.

#3:  Present Like a Pro

After successfully identifying a target, you will probably have only one chance to close the deal in person.  For this reason, you’ll want to deliver a killer presentation.  Here are some thoughts to guide you.

Understand the audience’s needs: Have a lengthy conversation with at least one prospect first to make sure you understand the organization’s most critical needs.  Then, create your remarks based on how you plan to address those needs.  This includes starting your remarks by putting the critical issues out there right away.

Know your company: Find out the names and titles of the individuals who will be at your presentation and do some research on these people ahead of time so that you can get a better understanding of their expectations.  Knowing exactly how many people will be in the room will also prevent you from bringing so many of your own colleagues that the sales team is bigger than the potential client team.

Keep the end goal in mind: In a sales presentation, the end goal should be a call to action – what do you want the prospect to do as a result of your visit?  Your first major point should be this call to action, with the rest of the remarks (including statistics, facts, and anecdotes) supporting why the audience should follow this approach.

Consider a conversational format: Far too often, Powerpoint slides result in a lecture style presentation and audience members tune out.  If you want your prospects to be invested in your message, allow them to contribute to it by asking for questions and feedback as you proceed.  If you want to emphasize key points, consider a handout that allows people to write notes in the margins.

Establish a common ground: Thanking your prospects profusely for giving you their time puts them in the power position, and launching right into the business at hand there puts you there.  Telling a story or sharing an experience everyone can relate to puts everyone in the room on equal footing and encourages rapport and relationship building.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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