In a previous post, we talked about sales techniques that have disappeared since the advent of the digital age. Today, we flip the script and focus on what works – the sales techniques that inspire true confidence, commitment, and action from your prospects.
We’re not going to be digging into the specifics of Web technologies or conversion-boosting tricks. This is all about mindset: How sales professionals can raise the bar on their results by centering their potential customers in the spotlight.
Let’s look at five of the top sales techniques that work today.
5. Collaborative Selling
Let’s face it: Nobody likes to be sold to.
Online technology puts prospects in control of the sales process. Where it starts, ends, and the pace it moves at are in their hands. Typically, they don’t end up on the sales radar until they take deliberate action to show their interest.
When they do decide to talk to sales, they don’t want to get the bum’s rush.
As a sales pro, it’s easy to do things in a way that causes the prospect’s shields to go up. Since most prospects know little about modern sales techniques, they probably envision an unsavory character – the telemarketer who won’t go away, for example.
You can challenge these preconceptions with collaborative selling.
Collaborative selling is a philosophy that starts with the hardest step: Acknowledging not all prospects will become buyers. From there, you work with prospects to learn about their needs and what you can do for them. The key is simple: Active listening.
By giving prospects plenty of time to open up about themselves, sales pros can get real insight into their needs – while allowing them to talk themselves into the product or service on offer.
Collaborative selling is built around the idea of generating unique value, which naturally turns the prospect from a potential foe to be “convinced” to a partner in a dynamic and helpful process.
4. On-Site Demonstrations
An on-site demonstration is the ideal approach for selling complex software or equipment. It can be challenging to manage the logistics of such a demo, but it’s worthwhile. Committing to an on-site visit shows your prospects three things right off the bat:
- You have nothing to hide, since you’re showing your product in action, face-to-face;
- You are thinking seriously about exactly how your product can add value for a client;
- You are committed to doing what it takes to make a deal – including post-sale support.
Such sales techniques usually require coordination from multiple team members – including sales engineers and others. All this extra effort has the effect of proving that your enterprise is really equipped to deliver a high level of service.
It also gives your lead the opportunity to do some of the work for you: He or she can start to imagine how your solution will fit into the current business climate. It’s easy for the lead to start thinking in terms of justifying the decision – since on-sites take time to plan and schedule.
Odds are good that a potential customer won’t go through more than two or perhaps three on-sites, and will want them to be out of the way as quickly as possible. Making a strong impression can mean that any competitors will be left out in the cold so a sales agreement can get inked faster.
3. Thought Leadership
These days, it may seem like everyone and their dog is a self-proclaimed “thought leader.”
It’s become so common right now that it’s easy to come to the conclusion that thought leadership doesn’t mean anything. That’s not so much the problem, however – it’s more that many brands have lost track of the original meaning of thought leadership.
Thought leadership isn’t just about having an answer to the prospect’s problems, but a truly solid understanding of why your way is better. It helps define your brand identity through an approach to adding value that nobody else matches.
Thought leadership isn’t defined by what others say – that’s social proof. However, the prospect still needs to agree and embrace the idea that you’re a pioneer in your field. The surest road to that outcome? Great sales, marketing, and Web collateral.
Yes: This is an area where sales and marketing can work together to achieve great things.
Depending on your market, thought leadership content can include things like whitepapers, case studies, conference speeches or notes, and the presentations you can develop from all of these.
Prospects are usually exposed to thought leadership content fairly deep into the sales funnel. Used correctly, it does a great job of pre-selling your most important benefits and advantages. Plus, it may give prospects questions you’ll be well-equipped to answer.
2. Building Rapport
Building rapport with your prospects is perhaps the #2 most important thing you can do.
(We’ll get to #1 in a second.)
Look at any crowded sales situation where prospects have plenty of options – for example, LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, no one has to interact with you, even if you’ve successfully worked out a way to provide exactly the resources a certain contact needs.
All in all, people are far more likely to give you their time and attention if they like you. And, by taking a genuine interest in other people, you can achieve that and still remain fully authentic.
We know of one high-powered LinkedIn seller who takes hours to research a prospect before reaching out – and always comments on something local, like a favorite sports team, before getting down to business.
The time investment is offset by an amazing success rate getting phone appointments.
Today’s sales landscape is complex, and customers might have half a dozen different touchpoints with your brand before they speak to you. Still, there are plenty of ways to build rapport:
- Ensure an automated email campaign is addressing prospects’ common questions;
- Connect with prospects using one-to-one conversations through your social media;
- Share Web content that helps to address your customer’s problems and pain points;
- Follow up in a personable, humane way to keep prospects from lapsing into silence.
And that brings us to the final, but most important point.
1. Adding Value
Old-fashioned selling was all about keeping the pressure up. These days, prospects in all but the most complex and specialized industries have plenty of options. If they feel pressured, they can skip out. And once they’re gone, they’re not coming back.
Knowing that, sales teams need to focus on one thought: Adding value.
Companies can add value throughout the sales cycle by understanding the prospect’s perspective at each step and generating insightful, useful, and interesting content.
This not only helps to build trust, but serves as a preview of the quality of materials prospects can expect once they take the plunge and become customers. Always ask yourself “what’s in it for them?” and if the answer isn’t clear, sweeten the pot.
That doesn’t mean you have to compete on price. Far from it: When you know how to add value, you can support premium pricing and ensure your ideal customers are pleased to have paid it.
That’s the heart of inbound marketing – and the key to successful sales techniques today.