Best Practices for Successful Sales Professionals by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

During my sales training programs I am often asked about the best practices I have adopted for myself over the years. I created this list Enjoy…Cindy

Attitude is everything – this may not sound like a best practice, but believe me it is. How we do anything is how we do everything. If your attitude is negative or cynical before you undertake any task it will definitely affect not only your results, but the experience of everyone who interacts with you.  Before you pick up the phone, go on a sales call or interact with others in your organization, do a personal check in.  Do an attitude check and ask yourself “Am I present and focused right now.  Is my intention positive or negative?”  When I do this I ask myself “Am I working in Mediocrity or Mastery today?”  I always choose Mastery and it sets the tone and my results for the day.

Goals, objectives and targets – setting BIG goals and high targets has always been the way I go about setting my objectives for the year. I set annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals.  I find by keeping the BIG goals in sight, broken down as daily actionable items really helps me stay on track.  Monthly I review my activities to see where I am on or off target and take any necessary actions.  I have a call sheet that I created so I can track my daily activities such as calls, proposals submitted or connections made, again a simple visible tool to let me know how I am doing.  There is a saying I heard years ago “Inch by Inch Success is a Cinch” and it sounds simple but it really does come down to what you do with your minutes to achieve your desired outcomes.

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan – this is the Intel slogan that I am in total agreement with. In addition to setting my goals and targets for the year, I also create an annual plan for marketing, new program offerings, newsletters and sources for new prospects. There are 5 questions that I learned from a leadership program to ask myself when I am creating my plan that really help:

    1. What do I know to do? (what’s obvious)
    2. What am I saying I will do? (get present to what you say)
    3. What do others expect me to do even though I haven’t said I would do it?
    4. What do I have to do to have my work complete?
    5. What do I have to do to make sure this is done as it was meant to be done?

I find when I ask these questions, it gives me a deeper connection and commitment to my plans, yielding me greater results.

Listening – Often people think that the sales people who have the “Gift of the Gab” are the most successful in sales. I used to think that many years ago when I first went into sales. I learned very quickly that this is not the case at all.  Salespeople who have the ability to listen to what is being said, as well as what is not being said, often report a much deeper connection with their clients.  I have found it very helpful to not only listen to the words a prospect or clients says but also to listen to the non-verbal communication.  Sometimes listening to tone of someone’s voice can reveal their level of commitment or enthusiasm about what you are offering.  Observing body language during a meeting is also another way to observe the level of interest.  It is one of the greatest gifts we can give to someone, the opportunity to be heard.

Questioning – It has been my experience that when I go into a meeting, whether a prospect or a client, I have more success when I come to the meeting with some relevant questions to ask. It is not so much about telling a customer what I can do for them but more about finding out what they need and then I can fit the solution to their specific need. By asking open ended and probing questions I gain a deeper understanding of the customer need.

Qualifying – I agree with Zig Ziglar – there are suspects, prospects and clients and everyone is a suspect until they are qualified.  I have many clients in many different sectors but they all have some common criteria.  I have found that once I identified the most relevant information that I need to qualify a potential customer, it helps me to move past the ones that most likely won’t do business with my organization anyway.  It is worth the time to identify what companies meet your qualifying criteria.

Talk to the Decision Maker – I know this sounds obvious but it can be tricky at times to get to speak with the senior person who ultimately makes the decision. Decision makers are busy people and have people to support them in a variety of duties, including screening incoming calls. It has been my experience to make friends with the assistant as a first step.  If you can’t speak to the decision maker first hand, I will start to develop a relationship with their assistant.  I recently confirmed an account with a large financial institution because I did just that.  It was over a year before I was able to get in front of the decision maker.  The VP said she admired my persistence.

Pleasant Persistence Pays – if there is one best practice that has yielded me the most results, it is being pleasantly persistent. I have a system of staying in touch with people that helps them keep me top of mind.  I know that often when I am cold calling there is very little chance that the prospect would have a need for training when I call (in fact I read recently it was a 3% chance that the person I was calling would have a need at the exact time I placed my call)  I have a very soft approach and because I am so lit up about the value we deliver and the benefits of working with me, often the prospect is curious about how Athena Training and Consulting Inc. could help them and are willing to meet with me.  My introduction meetings are very short and people are so pleased that I called them.  I provide them with a unique one-stop solution that simplifies their process.  I simply love sharing what we offer and I know what a difference it can make.

Objection Handling – Accept that objections are simply part of the sales process. Knowing your top three or four objections and preparing to handle them is one of the keys to ongoing success.  Often people’s objections are a signal that they either don’t fully understand how your solution will solve their problem or they want more information.  With some people their automatic first response is no. Years ago I lost a big opportunity because I wasn’t fully prepared to handle the objections that came up in a sales presentation.  I learned from that experience and now I do my best to assess any possible objections and I put them right up front in the presentation.  I deal with them before they even come up.

Recap for Understanding During a sales call I am always taking notes. I want to remember and document the pertinent information from each of my sales calls. This is particularly important when I am doing a needs assessment.  I make a habit of recapping my understanding of what there need is, the timing of the project and any other particulars that are relevant to the proposal.  I find when I read back the notes from our discussion there is often additional information and ideas that the client will add to our original discussion.  It also saves me from going off and preparing a proposal with any misinformation.

Know Values/Benefits –  To me this is critical to a Salesperson’s success. I am sometimes surprised to see how many of the participants in my sessions sell features.  I learned very early in my career that people buy benefits.  What can your product or service do for me? The WIIFM for everyone is critical.  I like to take it a step further and make sure that how you communicate the values and benefits be authentic to you.  Companies spend millions of dollars every year coming up with branding and slogans to let the world know who they are.  I think an Advisor should also infuse their own personality and values to any value proposition.  This goes a long way to deliver a truly authentic message from the sales person making the presentation.

Matching Styles – As humans we have a tendency to get along with and trust people who are much like ourselves.  I have found if I match pace and tonality when I am speaking with people on the phone, leaving voice messages or meeting face-to-face helps us to connect more quickly.  I have been in meetings where I simply didn’t connect with the person initially, and once I consciously started to match their pace and tonality I seemed to be able to develop rapport.  The key here is to be subtle and natural, otherwise the prospect will sense you are not being genuine.

 Tell the Truth – Like most Salespeople, I have been faced with delivering some not so good news to clients.  I have found that even bad news can be delivered professionally.  If I don’t know something, I simply take great notes and tell my prospects and clients that I will find out and get back to them.  I make sure I follow up in a timely manner.  Clients have told me that they appreciate my honesty.  This just makes good business sense to me if you want your clients to trust you, you have to be trustworthy.