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What I’ve learned in my sales career

Forrest Marketing Group Blog blog

What I’ve learned in my sales career

  1. If you don’t really believe in what you sell, it is pretty well impossible to sell it.

That’s great, but how do you “fall in love” with what you sell? What I’ve found is that the key to loving what you sell is understanding what it does for your clients, what problems it solves and how it helps them, or makes their life better. Once you can see and understand the real benefit of what you sell, you’ll find your enthusiasm for selling it grows and before long you’ll believe wholeheartedly with what you sell. And if that doesn’t happen, move on and find something that you can really feel good about selling

  1. You must know what your product or service does for your customers – know what their pain points are

When we are setting up lead generation campaigns for our clients, we always ask them why people buy from them. You’d be amazed at how often the answer is “we really look after our customers”. That’s the reason they love working with you, but it’s not why they buy. In a few cases, prospects buy because your product gives them something new that they hadn’t considered before. In most cases, though, prospects buy because you fix a problem that they have been living with – you are removing their pain. So, you need to know exactly what pain you take away. It’s rarely the same thing for all prospects, and some may not even know that they have any pain until you point it out and they have an “A-ha” moment. To be successful in sales, you have to know what your prospect’s pain points could be and how to uncover these with discovery questions, then you need to know how to show them how your product or service will fix their issues for them. When you do this, your prospects will feel that you really understand them. They will trust you and take your advice, buying what you recommend. Being in this position also makes it much harder for a competitor to come in and displace you from the sale.

Read our blog: the importance of your pitch to help you perfect your own pitch

  1. The importance of asking open questions

It’s talked about so often that you’d think that all salespeople would have mastered this, but we’re human and often we will revert to our “standard” way of talking without thinking. It’s so important to “switch on” your sales persona in all sales situations, and to know how to turn closed questions into open ones. When you do this you will find that you get so much information that you can make the right sale, while not having to say very much at all. It’s all about the prospect

  1. Don’t make assumptions

I made this mistake just recently – you’d think I’d know better by now. I called a prospect who had been close to making a decision to use our services. I started the call by saying “I suppose with everything that is happening, you won’t be doing anything till after Covid?”  His response was “actually no, we are keen to move ahead”. It was a timely reminder not to make assumptions

  1. It IS a numbers game – activity numbers

I learned this one very early in my sales career: the numbers to focus on are the ones that you can control.  And these are always activity-based, not results-based. If I went into each week hoping to hit my sales target, most often I did not (you can’t make somebody buy from you). However, once I realised that my activity drove my results, it was much easier.  I was selling over the phone at the time and I worked out that my “hit rate” was 1 sale from every 15 people I presented to. I also worked out that I had to make 4 phone calls to reach one decision maker and make my presentation. From that point on, I knew exactly how many phone calls I needed to make each day to hit my target – and how many more I’d need to make if I wanted to go beyond my target. I set my daily goals and tracked them religiously to make sure that I hit my activity target every day.  As a result, I always hit (and often exceeded) my weekly sales target and I’ve used this method ever since in all of my sales (and sales management) roles. When you are having a bad day, a bad week, month or quarter, knowing your numbers can make a big difference and can help you to bring yourself back on track by focusing you on your activity targets

  1. Persistence pays off

Remember that just because someone says “no” today, doesn’t mean they won’t say “yes” tomorrow.  That’s the importance of persistence. I remember early in my sales career; a friend and I were selling based on commission-only. Over the first three weeks we worked hard speaking to lots of decision makers, but we got no sales. In the 4th week my friend decided that he had had enough of earning nothing and he left. Within a week the sales started to come in – I picked up all his sales and got paid commission on those as well as the ones that I had initiated. He wasn’t happy about it, but it was a great lesson to us both on the importance of persistence and not giving up early.

On average, 70% of prospects that a salesperson meets, leak out of their sales funnel. But over 83% of these prospects will buy what they are selling at some point in the future

  1. There’s often no “key” Decision Maker (DM)

These days DMs won’t make big decisions on their own, not even if they are the CEO. They tend to want to get their management team/colleagues involved to make sure that the decision to purchase is a team decision. So, try to get in front of as many DMs as possible in each company to get them involved in the sales process, rather than just relying on selling to the one person you think is the “key” DM

  1. Remember to ask for the sale

In my early years of selling a friend told me about a salesperson he was managing. This salesperson was selling over the phone and made great presentations all the time, but they never made any actual sales. My friend couldn’t understand it until he listened in on the salesperson’s calls and realised that whilst he presented really well, he didn’t ask for the sale – he was scared to ask and so he never did. Once his fear of closing was addressed, he went on to become a great salesperson for the organisation. This has stuck with me ever since so that I always make sure I am asking for the sale. It’s also important to remember that a prospect expects you to ask for the sale and will be surprised if you do not

  1. Don’t try to script your sales presentations too much

People have different needs and no two conversations go exactly the same way. Instead of trying to script your entire presentation (whether a face-to-face presentation or one given over the phone), just work out the overall framework, including introduction, a comprehensive list of open questions that you can ask. You’ll probably only use 5 or 6 in any presentation, but your list should cover all of those that you might need for different situations and different prospect needs, so you are always prepared to uncover each prospect’s specific requirements. You will end up having really good conversations which allow you to learn what you need to know to be able to sell to your prospects.

Download our person-to-person prospecting brief once completed this brief will ensure you have all the information required in the one place to build, finetune and get the most from your prospecting

  1. Don’t overlook the need to build rapport

Do you remember in the early days of email (I’m talking about the 1990’s here) when you would connect your laptop to the internet using a modem?  When you did this, you would here a screeching sound from your modem and the one at the other end of the connection.  This was referred to as the “handshake” and it was a protocol that ensured that both modems were synchronised and could then pass information between them. If the handshake failed, the connection failed, and you had to try again. Well that’s exactly what happens in sales.  The digital handshake is the same as building rapport in the real world, which (pre-Covid-19) used to begin with a physical handshake. If you skip the rapport-building stage in selling, like the two modems you will not be able to communicate properly with the prospect. You’re not tuned in to them and their needs, and they aren’t tuned in to you and your solution. You’ve lowered your chances of making a sale and in this case, you don’t get the chance to hang up and start over again. Read our 10 steps to successfully building rapport on the phone

Opinion piece by Richard Forrest, Chairman of Forrest Marketing Group, Director of Air Marketing, Founder of Education Interactive & published author of The Ultimate Guide to B2B Sales Prospecting.

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