“When I gained my first sales manager role, I was promoted from a sales rep position. One of my first tasks was to recruit someone to take over my old territory. I made my first hire and introduced her to all my key contacts” says Pru Layton, sales trainer at george james. “There was one big diagnostic company I mentioned. I had never had any success with them. They didn’t like the company I worked for, they didn’t like our tech – I told her not to bother going there, you’ll waste your time.”
“Luckily, she ignored me.”
In fact, within 2 years, this big diagnostic company that Pru had steered her new hire away from, turned out to be her biggest client. Putting her ego aside “I had to accept that the only thing that had changed was the sales rep.”
All is not lost
So in answer to the question ‘what makes the perfect sales person?’ – well, there isn’t a perfect sales person to begin with. The age old adage “people buy from people” rings true here. It wasn’t that Pru was a bad sales rep, she had an excellent track record. A track record that earned her a promotion to sales manager. It was just that she didn’t resonate with this particular company.
But, to put it crudely, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. As someone who’s entering a new sales role, it might be worth throwing out the rule book (or at least ignoring a few pages). With a new face, comes a unique set of opportunities. “So, take what it says in the CRM with a pinch of salt – and go and try out some old contacts.” Pru says.
As a sales rep, you are the biggest competitive differentiator. This means that you have the most influence when it comes to a sale. You are the biggest asset your company has to set itself apart from its competitors. So while you may not be able to resonate with every single company or every single person, there are some things you can do to stack the odds in your favour.
Prepare, prepare, prepare!
Whatever planned customer engagement you have, you should always prepare. Put your stalker hat on and delve through their LinkedIn profile, the history of the organisation, your CRM and as Pru jokes “make sure you haven’t annoyed them recently”.
There’s also some questions you should think about: “What do you want to achieve from the meeting? What do you want to talk about? What objections you might get? If you’ve prepared really well, it starts to build trust between you and the customer. They’ll recognise that you understand their business and their needs. Plus, you’ll have more time to focus on what they’ve got to say – because you’re not thinking about what you’ve got to say next.”
Flex your communication style
“Hearing is not listening. And talking is not communicating” says Pru. To be an effective communicator, you need to understand the way your customer communicates. And to understand how your customer communicates, you need to listen.
According to Eric Douglas, author of Straight Talk: Turning Communication Upside Down for Strategic Results, there are four types of communicators. Some people, for instance, can be described as directors. You can spot them because they’ll ask a lot of questions, they won’t be scared to raise objections and they like to talk about results, change, and moving forward. Appealing to these types of communicators requires getting straight down to business. Typically, they aren’t seeking friendship so don’t get too personal and stick to the results.
You may think that this stands in contradiction to the last section. However, adapting your communication style doesn’t mean you have to strip away your entire personality. People are honing devices for insincerity so make sure you stay authentic. Plus, it’s tiring and stressful to continually play a character.
“Being authentic is about being open-minded and really listening to what your customers have to say” says Pru. “By actively listening, you’ll be able to identify a customer’s challenges and using your experience, knowledge and charisma to show them how you have the solution.”
Remember - you’re a sales person.
You know why you’re there. You’re customer knows why you’re there. So why do many of us insist on pretending we’re not sales people? “I think it’s because sales reps are often been portrayed as manipulative, selfish, and only concerned with their own agenda” says Pru. “Scientific and technical sales people are particularly worried about being tarred with the same brush.”
But being a sales person doesn’t mean you’re pushy or disingenuous. As a professional in sales, you’re there to help your customers solve their problems or better their business. “In training, I often ask sales people whether they think the product or service they’re selling is great. They always tell me it is” explains Pru. “So why are you embarrassed to sell it to people? Why try to disguise yourself when you’re simply offering a great solution?”
You may never be the perfect sales professional but, as we’ve established, you’ve got as much chance of becoming a unicorn. However, if you’re looking to refine your negotiation skills, better the accuracy of your forecasts, or improve any other area of your sales or commercial skills then check out one of our training options.
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