As Alec Baldwin famously said in the film Glengarry Glen Ross: ‘Always Be Closing’.
And there’s no shortage of people looking to become closers. Amazon has 439,752 book results when you search the word “sales”. From titles like “The Psychology of Selling” to “Secrets of a Master Closer”, all offering advice on how, when, and why to sell.
But few books ever go beyond motherhood statements to the actual, tried-and-true techniques that help turn a fence-sitter to a converted and loyal customer. This can be especially deceiving for small businesses who are looking to grow their sales teams and a customer base from small beginnings.
Having led several sales teams over the years, here are a few sales tips I’ve picked up along the way to ensure you can build a successful company in the long term.
Find your proof points
Let others sell for you. Your existing customers are your greatest asset in any sale.
If you’re selling to a café with five staff, or a multi-national conglomerate with thousands, show them the proof that helps them see how your solution, product or service can specifically help them. Use case studies that show how Company A increased their close rate four times and lowered their sales cycle by a certain amount, because they used your solutions.
Use your customers as case studies and testimonials, and ensure that they’re so enthused with your company that they do the selling for you, unprompted.
Don’t just sell product, rather sell solutions
The term ‘salesperson’ is a bit of a misnomer: they should really be called consultants. After all, they’re there to consult and guide the customer, to highlight areas they can’t see.
Anyone can talk out a product’s features or pricing — it’s how to solve a potential customer’s problem that will really get them to agree to anything. A product isn’t useful unless it solves something — show them a solution to their problem and the product is likely to sell itself.
A strong qualification means a healthier pipeline
Closing a deal is a natural outcome of how well and clearly you qualify your leads. Don’t expect cold calls or emails to simply yield sales. Instead, ensure they meet four basic qualifications: does your lead have the need for your product, do they have the time, and do they have the authority and budget to move ahead with the deal?
Qualifying your leads well upfront will lead to a smaller but more efficient sales pipeline. After all, I would rather close 90 per cent of deals in a pipeline of 20 leads, as opposed to 30 per cent of a pipeline of 100 leads. An efficient deal pipeline is crucial to ensuring that your business is actually profitable and growing, instead of wasting time on potential sales that will never come to fruition.
Proactively lose deals to win more
It may seem counterintuitive to proactively lose a deal, but this can be a vital step in making for a more profitable business. At each stage of the deal, determine the probability of closing the sale and whether you’re likely to win or lose it. If you go with the latter, then you’re better of proactively stepping out of the running rather than trying to revive it. If you’ve lost a deal in the first stage and a few hours of effort, you’re better off than finding out after months of work that it won’t go through.
Know why you win deals
It is typical in many industries to ask for feedback when you lose a deal, and determine what went wrong. But it’s just as vital to know what caused you to win a deal. Determine what the key strengths were that got you over the line, and where those weaknesses remained, so you can continue to improve and get even better in future sales opportunities.
The best approach for any business to ensure a more productive sales pipeline is qualifying what goes into your pipeline, and proactively lose those deals that aren’t worth your time. In doing so, you can become more efficient, have more control over the deal pipeline and have a healthier business in the long run.
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