Making a sale can be a tricky and trying task—but if you know the essential do’s and don’ts of selling, you should have an easier time closing deals.
We consulted with sales coach and author Wendy Weiss, also known as The Queen of Cold Calling, Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies, and Paul Castain, Vice President of Jedi Mastery at Castain Training Systems, to compile two lists: the 10 things salespeople should never do, and the 10 things salespeople should always do.
Never have poor telephone or in-person etiquette
Weiss says chewing gum, eating, having music or television blaring in the background, talking to other people while you’re on the phone, not getting to the point, mumbling or not speaking clearly are all major turn-offs and are just plain rude. Doing any of these things can severely hurt your chances of making the sale.
Konrath says looking at your cell phone during a meeting is another big no-no.
Use common sense and treat your clients or prospects with respect.
Never project, jump to conclusions or mind read
“The prospect is in a meeting,” does not translate to, “The prospect knows that you are calling and does not want to speak with you,” Weiss says. “I’m busy and cannot talk right now,” does not translate to, “I don’t want to speak with you and I’m not interested,” she adds. “Too many prospectors read negatively into statements made by gatekeepers or prospects.”
Never be negative
Don’t allow failure to enter your vocabulary, Konrath says. “Redefine everything as a ‘learning experience,’ and then focus on figuring out how to get different results.”
“If a situation falls short of perfect, don’t think it’s a total failure and don’t over generalize,” Weiss says. Just because you had one bad cold call or one rejection doesn’t mean you should say, “Cold calling never works for me,” or “Prospects always reject me.”
Castain agrees. “Never take ‘no’ as a door slammed shut for all eternity. Regard ‘no’ as ‘not now.’ Leave the door open, and encourage the prospect to consider you as resource in the future.”
Never talk about inappropriate things
Never talk politics with a prospect or customer, unless you are 100% sure you’re totally aligned, Konrath suggests. “And, even then it might not be smart, because other members of the decision team may have different feelings.”
Salespeople are encouraged to ask questions—but they can’t cross the line. It’s good to get to know your prospect, but never ask overly personal questions or something that may make them uncomfortable.
Never claim to know the answer to something when you don’t
There’s absolutely no shame in telling someone that you don’t know the answer but will get one as soon as possible. “I’ve never done this and had someone say ‘How dare you?’” Castain says. “They will appreciate your honesty. And if they don’t, it’s a good indicator that they aren’t a good fit.”
Never rely on the phone as your sole source of prospecting
Everyone has their own preferred communication medium, so make sure you use a well-balanced mix of phone, e-mail, snail mail, social networking, conventional networking, and other creative approaches. Otherwise we limit our results, Castain says.
Never ask stupid questions
You should ask questions—but don’t inquire about anything that can easily be found on a company’s website. “You’ll lose credibility if you ask about it,” Konrath says.
Never be defensive or ashamed
When it comes to pricing, some salespeople feel the need to defend it (or are ashamed of it)—but that can be a red flag for the prospect, Castain says. If the price is higher than the prospect is comfortable with, remind them of the value and benefits.
Never get too comfortable
You should never stop prospecting, even if you feel good about your client base. “You should always focus on bringing in new business, making sure you retain the business, and growing that business,” Castain says. Always have a good balance of those things, and never get too comfortable.”
Never wing it
See No. 2 on the “Always Do” list.
Always target your prospects
Too many sales professionals spend far too much time chasing after inappropriate prospects. “Sales representatives can leverage their time by doing their homework first and only contacting appropriate prospects,” Weiss says.
Sales representatives should qualify their prospects at their earliest opportunity, and when they gain information that tells them a prospect is not a good prospect for their offer, they should stop contacting that person.
“Top sales professionals don’t wing it,” Weiss says. “They make it look easy, and that’s because they’re prepared.”
Do a quick search of the prospect, look at his website, or search for him on a site like LinkedIn before your first discussion. “What you discover can provide good food for discussion or create a connection,” Konrath says.
Other says to prepare by having a plan for the conversation. Know what you want to accomplish by the end, and then figure out what you need to do to achieve that outcome, Konrath adds.
Always be prepared to share compelling customer stories, complete with details on the initial status quo, problems encountered, a brief overview of what you did, and, most important, the results you attained, she says.
Always ask questions
“Always try to ask the questions that make your clients stop and think,” Castain says. “A good question might get you an answer, but a great question draws the other person inward, which might be the place where your greatest competitor lives.”
Too many sales representatives talk too much. Weiss suggests following the 80/20 rule. “The representative should spend 20% of their time with a prospect talking and 80% of their time with the prospect listening,” she says.
Always bring value
Focus on the difference you can make, not how you’re different from competitors, Konrath says. “Your prospects need you to clearly articulate the business value you bring, to determine if switching from the status quo makes sense.”
Always be focused on solutions
You should constantly be thinking about how you can help the prospect fix a problem they have, Castain says. “Also focus on solutions for yourself, too. If you’re having difficulty with a particular sale, think about how you might approach it differently.”
Always put yourself in your prospects shoes
Always remain in a frame of mind where you think about things from your client’s perspective, Castain says. “If you were them, what would get under your skin about doing their job? What would be your biggest challenges? What would be your biggest opportunities? Once you have this level of awareness, focus all your artillery fire on being helpful.”
Always be honest
Be honest about pricing and additional fees the client may incur, Castain says. “Also, always be truthful with bad news. Get that news to your clients early. The earlier you communicate the challenge, the more options there are available.”
Always ask for what you want
“The biggest reason representatives are unable to schedule appointments or close sales is that they don’t ask for the appointment or they don’t ask for the sale,” Weiss says. Share your intentions with the prospect up front.
Always follow up
“In today’s crazy-busy work environment, the prospect has abdicated nearly all follow-up activities,” Konrath says. Call or e-mail shortly after the meeting or conversation to stay on the prospect’s mind.
Next, follow up with yourself. “Always self-assess after a sales meeting,” Konrath adds. “Look at what you did well so you can repeat it, and identify your stumbling blocks so you come up with ways to avoid them in the future.”