Someone recently asked me, “Mike, you’ve been selling all your life. Tell me, what’s the secret to becoming a top performer?”
This got me thinking about whether I could distil the many elements of sales success down to 20 key principles. I thought about the habits of the super salespeople I’ve known over the years and came up with this list. Adopt one of these habits each day for the next 20 days, and you too could be a top performer.
1. Start and finish the day positively. Top performers are on their A-game from when they wake up until they leave the last prospect, or customer, of the day. Being positive makes your prospect positive — about buying.
2. Be an enthusiast. People are drawn to enthusiastic people. Genuine enthusiasm is catching; it’s like a tidal wave that will carry your prospect along to the sale.
3. Plan every call. Understand what you expect out of each interaction with a prospect. Consider whether the objective is to get the sale today, or whether this is a step along the way to a sale.
4. Use the power of knowledge. If enthusiasm is catching, so is someone who truly knows stuff. We are drawn to people who possess knowledge about something we are interested in, whether it’s a particular sport, art, food, or, more importantly, something we are considering purchasing. Become an expert in what you sell, the industry behind it, and the market you are selling to.
5. Demonstrate your expertise. Find opportunities to show people that you’re an expert. Offer free seminars to prospects or existing customers; produce a newsletter or write a book; record a podcast, or create a Facebook page. Whatever you do, become the guru in your field and people will find their way to you and buy what you sell.
6. Research interesting anecdotes, information, and jokes. I often get e-mail from friends, business acquaintances, and others that contain jokes and other useless detritus, but occasionally a snippet of fascinating information appears. When this happens, I am grateful to the person who sent it, because they are making me look good in the eyes of the people with whom I in turn share it. This is why jokes have been a staple of top performers since the dawn of selling.
7. Spend more time prospecting for companies and people that need, want, and can afford what you are selling. Don’t waste your valuable time and energy selling to people who are not highly likely to buy. Think long and hard about your target market. Top performers spend less time with prospects than the average salesperson because they have pre-qualified them.
8. Set yourself goals and targets. Super salespeople don’t wait for their sales managers to give them targets; they set their own. It’s a winning habit to set yourself targets based on the number of leads generated, calls per day, appointments made, presentations made, and sales achieved. If you can measure success by it — target it!
9. Identify your prospect’s behavioural style within 60 seconds. One of the keys to successful selling is to become a chameleon. We can all sell to people who have the same personality as ourselves; the trick to super sales is to relate well to people unlike you, or even with the opposite personality or social style.
10. Sell yourself first. Once you recognize the prospect’s behavioural style, it’s a whole lot easier to react to them in a way that will make them feel comfortable. The key to selling to anyone is the ability to make them like you. People don’t buy from people they don’t like — it’s that simple.
11. Ensure you are selling to the right person. This is a rookie mistake that happens all the time. Salespeople home in on people that look easy to sell to and spend inordinate amounts of time trying to convince them to purchase something. Before you waste any time on a potential prospect, spend a few minutes talking to them. Discover whether he or she is a bona fide prospect. The quicker you discover they aren’t, the quicker you can start selling to someone who is
12. Track your sales progress. Every day, assess how well you are doing in moving toward your goals. Motivation comes from seeing that you are exceeding them, and when you’re not you’ll know you need to pull your finger out, pronto
13. Learn to love objections. Poor salespeople avoid objections as if they are bad. Top performers not only welcome them, they dig for them. As long as there is an unspoken objection, you won’t get the sale. Get into the habit of listing all the objections people might have for not buying what you sell and come up with answers. That way, when an objection arises you have the answer ready at hand.
14. Probe, clarify effectively, and listen. Constantly ask questions to make sure the prospect is hearing, and understanding, what you are telling them and clarify any misunderstandings.
15. Use interesting presentation materials. The more involved your customers are with your presentation, the more likely they are to buy. Use samples, demonstrations, colourful sales literature, or whatever is relevant to your product or service to generate interest and excitement.
16. Keep extensive notes. Top sales performers know their customers’ birthdays, children’s names, hobbies, likes and dislikes, and anything else that will help build a relationship with them.
17. Use trial closes. Get into the habit of asking prospects if they like aspects of what you are selling. This will provide an indication as to whether they are leaning toward purchasing, or highlight potential objections.
18. Ask for the sale every time. This is probably the oldest piece of advice out there, but at the end of the day, more sales are lost simply because no one asked for the order. Come up with several phrases that you feel comfortable with, such as, “So, delivery next week is OK for you?” or, “OK, so let’s write this up.” In my experience, this type of close is the most effective and easiest to employ.
19. Evaluate every call. Remember sales targets and goals, and tracking your progress? Well, it’s not just about the numbers: after every sales interaction, carry out a postmortem and look at what went well and what could be improved.
20. Follow up every call. Following up after a call is not just polite, it’s good business practice. It’s far less expensive and takes a whole lot less time and effort to sell to an existing customer than to try to find a new one. Start building relationships by following up each sale and then regularly thereafter.
Written by Mike Wicks for Douglas Magazine.