Top Selling Techniques from 6 Sales Masters
As the Marketing Director for Ambition, I’ve been privileged to help interview some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales. Just as critically, I’ve realized that, when looking for quality, actionable sales and marketing content online, you’re often wading through a trough of the same hackneyed, non-actionable prose passing as insight.
The truth is that there are very few people in sales and marketing who are not only exceptional at what they do, but also possess both a desire and ability to put that knowledge into words and codify what works for them. (PeopleLinx CMO Michael Idinopulos: Definitely one of those people).
To my last point, PeopleLinx was kind enough to invite me onto their blog to pass along a few of the best selling techniques that sales leaders have shared with us over at Ambition. Let’s get to them.
Sell On the Shoulders of Giants and Adopt These Techniques
The following are six actionable insights that have helped our own sales efforts over at Ambition. So much so, in fact, that our business team leadership has taken many of these practices and codified them as a day-to-day best practice.
Scott Britton: Put the prospect before the pitch.
Scott Britton was my favorite interview we’ve ever conducted on the Ambition Blog. And the most important thing he taught our team was that, when making first contact with someone, be it by phone, by email, or in person, always start by establishing a desire to add value.
What Scott’s really getting at is that the first instinct of every sales person, to start by building their own credibility, should take a backseat to focusing on ascertaining the potential needs of the prospect. Or, as Scott put it, “you can grab somebody’s attention by rocking credibility or you can grab somebody’s attention by talking about them. I personally like to try to do both if I can, but I personally like to start by focusing attention on the person you are reaching out to.”
Scott’s major point: Don’t bowl over your prospects by rambling on about how your product is “best-in-class” or has “x number of features” at the initial stage of the conversation. Instead, look to start a two-way dialogue where you’re taking more of a consultative approach to helping the prospect, rather than coming at the conversation with a “this is a sales pitch” mentality.
Bonus tip: Never lead off a cold call or email with, “Hi my name is ___ and I’m with ___.” Replace that with, “Hi, [your name] here with [company].” Though it seems insignificant, you’re deviating from an opening line that your prospect a) has heard a thousand times before and b) carries a negative connotation.
John Barrows: Anticipate if and how you can add value. Then reach out.
One of the great things about social selling is that it can personalize cold outreach. And if there’s one thing John Barrows hates, it’s boilerplate, mass-produced, and generic pitches. As he pointed out in Episode 1 of our Sales Influencer Series, consumers are learning more about your company and product before they buy. Shouldn’t you do likewise before turning them into a prospect?
This goes to a much deeper level than just the content of your pitch. My favorite part of John’s interview was his proclamation: Relationship-selling and solution-selling’s days are over. The days of adding value are here.
That means researching and information-gathering a potential prospect to the point where you can lead off the conversation by explaining, in ways specific to both the prospect and his or her company, how you can add value.
In other words, do your homework. Use available resources like LinkedIn, Data.com, and Marketing Automation tools to quickly begin qualifying your prospective buyer before your initial outreach. That way, when you do reach out, you can jump much more quickly into a discussion about how your product can add value.
Lori Richardson: Qualify as soon as possible.
Dovetailing with John’s insight, Lori Richardson finds inefficient opportunity qualification to be a cardinal sin of many sales teams. Lori’s point: With every second you spend on an opportunity that’s been doomed to failure since day one, you’re costing yourself time that could have been used to find one that’s actually qualified.
Qualify your opportunities immediately. Your time is valuable, and as Lori aptly put it, “you cannot get your time back in sales.” Your deadline to reach quota agrees.
Max Altschuler: A Jedi Mind Trick for Sales Meetings.
Max Altschuler runs Sales Hacker and is widely regarded as a leading mind in tech-driven tactics for boosting sales. But as he confessed to Ambition in Episode 3 of the Sales Influencer Series, Max’s favorite method of sales hacking is via psychology.
The tactic he shared in our interview is useful for an in-person prospect meeting, where both parties are seated. Psychologists have determined that a prospect who is lounging back in their chair with hands folded behind the head and one leg crossed over the other are “catapulting.” It’s a position that denotes feelings of being in power. In contrast, individuals with crossed arms have their guard up.
In both scenarios, if you sense that you’re not getting through to the prospect, Max’s tactic is this: Hand the prospect a pen and paper or slide around to their side of the table and have them look at your computer. Why? You’re inducing them to open up, lean in, and engage intentively in what you have to say, while giving you back control of the conversation.
Skeptical? I asked my brother, a highly successful B2B sales professional if he ever used it, and he verified that not only is it one of his favorites, but that he deploys it at some point in just about every meeting. Try it and see what happens.
Matt Heinz: Fuse science and art into your sales process.
The Principal of Heinz Marketing and apex-level blogger on all things sales wants you to see your process as a repeating interchange of science and art.
What does that mean? For every step of the buying process, there are two periods — the interval between your next communication with the prospect, and your actual communication with the prospect.
Matt’s advice: The intervals are your time to study data, research your prospect, and recall best practices for your company’s particular sales process. The engagement periods are for artistry — you know you’re going to be off-script 15 seconds in, which means being well-prepared, mentally flexible, and locked in to overcome the sequences of adversity you’ll inevitably face.
Dionne Mischler: Be a good listener.
Guess who leaves a conversation with the more positive impression of how it went — the person who talked more, or the one who talked less? It’s the former. Which is the exact reason the final technique I’m sharing is from Dionne Mischler, and boils down to a simple mantra: Be a good listener.
That means being very careful about jumping in or cutting off your prospect while he or she is talking. It means taking mental notes of useful information your prospects share with you then later using their own words to influence the buying decision. My overarching point: Listen to Dionne. Especially if you’re one who tends to do most of the talking.
That concludes this list. Hopefully you found these six selling techniques to be as proven and actionable as our sales team at Ambition did. Stand on the shoulders of these veritable sales mavens, implement these practices, and reap the rewards. Special thanks to Josh Druck and PeopleLinx for hosting — look for a special Guest Post from them on the Ambition Blog later this month.
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