Most salespeople would tell you that there are few better feelings in life than closing a deal. This is because guiding a customer through the sales process and coming out the other side with dollars committed isn’t a matter of blind luck. It’s a craft — based on equal parts data mining, psychology, intuition and other skills. Many sales staffs were under unprecedented pressure last year. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered changes to the economy that made many buyers cut back on spending. Now that the economy is slowly recovering, sales opportunities may be improving.
Here are four steps your salespeople can follow to improve the odds that those chances will come to fruition:
1. Qualify prospects. Time is an asset. Successful salespeople focus most or all their time on prospects who are most likely to buy. Viable prospects typically have certain things in common:
- A clear need for the products or services in question
- Sufficient knowledge of the products or services
- An identifiable decision-maker who can approve the sale
- Adequate financial standing
- A need to buy right away or soon.
If any of these factors is missing, and certainly if several are, the salesperson will likely end up wasting his or her time trying to make a sale.
2. Ask the right questions. A salesperson must deeply understand a prospect’s motivation for needing your company’s products or services. To do so, inquiries are key. Salespeople who make great presentations but don’t ask effective questions tend to come up short. An old rule of thumb says: The most effective salespeople spend 80% of their time listening and 20% talking. Actual percentages may vary, but the point is that a substantial portion of a salesperson’s “talk time” should be spent asking intelligent, insightful questions that arise from pre-call research and specific points mentioned by the buyer.
3. Identify and overcome objections. A nightmare scenario for any salesperson is spending a huge amount of time on an opportunity, only to have an unknown issue come out of left field at closing and kill the entire deal. To guard against this, successful salespeople identify and address objections during their calls with prospects, thereby minimizing or eliminating unpleasant surprises at closing. They view objections as requests for information that, if handled correctly, will educate the prospect and strengthen the relationship.
4. Present a solution. The most eloquent sales presentation may be entertaining, but it will probably be unsuccessful if it doesn’t satisfy a buyer’s needs. Your product or service must fix a problem or help accomplish a goal. Without that, what motivation does a prospect have to spend money? Your salespeople must be not only careful researchers and charming conversationalists, but also problem-solvers. When you alleviate customers’ concerns and allow them to meet strategic objectives, you’ll increase the likelihood of making today’s sales and setting yourself up for tomorrow’s.