Read our article on crafting a personalized sales presentation and delivering it with confidence to move prospects through your pipeline.
The best salespeople are on a constant hunt not only for new opportunities, but also for new knowledge. To aid you in this search, we reached out to 14 sales experts spanning various industries and asked them for their favorite sales techniques that a salesperson could adopt and use throughout the sales process.
Here are the categories for our best sales techniques from top experts:
Before you can move leads along your sales pipeline to close, you'll need to ensure you’re generating quality leads in the first place. Check out these experts’ advice on effective lead generation:
Make a habit of asking your clients for introductions to other potential customers. Referrals can be an inexpensive and easy lead generation strategy. Director Neil Grant recommended forming this opportunistic habit early on in your sales career:
“Practice asking for referrals as a new salesperson. It may be awkward to ask for one, but it establishes a quick and trusting relationship with your customer, as well as future customers. Requesting one will show how successfully you accomplish your work and the quality of your items based on client feedback.”
— Neil Grant, Director, Dalvey
Often, asking for a referral opens up new opportunities and strengthens your relationship with a customer. For more, read our article on how to generate business referrals, including three ways and the steps to do each one.
Salespeople have limited time to engage with leads, so put it toward interactions with those who best fit your ideal customer profile and are most likely to buy. President Randy VanderVaate recommended using long lead generation forms to help qualify your leads before letting them into your pipeline:
“My number one tip is to qualify your leads more thoroughly so that you can sell to the right people more predictably. Simply put, focus on the right target market, and don't waste your time on people who are less likely to buy. We use the longer lead acquisition form to pre-qualify leads thoroughly. We find that the people who go through a longer lead form process have significantly more significant problems or ‘pain points’ that they are trying to solve. A prospect with a more substantial ‘pain point’ is a more qualified prospect with much greater motivation to buy.”
— Randy VanderVaate, President, Funeral Funds of America
To learn more about lead qualification, including how to do through lead scoring or a discovery call, check out our ultimate guide on lead qualification.
When you reach out to a new lead, take as little time as possible to explain why you're contacting them and entice them to listen. Robert Johnson explained why this is important:
"Catch the customer's attention within 8 seconds. Studies suggest that attention span plummeted from 12 to 8 seconds in recent years and this is the challenge that sales representatives need to address before approaching the prospect to make a sale. Be precise and straightforward, letting your customers know that you are not wasting their time."
— Robert Johnson, Founder, Sawinery
This applies not just to cold calling, but also to cold emailing and other sales prospecting methods. As you work to generate leads, you'll likely find more success if you're brief and respectful of their time.
For more lead generation techniques and strategies, check out our detailed list of the best lead generation strategies from expert sellers.
Once you generate quality leads, it’s time to further qualify them and nurture them along your pipeline. Read the tips below from experts on communicating with your leads and prospects:
One of your objectives as a seller is to figure out what makes your prospects tick. CEO Daniel Phung explained how to uncover their desires and frustrations to customize an effective pitch, presentation, or proposal:
“Ask and dig for emotions! Question example: What are your current goals and priorities for your business? Why is that? What would it mean for you to achieve that?
This question allows you to dig into the emotional reasons why someone is looking to purchase a service/good. Buying is purely emotional, not logical. If it was logical, we wouldn't have LV bags, we would be using a non-branded bag. Really digging deep into the reasoning behind someone's goal will really increase conversion rates. It will also let you refer back to these emotions throughout the sales calls.”
— Daniel Phung, CEO, Full Books Marketing
Understanding your prospects is critical. This is why so much of the early stages in the sales process are focused on learning about them through researching and holding needs assessment and discovery conversations. When you start thinking in terms of what the prospect wants, the sale will be a whole lot easier to close.
If you fail to listen to and internalize what your prospect is saying, you’ll also fail to demonstrate to them that you understand their needs. Here’s some knowledge from VP of sales Christine Elizabeth Cooper about why attentive listening is so crucial in sales:
“Listen actively. That's what I would tell a new salesperson. When you're in sales, you are briefed on talking points and it's very tempting to launch into a script and try to start persuading. Instead, ask a few open-ended questions that will help you understand the prospect's specific challenge. While they are answering, show you are interested with your body language by nodding. When it's your turn to speak, use several of their phrases so they feel heard. Now your pitch is personalized and is providing a solution to a challenge they've just iterated. That's how you become a partner, not just a vendor.”
— Christine Elizabeth Cooper, Vice President of Marketing & Sales, KNB Communications
If you find yourself routinely interrupting a prospect, count to two in your head after you think they've finished speaking. This gives your prospect the chance to share any afterthoughts, which could be pains or needs, and it gives you time to translate what they meant and think up a smart response.
The key to winning a sale is forming a 360-degree view of your lead’s pain points and then offering them a solution for it. Ask a lot of open-ended questions, as CEO John Hill recommended:
"Ask your prospects as many questions as you need to get to the root of their problem. The more you understand, the better equipped you'll be to offer a solution or alternative. Use 'who, what, when, where, and how' questions . . . ”
— John Hill, CEO, Adapted Growth
Ambiguity leads to wasted time, especially if they’re a bad fit. If you can’t help them, recommend another company, and use that saved time to talk with prospects whom you can help.
Remember that you might be vying against other vendors for your prospect’s signature, some of which might offer lower costs or snazzier features. William McDonald gave a good example of how to win trust from potential and current clients:
“Go the extra mile to provide value from the beginning of your relationship. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Sending an article about a sport they said they love is another example of going the extra mile. And as the relationship develops, simple things like remembering their birthdays and sending a card can mean a lot. These actions help you stand out.”
— William McDonald, Customer Success Associate, SimplePractice
Any action that proves to the prospect that you’re thinking about their well-being will give you a leg up on the competition, who may very well just be going through the motions.
Sometimes, especially as a new sales rep, you’ll receive questions about your product or service capabilities that you just don’t know how to answer. CEO Jacob Shirar had a good rule of thumb to follow when faced with these tough questions or unfamiliar service requests:
“I've worked in a variety of sales roles throughout my career, from directing the phones to oversight of the entire sales and marketing department, and one principle has remained as a guide light through each position. Do not be afraid to say ‘I don't know.’ Whatever the reason, it's much better to come back to the customer with the correct number, answer, or information than to give it your best estimate. Being confident enough to let your customer know that you don't have the answer at this time not only humanizes you, but it gives you time to get your case in order.”
— Jacob Shirar, President & CEO, Rocky Mountain Finishes
Telling prospects that you don't have the answer is perfectly acceptable and can build trust. Just be sure to let them know you'll tell them as soon as you find the correct answer, and follow through on that promise.
After you’ve sufficiently nurtured a lead, it’s time to try to close the deal. The sales experts below offered key tips to keep in mind while making a sale:
People like to buy from experts — prospects want to feel safe in the hands of someone who knows what they’re talking about. Here’s what former financial advisor Christopher Liew had to say about coming across as an expert:
“Position yourself as an industry expert advisor instead of a salesperson. A whopping 80% of prospects tend to say “no” at least four times before finally saying “yes.” So, if you want to seal a sales deal more quickly, here’s a tip: position yourself as an expert advisor in your industry instead of acting as a salesperson. Most buyers don’t want to be inundated with sales-focused sales tactics — they want to speak with experts who can provide them with solutions to their problems. A good example of this is when you share data-backed success stories and positive examples.”
— Christopher Liew, Former Financial Advisor & Creator, Wealth Awesome
Paint yourself as an industry advisor, and your prospects will soon see you as indispensable.
In this day and age, reps often get comfortable selling over the phone, sending emails, and doing it all virtually. Mike Weinstein shared a story about how he turned off of this path of least resistance and did something a bit out of an average rep’s comfort zone:
“A creative tactic I've used to close a deal with a potential customer is to drive down to their office and show up with a contract in hand. I did this last year for a deal I had been working for a few months. I walked into their office and told the executive assistant I was here to see the buyer. She told me he was in a meeting, so I went to a coffee shop around the corner and texted the buyer that I was in the area and free to meet in person up until 11 AM. Once I met with the buyer, he clearly appreciated my chutzpah to come see him in person and he signed the contract then and there!”
— Mike Weinstein, Former Enterprise Account Executive & Founder, Sales Trax
It’s likely that this approach is even more effective when used on professionals who worked before the advent of email and the internet, where in-person meetings and door-to-door canvassing were regular occurrences.
Realize that you can always improve your sales game. And if you’re new to sales, you don’t have to be perfect right now, as CEO Sai Blackbyrn noted below:
“One thing that all new sales representatives should know is that sales is a process not an art. You don’t need talent for it. It can be learned, and you grow gradually in this field. Nobody starts closing deals right off the bat. The process is long yet doable. Break it down into steps and you’ll find it much easier. Don’t be disappointed if you get rejected from your first few prospects. Keep your head held high and move on to the next one.”
— Sai Blackbyrn, CEO, Coach Foundation
Consider that all those sales vets who seem flawless in every meeting were also once at your skill level. They reached their current status only because they persevered, confident in their ability to improve through practice and study.
Many prospects have purchasing processes or boxes they need to check off before signing any contract. Director of sales Elias Diaz explained how to explicitly ask them what these are:
“People don’t ask for business. I like to be upfront. After identifying a problem and then finding a solution that my product or service can offer, I always ask them what needs to be done to get the partnership started. That’s a tactic I’ve used that has worked many times. Don’t give people the stereotypical ‘salesman routine.’ Just be real because that’s what people will buy.”
— Elias Diaz, Director of Sales, Virtudesk
Their answer should give you a roadmap for how this deal can be closed. So listen carefully and take the prospect's advice, as long as it's within reason.
You can only beat your competition if you understand them. Here’s what sales representative Ryan Waller said about the competitive sales battle:
“Ensure you can talk about how you (or your product) are superior to your competitors: In sales, you need to give people a compelling reason to use you (or your product). If you're just like everyone else, it will always come down to the lowest price. Clearly articulate why you/your product is superior and your client will be far more receptive. Pro-tip: Do it in a way that doesn't bash your competitor though, or you'll lose credibility!”
— Ryan Waller, Real Estate Sales Representative, Beth and Ryan
Write down a summary of your main competitors’ business, the features you offer that they don’t, why you’re a better choice, and more. Use this to respectfully explain to prospects why your clients chose you over a competitor.
Too many sales are lost simply because the sales rep neglects following up, and the prospect loses interest or forgets about the product or service. Former outside sales rep Ryan McEniff claimed it’s even worth it to follow up after you think you’ve lost the sale:
“Keep following up! It never hurts to make an additional call to a prospective client. There have been many times where a client wasn't ready one week but a week or two later they have had experiences that have convinced them to move forward with our services. Even if a prospect chooses a competitor, still call and follow up. You never know if the competition has made mistakes and that one additional call will convince the customer to switch to your services.”
— Ryan McEniff, Owner, Minute Women Home Care
When following up, keep your calls or emails brief, to-the-point, and conversational. And consider including value in the form of an industry report, case study, or article they might enjoy.
For more information on the best deal-closing techniques, check out our article on the top sales closing techniques for effective selling.
Now that you’ve read through some sales techniques from experts of the profession, select one and try to integrate it into your daily sales routine. See how it goes for a few weeks, and then, when it’s become a part of who you are as a salesperson, try adding another. This gradual practice of growth will keep you improving as a salesperson without it feeling like you’re drinking from a firehose.
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