Back to Basics: The Rules of Selling

We live in a quick-fix society, so it's little wonder why many salespeople look for the magic cure or band-aid solution to increase their sales&#x2026;especially in times like this. But I still believe success in sales is attributable to following a basic set of rules, detailed below:<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Fill the pipeline.</b> Many people experience tremendous peaks and valleys in their sales due to a lack of consistently prospecting for new business. This frequently occurs when a salesperson is busy. They neglect to prospect because it is the least enjoyable aspect of their job, yet when the sales drop or business with their current clients ends, they scramble to generate new business. Invest time into filling your pipeline on a regular basis and you will seldom have to worry about reaching your targets.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Ask high-quality questions.</b> I've written about this before, but it bears repeating: The vast majority of salespeople (even seasoned pros) fail to ask their prospects and customers high-quality questions. This occurs either because they have never been taught to ask questions or because they think they already do so. Unfortunately, failing to ask high-quality questions early in the sales process means they often mis-pitch their product, service, or solution, which causes the prospect to voice more objections. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> And once you do ask a question&#x2026;be quiet and wait for an answer. Too many salespeople answer their own questions or continue talking after asking them.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Listen.</b> I believe the best salespeople are the best listeners. If you invest time asking great questions, it is critical to listen to what the other person tells you. Many things can get in your way and prevent you from accurately hearing what has been said. Try this: At the end of a sales meeting, summarize your understanding of the conversation in your own words, and check the accuracy of this summary with your prospect.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Focus your presentation.</b> Make your presentation all about the customer. It's not about you, your company, or your product. Virtually every sales presentation I have been subjected to started with the salesperson talking about their company&#x2014;reciting stats about how long they've been in business, who they have as clients, etc. Adapting the presentation to meet the specific needs of each individual customer is what top salespeople do. Regardless of what your marketing department thinks, people seldom care about your company; they want to know what problem your solution will solve. Avoid using unnecessary jargon or terminology. The simpler your presentation, the easier it is to understand. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Trust is essential.</b> If people don't trust you, chances are they won't buy from you. This is more challenging than it sounds, because your prospects are inundated with calls and e-mails from other people all trying to sell them something. And, because of the less-than-honest experiences decision-makers have encountered, they are more reluctant to trust someone they don't know. This means you need to demonstrate exactly why a prospect should trust you. You can do this by acting in a professional manner, treating the people at your prospect's company with respect and dignity, and respecting the time of your prospect.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Show value.</b> The best way to demonstrate value is to show exactly how your solution will benefit your prospect. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean talking at great length about it or telling your prospect everything there is to know about your product or service. Showing value means discussing the aspects of your solution that are most relevant to each customer or prospect, in terms that are easy to understand. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Do what you say you will do&#x2014;when you said you would do it.</b> Sounds simple, huh? And yet, personal experience has taught me salespeople frequently say they will do something, then fail to follow through on their commitment. This lack of attention to detail demonstrates a lack of respect and quickly leads to a loss of trust.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Know when to let go.</b> I often talk to salespeople who continue following a lead, even when it's clear a sale won't happen. This usually occurs when their pipeline is not active with prospects. (Sound familiar?) If you have done everything you can to move the sales process forward, but it's ground to a halt anyway, you must consider whether it is the best use of your time to keep trying to make it happen. More often than not, it isn't worth the time and effort. You have a finite amount of time in a day or week, which means you need to focus your attention on leads and prospects who are interested in your product, service, or solution.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Kelley Robertson is the author of The Secrets of Power Selling. Subscribe to his free newsletter at or contact him at</i>