I read perhaps fifty sales advice articles every month. While some of what I read is theoretical, technical or simply a disguised sales pitch, most of it is pure gold. I believe this little grab bag of power tips is on target and can make a big difference in your sales. Ranging from commonsense advice to counterintuitive ideas these gems can be put to work for you right away.
Investigate your buyer
Before calling that important prospect, go online and do some investigation. Check the person’s profile on LinkedIn, Xing or Spoke. Learn a little about the buyer’s background, interests and education. Then go to their company web site and read their latest press release. Take a few notes. Armed with this information, you’ll have a much better chance of establishing that all important first contact rapport. This only takes a few minutes and will be time well spent. You’ll build your relationship with the buyer quicker and have a much better chance of ultimately closing the deal.
Make your follow-up email sing
Given the high volume of email flowing into most in-boxes, your follow-up note might not get read. To avoid this, always use your prospect’s first name in the subject line. Example: “Bob, here’s the summary you requested.” Keep your email short! Most buyers, who are already dealing with information overload, are not inclined to wade through volumes of product data along with your company’s history and mission statement. Summarize and provide links in case they do want more information.
Remember to carefully proofread before you hit send. In fact, you might invest in proofreading software. Many are free or relatively inexpensive. Spelling and grammatical errors in follow-up letters can be a real buyer turnoff.
Think outside the in-box
Because in-boxes are increasingly crowded and noisy, marketers are rediscovering the power of regular mail. Consider following up your initial email with information delivered via regular mail. Include your business card along with your brochure, report or product spec sheets. It doesn’t matter if they have already received this information electronically. The main purpose in doing this is to beat the email “fatigue factor” and stay in touch with your prospect.
Power Tip: Write a very brief personalized note on the front of the envelope. Example: “Mary, I enjoyed our conversation. Enclosed is a hard copy of the information you requested.” Call a few days later to confirm receipt and renew your conversation.
It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it!
Persuasive speakers communicate by using positive language. Example: Instead of saying, “We can’t ship your order until next Tuesday,” say, “We can ship your order as early as next Tuesday.” What a difference! Put yourself in your listener’s shoes; which version is more appealing? The habit of using positive speech has helped me to achieve more results than I ever thought possible. You can practice this skill all the time, too. Try it with coworkers, family, and friends. You’ll begin to see things in a whole new light!
Learn to listen
Develop your listening skills. Good listeners close far more sales. Period.
I recently received a call from a salesperson with an annoying rapid fire staccato delivery. This poor soul didn’t even allow me to answer his questions before plunging forward and talking over me. Within a few minutes I was developing a headache and had completely tuned this guy out. When he had finally finished his pitch, I jokingly asked, “Could you repeat that?” He didn’t respond. I then offered to send him a link to information that would help him improve his phone skills. He declined my offer and rushed off to his next victim.
Obviously Mister Rapid Fire never heard of the 80-20 rule where the prospect does 80 percent of the talking and the salesperson 20 percent. Frankly, I think the rule, while a good guideline, is a bit difficult to observe especially on a first call. However, if you will slow down and ask intelligent questions that get the prospect talking you’ll close a lot more sales. Shoot for a 70-30 split and you’ll be in excellent shape.
State your business
Some telephone cold-call gurus will tell you to offer a pleasantry or two after introducing yourself. They are wrong. Avoid the opening, “How are you?” When spoken over the phone to a stranger, the phrase reeks of insincerity. You might as well scream, “I am going to try to sell you something!” Instead, employ a more businesslike opening, such as, “The reason I’m calling you this morning is to learn about your company’s personnel needs, and to see if we can be of help.” In other words, after introducing yourself, state the reason for your call. Prospects will appreciate your directness and respect for their time and intelligence. Only ask, “How are you?” after you’ve progressed beyond the initial contact and a relationship has been established.
The more you learn, the more you earn!
This is the most important advice I can give you. Make a commitment to your success. Every day invest a little time sharpening your sales skills. The number one mistake salespeople make is neglecting their ongoing sales education. No excuses. This doesn’t have to be a huge investment of time or money. There are plenty of free or low-cost sales skills improvement resources on the Internet. Get started today!
Michael Dalton Johnson is an award-winning publisher and successful entrepreneur and business leader. He is Editor and Publisher of Top Dog Sales Secrets, the bestselling book featuring advice from 50 renowned sales experts. Michael is the founder of SalesDog.com, an educational website for sales professionals. He has appeared on NBC’s Today Show and been featured in U.S. News and World Report, Time, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and New York Times. He has been a featured guest on over 200 television and radio shows.