Sales is an art – and it’s not an easy one to master.
There are particular traits and characteristics that make for great salespeople: resilience, tenacity, and high energy are just a few.
Yet sometimes, people who are not professional sales reps find themselves in a position where they need to sell something.
For instance, entrepreneurs and founders of startups may need to sell some of their products or services themselves in order to win investment or new clients before they have the means to hire a dedicated salesperson.
There are a number of basic sales skills that, once mastered, will help anyone be more successful when selling.
With this in mind, here are 11 useful sales tips to lean on if you’re not a professional sales rep.
The first rule of sales is to know your audience.
Not only does this make your success rate higher, but it means you waste less time reaching out to people who are never going to be interested in your product or service.
There are various ways in which sales reps define their audiences, from top-level target market information to working with their marketing department on buyer personas. When salespeople define their audience, the process is typically data-driven.
One of the simplest ways to think about your audience is to identify your ideal customer profile. This profile is typically made up of logistical and geographical information such as company size, turnover, location, and the job title of the person you’ll most likely be speaking to.
This is a simple yet effective way of narrowing down your audience to those most likely to buy your product. It’s also possible to combine this with basic quantitative and qualitative data if you don’t have access to more in-depth information.
Buyer personas can be extremely useful, but they typically require more data, as well as customer experience mapping.
Image source: Hubspot
If you need to begin seeking out business and are unable to create an ideal customer profile or personas, try to focus on your target audience regardless.
You should have some idea of what your typical customer’s job title is, what industry they’re in, or where they live. Focus on that, and it will provide you with some direction.
Having someone aggressively sell to you is not the most pleasant experience.
Customers can smell desperation. If you appear too keen to sell, they’ll likely realize that you don’t have their best interests at heart and are instead thinking only of your own goals.
The only real way to get around this issue is to genuinely embrace your client’s goals, get feedback, and put their needs first.
What are their pain points? What challenges are they experiencing? What sales objections are they raising to buying your product or service?
Ask your potential buyer these questions, and then consider whether your product or service could genuinely help to solve their challenge.
If it can, explain how. Offer them expert advice and insight into their problem, and add value to the sales process.
If not, direct them to a product or service that will help them.
This is called consultative selling, and it’s a popular technique for selling big-ticket products and services.
Listing off all the features and specifications of your product or service is a rookie mistake.
Yes, the lead wants to know what they’re buying. But they actually want to know that the product they’re buying will solve their problem.
Select the features that you know will apply to their challenge and describe how these specifications can successfully be used to address their challenge.
In doing this, you’re selling the value of the product, which is more than the sum of its parts.
It’s also important to bear in mind that prospects could become overwhelmed upon hearing all the features of your product if they only need to use one or two. In this case, they may think they can get a cheaper deal elsewhere.
Source: Kai Pilger/Unsplash
Over the course of their career, salespeople build up a high level of resilience because the job naturally involves hearing a lot of “no.”
If you’re not a professional sales rep, facing a high level of rejection can be upsetting and can throw you off your game.
There’s no magic way to get over a fear of rejection or to stop it from affecting your mindset.
However, try to foster resilience by understanding that rejection is simply part of selling. People are not obliged to buy your product or service, and there are a wide variety of reasons behind that “no.”
In a nutshell, just try not to take it personally.
When you’re put on the spot in a high-pressure situation, you may be tempted to say whatever the lead wants to hear in order to make the sale.
However, this can come back to haunt you down the line.
For example, if you promise that your product or service can solve a particular issue when you’re not sure it can, the client is likely to complain when they don’t get the results you guaranteed.
This could result in a refund request, and it can also harm your reputation – especially if the customer in question complains publicly on social media.
For this reason, honesty is always the best policy in sales.
Instead of twisting the truth to get each and every sale, focus on helping the customers that you are genuinely able to add value to.
Honesty will impress your prospects – even if it’s not what they want to hear at the time – and they may well circle back to you in the coming months or years when they do have a genuine need for your product or service.
The sales process starts with research – particularly if you’re selling high-value products or services.
In order to impress prospects or leads, you need to find out everything you can about them, their business, their competitors, their industry, and the challenges they’re facing.
The good news is that anyone can do this type of research – it doesn’t take any expensive sales tools or advanced expertise.
The company website is a good place to start. Take a look at the company story, its products and services, market positioning, tone of voice, and any employees listed.
Next, perform a Google News search of the company and – where relevant – your contact’s name. This should reveal whether the business has made any big moves recently, such as mergers and acquisitions, and how it is performing financially.
Then, visit your contact’s social media accounts. Start on their LinkedIn, which will give you a good insight into their career, qualifications, and background. This is useful to find out if you have any mutual connections, as well as to gain an insight into their likely level of understanding around your product or service. Recent LinkedIn activity may also provide some insight into their opinions on current industry events too.
Don’t rule out personal social media. It’s always helpful to have talking points to break the ice in calls and meetings. Twitter is a useful site to mine for information at this stage.
For instance, if their bio professes their love for Yorkshire terriers, ice hockey, and Danny DeVito movies, then pick the subject you know most about to bond with them over. If they’ve recently shared news articles alongside their opinions on the topic, you’ve got another starting point.
Image source: Engagebay
Personalization is key in both sales and marketing.
As consumers have become used to on-demand services and personalized recommendations powered by advanced algorithms, they have begun to expect the same from any customer experience.
This is why it’s important to personalize the sales process as much as possible.
What does this look like?
On the simpler end of the scale, personalization means sending emails addressed to individuals and being able to recall the details of a conversation you had with a prospect at a networking event.
More complex – and expensive – personalization could be product videos shot specifically for one company, in-depth pitches, or regularly sending your contact content designed to help solve the problem they’ve told you about.
Image source: Markus Winkler/Unsplash
Small talk is a huge part of sales.
It happens when you arrive at a meeting, in the first five minutes of a cold call, and in the first paragraph of an email.
Small talk is seen as a polite way to break the ice before you get into the business. Yet, it has so much more potential than that. If you master the art of small talk, you can use it to connect with your prospects, get them to like you, and fortify your relationship.
So how can you master small talk?
Unless you’re naturally gifted, it will take you a while.
So practice, practice, practice. Roleplay with friends and colleagues, and if you get stuck, consider writing out a script and just learning it.
This will get you through your first few meetings, and then gradually, you’ll begin to master it for real – and perhaps even enjoy it.
Source: Mimi Thian/Unsplash
Once you begin thinking of sales as relationship building, your whole mindset shifts, and your approach to sales changes.
As humans, we’re designed to connect with others. This makes the idea of relationship building a lot less daunting than the traditional concept of sales.
It works the other way around too. When selling, one of your primary focuses must be to deliver a positive and enjoyable customer experience. An old school hard-selling approach is unlikely to achieve this, but a true business partnership can.
What tactics can you use to build relationships with leads?
Knowing your product or service inside out is vital when you’re trying to sell it.
This is achievable for salespeople working with products or services that aren’t particularly complex or who are genuine experts in their industry.
However, if you’re selling into an industry that you’re not particularly familiar with or selling complex technical products, there are a few things you need to do.
If you still need some support, consider taking product designers and engineers to your client meetings. They will be able to plug any knowledge gaps in the product lifecycle management process and impress the customer with their expertise.
If this isn’t possible, don’t attempt to provide in-depth answers to questions unless you’re confident you can speak on the subject accurately. Instead, answer to the level you’re able to, and then tell your prospect that you will take their question back to your team and respond with a more comprehensive answer.
Finally, a great rule of thumb in sales – and in general – is to always follow up.
This means following up on every opportunity, prospect, or lead that comes your way. Consistently replying to emails and never letting a piece of communication go without a response. Doing what you have promised you will do every single time.
And – perhaps the trickiest one – repeatedly following up on emails you’ve sent and voicemails you’ve left that never received a response. With LiveAgent, you can create automated rules that are triggered by specific actions.
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What’s the hardest aspect of selling for non-professional sales reps? Let us know in the comments!
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