It’s the second instalment of our “what’s your best sales advice?” series where our sales trainers dish out some of the key lessons they’ve learned in their careers. With over 100 years of combined experience in the world of science and technology sales, you can be sure they’ve got some valuable wisdom to share.
For anyone starting out in sales, my favourite piece of advice is: there’s not one way to be good at sales. You have to be yourself. You have to be genuine. And you have to be authentic! It harks back to the age old adage: people buy from people. Putting on a ‘sales suit’ complete with a corporate personality just doesn’t cut it. Focus on forming real connections because, ultimately, people are inclined to buy from individuals they trust and relate to.
Sometimes being yourself means you won’t always appeal to every single one of the huge diversity of customers you encounter. In my first management role, I had to recruit a replacement to cover my old territory. When I introduced my new hire to our customers in her territory, I told her not to bother with a large Pharma company because they never bought from us. Fortunately, she ignored my advice as within 2 years, they were her best account. The only thing that had changed was the sales rep. I had to park my ego, and recognise that I just didn’t resonate with them.
Fundamentally, I believe that as a sales person our role is to make decisions easy for our customers. It’s important to remember that making a buying decision can be just as stressful as selling. So, my next piece of advice is to keep asking yourself: am I making this easy or am I making this tough? We can use this lens to look at any aspect of our sales approach – from our product knowledge and responsiveness to understanding our customer’s needs or appreciating their challenges.
Christian Walter, Senior Sales Trainer
Stay curious! Curiosity did not kill the cat, but rather made the sale. If we can be genuinely interested and curious as to what our customers are doing and what they want to achieve, we can provide value to their daily work by our counsel and our solutions and we transition from transactional acquaintance to strategic partner. This requires careful preparation and research of each sales call as well as developing ones listening skills in line with the motto: “seek first to understand rather than be understood”.
As global head of sales of BUCHI, I experienced many different salespeople. The best ones all had one thing in common; they stayed curious and passionate about wanting to help. They also asked great questions and knew when to shut-up so that they could listen to their customers.
If you’re struggling in your role as a sales person, then my best advice is to… develop self-awareness! Nobody is perfect at absolutely everything, but by understanding who we are, we can focus on our strength and find ways to deal with our weaknesses. What should you start doing? What can you do more of? What should you stop doing? What to do less of? What do you need help with? What can you help others with? Ideally, these are discussions you should have with your sales leader.
Jayne Green, Sales Trainer
For anyone starting out in sales, I can’t stress enough how important it is to get comfortable with asking great questions. Make good use of the fundamental interrogatives: Why, what, when, who, where, how?! Make it a habit to practice them daily, maybe even have them written down! And then remember to actively and intentionally LISTEN, LISTEN, clarify and LISTEN. Remember, it’s less about pitching your product and more about building genuine relationships with your customers.
When facing challenges in your current sales role, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone – we’ve all been there at some point in our sales career. Take a step back, take a breath and ask yourself: what are your greatest challenges? Don’t try to change it all at once, think about what small steps you can take to get yourself back on track. And crucially, don’t stay silent. Carve some time out in your schedule to have a chat with your manager. They’ll certainly have a fresh perspective and maybe even some advice that could be the key to turning things around.
Several years back, I had the opportunity to join a very dynamic team for a large corporate company. As a brand new team we were required to seek out business from companies medium/large in size, that had not previously bought from us. It had the potential to be overwhelming, yet very exciting! After some great training and many role-plays later, off we went to take responsibility for our Sales Territories. My 3 best ‘friends’ became the ability to:
Prepare in advance for each customer engagement
Ask open questions
These ‘friends’ of mine were often the door openers, and most certainly the pathway to deal makers.
Andy Uff, Senior Sales Trainer
The advice I return to over and over again, and we all say it, is that people buy from people. And that doesn’t matter whether you’re selling unicorns or chairs. Selling is all about building trust and rapport. To do this, you have to understand your customers.
When we are kids, our parents teach us that we should treat people the way they want to be treated. I think that’s rubbish in terms of selling. Me, I like to talk. I like the chit chat before we get down to business. As a buyer, if you don’t invest time talking to me, then you’ve lost the opportunity to build a relationship. Other people, want to get straight down to business. So, understand how your customer wants to be treated and adapt your approach appropriately.
For anyone struggling in their current sales role, one of the best things you can do is to go on a customer visit with one of your successful colleagues. Look at their approach, the steps they take, the questions they ask. I’m certainly not saying you should copy what they do but ask yourself: is there any transferable skills you could try? And secondly, I would implore people to practice in a safe environment. Don’t practice on customers; if you make a lemon of yourself, you might not be coming back! But role play with your colleagues, sales manager, or even better, a subject matter expert.
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