I never envisioned myself as a salesperson, and once I started in sales, I never believed I could be successful. I had no idea of how to make a sale, plus I hated making a “pitch,” had a hard time with rejection, and never wanted to be perceived as pushy. Yet, somehow I achieved success early on without compromising my integrity or doing anything that made me feel uncomfortable.
My entire career, I have served as a partner and resource to other salespeople, meaning that I have observed hundreds of presentations and dozens of selling styles. I have been amazed at the skill of some salespeople and cringed at the strategies of others. Here are the best takeaways I have learned on how to make a sale:
Preparation is key!
If you want to learn how to make a sale, you should first read about what to do before your meeting with a potential client. Actively prepare for your meeting, and realize that about 40% of the sale happens before you shake your prospect’s hand. Leverage your network to create trust and common ground before your meeting by asking for referrals. Establish credibility by providing materials published by yourself or your organization. Make sure that you have the correct individuals attending your meeting, and learn as much as you can about them. What motivates them? Who is the decision maker and what are they looking for?
Research the organization you are visiting to learn about their culture, challenges in the marketplace, competition, etc. Utilize a touch point multiplier prior to your meeting to increase your chances of closing the sale, and understand what each decision maker wants from your organization. Prepare questions ahead of time that demonstrate your expertise in your own industry, while exhibiting your understanding of the challenges your prospect faces.
Beginners promise to provide value to their potential clients once they contract with them. Seasoned salespeople demonstrate their ability to provide value as bait. Sales Ninjas provide value before their meeting, during the meeting, and following the meeting. They create such an impression by leveraging industry knowledge and original ideas that prospects feel excited to work with them. I am not suggesting that you give away your entire strategy, but do what is right for the potential client. If your prospect mentions a problem you cannot solve, do your best to provide guidance or direct them to someone who is an expert in that area.
Ask your prospect if they can think of ways your organization can help. One time, I asked a CFO if he could sit down with each employee and deliver the same message, what would it be? He told me he would ask each employee what they prefer as a way to decrease medical premiums: an increased deductible, a network change, or changes to their prescription drug coverage. I offered to collect that information as we spoke with each employee, thereby creating value and helping him achieve his goals.
Rely on your team.
The position of power in a sales meeting is the individual who speaks the least. Bring a team member along with you and ask them to contribute to the meeting. For example, let’s say that you brought a team member who specializes in communication strategies. Find an opportunity to ask your teammate for their input on how your organization can create an effective communication campaign for the prospect. If you explain the process, your prospect will feel like you are selling it to them. If your colleague explains their ideas, your prospect’s guard will go down and they will feel more comfortable.
Not only will this establish your role as a consultant, but it will also help create a solid team with a vested interest in what happens after you close the sale. As your team grows and better understands how to make a sale, they will begin treating each interaction with more care and strategic thinking.The position of power in a sales meeting is the individual who speaks the least. Click To Tweet
Create collaborative dialogue.
Beginners speak throughout a meeting because they do not understand how to make a sale effectively. Seasoned professionals ask open ended questions to get conversation flowing. A Sales Ninja asks strategic questions that establish their authority as an industry leader and their understanding of the unique challenges the client faces. These questions leave a lasting impression and cause your prospect to tell you what they want.
A Sales Ninja facilitates and seamlessly guides the conversation into a collaborative effort. These questions delve into the prospect’s true needs and lead to strategic dialogue. A Sales Ninja guides the prospect to cast their vision and provide instructions on how their organizations can work together. The prospect feels that they are beginning a partnership and looks forward to the next steps. Sales Ninjas do not have to do any selling because they are so efficient at guiding the conversation.In a sales meeting, facilitate conversation so your prospect casts their vision with you in it! Click To Tweet
Help the client create their own urgency.
Learning how to make a sale includes understanding how to create urgency for your product or service. This is most effective when the client creates their own deadline. Your success in this area depends completely on your research prior to the meeting and getting your prospect to speak.
For example, an HR Director wanted to delay while she “thought things over.” Through conversation, I learned that she just found out she was pregnant. I mentioned that the hospital plan did not have a pre-existing condition clause. Once she understood that an employee could receive a $3,000 check after being hospitalized (thus eliminating their deductible), she quickly agreed to the dates I had hoped for. Another time I found out that an industrial client was making uniform changes and needed boot sizes for each employee. I offered to collect the boot sizes as we took benefit elections. Since they needed the boot sizes in four months, we scheduled my team to enroll 9 weeks after our meeting.
Use behavioral science to create a win.
Once you understand what motivates each individual in your meeting and how people think, you will be well on your way to understanding how to make a sale without hard selling (aggressive, high pressure selling). Here are a few examples of how you can use behavioral science to close the deal:
Offer your prospect a “no.”
- I reserve this tip for a true Sales Ninja. People feel better about saying “yes” to something after turning something else down. It makes them feel like they are in control. Your prospect wants to feel that they are in control of the meeting, and is much more likely to say “yes” after they tell you “no” on something else. Strategically offer a small “no” to them before asking for what you really want. They will feel more comfortable after turning you down once, and feel that they are in control of the meeting.
Stay positive throughout the meeting.
- Set a positive tone immediately and maintain it with every interaction. Set the expectation that every exchange with you will be positive. Never speak poorly of anyone, including your competition. When you speak badly about others, the human brain does something called spontaneous trait transference. Basically, your prospect will subconsciously associate the negative traits you describe with you and your organization!
Set high expectations.
- In psychology, there is a phenomenon known as the Pygmalion effect. Pygmalion, a sculptor, crafted a beautiful carving of a woman. He expected her to become alive, and legend says that his expectation was fulfilled. We observe the Pygmalion effect in classrooms, families, and workplaces. In one experiment, a teacher was told that three students scored high on placement tests, even though they did not. By the end of the school year, those three students were top performers. Basically, a higher expectation leads to higher performance. Set high expectations for your relationship with the prospect. For example, “I can tell that we are going to work well together.”
Use behavior modification techniques.
- Reinforcement involves adding a positive experience when someone acts in a desired way. For instance, providing praise when your child picks up toys reinforces their behavior. Extinguishing a behavior is removing a reward. For example, if a coworker enjoys spreading gossip but you refuse to participate, you will remove the part of the process they enjoy, thereby extinguishing the behavior. Punishment is adding a negative consequence to discourage a behavior. Reinforcement is by far the most effective way to change someone’s behavior. Reinforce positive interactions with your prospect by making them feel good every time they interact with you.
Control the deliverable items.
A beginner will send a thank you note following their meeting and wait to hear back from the prospect. A more experienced person takes detailed notes and follows up with a thank you note and next steps. They might also make a few follow up calls in an attempt to close the sale. A Sales Ninja leave the meeting with a follow up meeting on their calendar and complete control of the deliverable items. By guiding the prospect in conversation, they dictate the follow up items and establish a need in their prospect’s mind. The Sales Ninja solidifies trustworthiness and reliability by making small promises and keeping them.
You cannot really understand how to make a sale without understanding how to prepare. 45% of your sale happens before the presentation, while the presentation is only 10%. Follow up after the meeting is just as vital as it represents the other 45!
Learning how to make a sale is not difficult. It is about putting yourself in your prospect’s shoes and leveraging your expertise to do what is right.