Be a sales superstar – 20 tips from a pro

Everyone is in sales, whether you are in marketing, a business owner, or going for a job interview.  In a previous post I wrote about sales and how it is one of the most challenging things you can do.  I wanted to write this post because, as I have learned firsthand, sales is the most underestimated function in most companies.

Unfortunately MOST sales people do not know what they are doing, they are just looking for a quick buck and ruin the perception for everyone in this career.  Yes, there is a stigma about sales people and it is not flattering.  Often times, the sales department is the most hated department the company.  Another common perception about sales is that they do the least amount of work and get the most money.  They have a reputation of complacency and mediocrity.  After thinking about this I found it interesting that there is only a small percentage of sales people that are actually at the top of their game.

So why are there very few superstars in sales?  Is it because companies don’t invest in cultivating good sales people, or is it just an attractive job for people who think they can get a free ride?

I asked one of the most successful people I know, an absolute sales superstar, for some tips on why she has been able to do so incredibly well in sales.

For the purposes of this post I’ll call her Janet.  Janet says the secret sauce is a combination of hard work, luck and opportunity.  When the economy was down last year, and in less than 13 weeks, Janet sold 300 times more than most sales people would be able to generate in a year.  She has consistently ranked #1 in sales for any company she has worked at.  Here is what she had to say:

1. Listening – learn about the client and their industry

Pay attention, ask questions and LISTEN.  This may sound obvious but it is on the listening part where average sales people slip up. Most sales people love to talk and just want to go on and on about what they are selling and its benefits.  In sales, you are empowering someone to make a decision to purchase.  Get the information first and then give them enough information to make the decision.  Ask questions and don’t assume. Be aware of the personality you are dealing with, their energy level and how they like to do business.  Absorb this information and take notes.

2. Be like a duck – recovering after “No”

Hearing no, should be like water off a duck’s back.  Janet doesn’t take anything personally and is quite happy to hear no.  She says that “no” never means no, it just means that now is not the right time.  There are a lot of negatives that can get a sales person down, especially if you are hearing it all day and you have to be like a duck. Also, keep these two nuggets in mind: Losing makes you appreciate the win more, and there is always good that comes out of every failure.

3. Get into the client’s mind

Janet likes to use the analogy of dating when she is talking about sales and building relationships.  She explains that both are a psychological game.  So how can you bring down their defenses and make them like you? People love to talk so let the client talk, be genuinely interested in their business, be able to give ideas in a way that the person you are selling to feels like it was their decision, the key with all of this is to build trust, and that can take time.

4. It’s got to have a deeper meaning

You have to believe that what you’re doing is making a difference.  There must be a deeper meaning than just making a sale.  If you understand what this is then you will be more motivated and you will have a new perspective.  Janet truly believes she is making a difference and helping people.  There are no bad days when you are working toward a greater good.

5. Treat internal staff just as good as clients

Internal staff, operations, marketing, accounting, IT and others will help you perform for a client.  You never know when you will need to pull a miracle, speed things up or get something done.  Cultivating (and investing in) your support team is crucial.  (Janet always buys her most important supporters holiday gifts.)

6. Never think about the $$$

An interesting point that I didn’t expect to hear, but Janet says she never focuses on commissions.  She says if you focus on the person and how you can help them, whether a client or a consumer then the money will come.

7. Open up about yourself

If you can connect to the client then half the battle is over.  Janet makes time to learn about the other person by opening up about herself which in turn allows the client to open up.  This way they know you are a real person and not just focused on the sale. Janet was able to close many tough clients business using this technique.

8. A positive attitude is crucial

It is exhausting being ON all the time but in sales this is the way it works.  You have to stay positive all the time you are in front of clients or colleagues, but you need to allow yourself to have a break with people that make you smile or find ways you can release frustrations. (Janet rides horses once a week. You can also vent to an understanding boss, go to the gym, whatever it takes!)

9. People buy from you because they like you

You are competing with other companies that offer the same thing, and in Janet’s case she is also competing against other sales people in the same company.  At the end of the day, people buy from you because they like you.  Janet’s advice: You’d better like yourself. If you don’t like yourself, how are others going to like you?

10. Smart sales people diversify

If you always focus on the big fish then you will a very irregular cash flow (Janet is 100% commission).  In Janet’s words: “You must fish for minnows as well as Baluga whales.”

11. Leading and following

Janet uses the analogy of dancing – there is always a leader and a follower.  You have to be open to changing tact, be flexible, be open to listening and changing the pace if needed.

12. Ask for the sale – if you don’t ask you don’t get

So many people make the mistake and don’t ask for the sale.  This may sound very obvious but so many business deals are lost this way.  When the time feels right, ask for the close.  If they say no, they are just not ready yet.

13. Follow up after the deal is done

One of the biggest reasons people don’t succeed long term is what happens AFTER the deal is done.  Janet explains that too many people just want a one night stand and think their work is done after the sale.  You must follow up, propose new ideas or new products and show you are thinking of the client’s needs.  It is much easier to get a repeat client than a new client in any business.  She also adds, not doing what you say you are going to do will ruin your reputation and you can quickly lose a sale.  Follow through is crucial.

14. Keep prospecting no matter what

Even in the toughest times or if you have just closed your biggest account yet, you always need to keep prospecting.  No matter how busy you are you must set aside time to make those calls.

15. Thank people

This may seem like a no brainer, but Janet says we have forgotten as a culture how to thank people.  Make sure you send handwritten notes, emails or make calls after meetings just to say thank you.  They will appreciate it and remember you for it.

16. Be in it for the long haul

Keep in mind that closing any sale takes time.  Be patient and stay persistent.  Janet says some of her biggest wins have come from people she has finally turned after several months.

17. Know when to shut up

When someone says “yes” then stop talking!  So many deals are lost when sales people keep talking and it raises more questions from the client.  When they say yes, stop selling and move to the next step.

18. Do your homework

Being prepared is especially important in the beginning of a new relationship.  Do some research on their industry and find out as much as you can about the person you are meeting with.  Most sales people do not take the time to do this.  First impressions are very important.  Take the time to do this and you will be successful.

19. KNOW your business

Sales people need to know what the client is buying inside out.  If it is online sales then know what the content is and how the process works.  According to Janet, sales people are the emcees of the company to the outside world.  In turn, companies should invest time into coaching sales people on the details of the product or service they are selling.

20. Ultimately be a good person

If you do a good job the money will come.  Your reputation is the key to success in any business.  Be honest and do not stray into stretching the truth just to make a sale.  Janet’s advice: Do right by people and they will do right by you.

If you are business owner or head of sales and would like to revitalize your sales force, Janet conducts workshops and speaking engagements to help sales teams sharpen their skills and dramatically improve their results.  Contact me for more info.

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3 Comments on “Be a sales superstar – 20 tips from a pro”

  1. Steve Bertogli April 19, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    Great read! I really think #13 and #15 are two of the easiest and most inportant steps in the sales process. Yet many people often forget to perform them.

  2. David Burkhardt April 19, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Fantastic article/blog. As a sales “lifer” I found Janet’s insights to be wonderfully refreshing. It is so true that salespeople in all industries are often looked down upon, however, as you stated, everyone is in sales, whether you are a 6 year old little girl trying to get daddy to buy you that new toy, or sitting in front of a Fortune 500 CEO tring to close that “Whale” of an account, each and every one of us is always selling something.

    Great advice from someone who sounds like she is a real WINNER!

  3. Andrew Hammer April 28, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    Great read. It is always great to get back in touch with the fundamentals no matter seasoned you are. All steps are pertinent in the sales process and should be followed!
    Thanks for sharing.

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