What are some quick and easy-to-implement ways to improve sales for you or your organization? Here are three ways to improve the sales process:
Prepare, prepare, prepare!
While it isn’t sexy, the importance of preparation can’t be overstated. It remains true that those who are best prepared produce the best results. Even Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
So what does preparation mean, exactly? While some salespeople equate preparation with research, it goes beyond simply Googling the prospect. Research is important, but it’s how you apply the research to the preparation process that really makes the difference. Just doing the research isn’t going to make you more effective. It’s how you structure that preparation and transfer the information into executing a meeting or call that matters.
Learning to be more precise and systematic when preparing helps salespeople to be more confident. There are different ways to enhance preparation. One example is having a checklist, which might include elements such as:
- Deal comparables: What’s in your favor, and what’s against you?
- Interests: What’s in it for you, and what’s in it for them?
- Options/alternatives: Document your highest goal for a meeting or negotiation, including what your walkaway point might look like, if applicable.
In addition, instead of just randomly gathering information, your efforts should be segmented and structured, which allows you to more effectively put together a strategy for the entire sale, next meeting or next call. Finally, the last stage of your preparation process should be drafting a script. Scripting is crucial, even if it’s simply bullet points, to keeping you on target.
Organizations that implement a systematic preparation process ultimately are more precise and confident. Having a process helps capture best practices and get everyone on the sales team on the same page. It helps salespeople execute each action more efficiently and effectively. Perhaps the biggest benefit of putting a process in place is that it allows salespeople to be prepared in less time.
Listen more than you talk.
One very fast way to improve your ability to sell is to listen more than you talk. According to Epictetus, an ancient Greek philosopher, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” This is something that very few salespeople do. But how do you practice good listening?
Research has shown that a significant portion of us think we’re good listeners, but when given tests, very few score well. As a matter a fact, salespeople actually hear what they listen for – a preconceived idea of what is going to be said – which means they’re not practicing effective listening and are instead making assumptions.
Why don’t we listen? Sometimes it’s out of fear of what the other side might say. Or it may stem from thinking we already know what the other side is going to say.
The truth is, listening is an art, and we can build a mindset with a focus on listening. Many times, when salespeople are under pressure, they want to “talk their way out of it” or “talk the other side into it,” when in reality the opposite should be the case. If you have a framework that forces you to be active in your listening, it can help you to position things more effectively when it’s time for you to speak. From simple details such as finding out what kind of day your prospect is having to understanding the in-depth pressures they may be under, active listening is the basis for gathering pertinent information that can be leveraged in your process. Going into a meeting with this mindset helps you be a better listener, and be better prepared to speak when the time comes.
Aim high, but within reason.
Many times, salespeople make the mistake of negotiating with themselves before they even meet with the other side. They review the scenario in their heads and negotiate themselves down before they even speak with the prospect.
The goal is to always maximize the sale, but it can be difficult to make a big ask, which is often what it takes. The trick is to visualize or rehearse the sale so that when you get to the client or prospect, you can deliver the tough message with confidence. Don’t start in a place that doesn’t afford you the opportunity to get to where you need to be.
This is where preparation and scripting kick in. In order to make a big ask, you must have precedents to support it, alternatives to give you leverage, and a sense of their interests to personalize it. And, you must have practiced “the pitch” in order to deliver it with precision.
Todd Lenhart is president of SNI, a global provider of sales, negotiation, and influence training and consulting.