With over 100 years of commercial experience, I think it’s safe to say that our training team has learned a little along the way. So we thought we’d ask them – what’s your best sales advice? They certainly dished up some food for thought.
Jonathan Cooper, Director
If I had to choose just one piece of advice for any sales person, it would be to relentlessly focus on building a clean and healthy sales funnel or sales pipeline. This forms the very heart of any salesperson's business, allowing day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month priorities to take shape. A clean and healthy sales funnel propels the right actions at the right time: advancing sales opportunities, surpassing targets, and generating accurate forecasts. Establishing a clean and healthy sales funnel will ensure that you're working proactively more often than not!
For anyone struggling in their current sales role, I’d say that it’s so important to understand why you are struggling; especially if you seem to be working harder than ever. It's incredibly easy for that to happen, even to the most experienced and successful salespeople—I've been there myself! From personal experience and having worked with many sales people over many years I would immediately check three things…
1. Do you have a written and executable sales plan shared with those colleagues who will contribute to your success?
2. Are you investing quality time to prospect using a range of prospecting mechanisms?
3. Are you having enough meaningful face to face sales conversations every day?
When COVID struck our own training business in late 2019 / early 2020 we saw our clean and healthy sales funnel evaporate overnight! And we are talking completely empty! So we all sat down, stepped back, took a deep breath, and agreed that this was an opportunity to revolutionise our own business. Taking inspiration from Stephen Covey’s great habit of “beginning with the end in mind”, we ripped up our existing plans (well, some of them!) and built a new one. Boy did we start prospecting! Of course, with so many people working from home, we took advantage of having many meaningful conversations - remotely. By June we were well on our way to rebuilding a clean and healthy Sales Funnel and ultimately, finished the year ahead of our original budget.
As a final tip, never blame the market or your competition if you are struggling because it stops you looking for ways to turn things around and adapting to your new reality. Instead, focus on identifying markets that are in growth and applications that are ‘hot’…There is always opportunity.
Steve Vaughan, Senior Sales Trainer
For me, my best piece of advice is recognising that sales isn’t about us as sales people trying to sell what we want. It’s about customers deciding what they need to buy! I am strong believer that it is our job as sales people to help customers make informed decisions, by fully understanding their world, their challenges and aspirations, both for their business but (especially) for themselves! We can only do this by learning the importance of asking great questions and actively listening to what the customer is telling us- or isn’t! In other words, two ears, one mouth.
Sales is very much a process. Not every sales person is, or can be, great at every step in the process; whether it is prospecting, qualification, understanding needs, presenting, negotiating or closing. I’d suggest any sales person that feels they are struggling should firstly reach out to their manager. Sit down and look at your sales funnel, and review each step in the process. Ask yourself, where are things going wrong? In my experience, far too many sales people spend far too much time at the end of the sales process and forget about the importance of keeping the funnel full by prospecting as often as possible. In short, always be prospecting!
This is illustrated beautifully in an anecdote from a sales conference I attended when I lived in the USA back in 2001. The presenter was talking about the importance of prospecting, and told a story about his first sales job, which was selling door to door life insurance in New York in early 1980’s. New York at that time was a pretty violent place! He would get the door slammed in his face, get sworn at, even had a gun pointed at him. At the start of the week, his boss would give him a card with the word “NO” written on it 100 times. He was told to knock on 100 doors in the week. Every time he got the door slammed in his face, or was told to “go away”, he was told to cross a “NO” off his list. If he came back at the end of the week with 100 “NO’s” crossed off, he was given $1000 - a lot of money back then. Why? Because his boss knew that, out of the 100 “NO’s”, he would get at least one “YES”. The moral of the story; prospecting is a numbers game. Welcome the “NO’s”: every one you get is one step closer to a YES!
Pascal Le Floch-Riche, Senior Sales Trainer
One of my favourite bits of advice is simple: be really interested in your customer – and show them! Prepare for every meeting and take a deep dive into their needs, their challenges and their buying motives. How? Ask the right questions and listen, listen, LISTEN! I’ve found that many sales people are desperate to talk about their products but it’s essential you ask questions first, listen intently and present solutions last.
Sales people often fall into the same traps; whether that be a lack of prospecting, not qualifying well, time management, or sales funnel management. Thus, if you’re struggling with an aspect of sales, it’s more than likely your manager or colleagues have gone through the same thing. So my other advice is – ask for advice! Raise your hand before it becomes worse because doing nothing won’t make it go away. Go and talk with more experienced colleagues, be open with your manager, and absorb as much of their advice as you possibly can.
When I started in sales, I received no training and I had no one to coach me. My manager simply gave me a list of contacts and my financial targets. Fortunately, I was surrounded by a team of experienced colleagues so I sought their advice. One person suggested I should start with visiting existing customers to find out why they worked with us. This gave me so much invaluable information I could use in sales conversations with new customers – and gave me the opportunity to talk to existing customers about any new projects they had in the pipeline.
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