Being a salesman is one of the hardest and most challenging jobs out there today, full of high-expectations and very little in the way of guidance. There are so many ways to fail at sales, and not nearly as many ways to close the deal, so it’s no wonder this profession has one of the highest turnaround rates today. Many people have capitalized on the uncertainty of this role, and the market is now thoroughly saturated with self-help books, seminars, webinars, counseling, and role playing scenarios. With all this information out there, it’s difficult for the average salesman to know what to believe.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 14 million people work in the sales profession in some form or another. Sales is a very general category, including direct salesmen, marketing representatives, product spokespeople, and even retail clerks. In fact, most people, whether their jobs are directly classified as “sales” positions or not, do some form of sales in their jobs. Making presentations to coworkers or supervisors? Consider it selling your idea. Interacting with clients or customers in order to obtain business? This, too, is sales. For this reason, it’s important for anyone with a professional position of any kind to be knowledgeable and continually learning about how to improve their sales tactics. In any case, being a better salesperson, in life or at work, will improve your percentage of desired outcomes.
Certainly one of the most important factors in being a good salesman is personality – if you’re not likeable as a person, who’s going to buy anything from you? While it’s true that a shining disposition is helpful in this profession even more than others, there are many variables a person can actually alter to make themselves a better, more effective salesperson. Like with any other problem, the first step that must be taken in this journey of discovery is a thorough evaluation. What strengths do you posses as a professional? What are some of the weaknesses you may need to work on? Once you have thoroughly identified your best – and worst- qualities, you may then start to devise a plan to take action. Over time, effective implementation of known successful sales strategies are bound to pay off, both monetarily and in building your equity as an employee.
Your Personal SWOT Analysis
The first step in the process of identifying your strengths as an employee or salesperson lies in the answer to a few simple questions. These questions include:
- What are your organizational strengths?
- What do you like to do best at your current job?
- What did you show a natural aptitude for in school?
- What have you been complimented on or asked to teach others?
- What are the traits of people you work with that you also feel you possess?
Sit down with a pen and paper, and answer the previous questions in as much detail as possible. Consider it a brain dump: don’t hesitate to write anything down as you can always go back later and edit. What kinds of things did you find that were repeated throughout your answers? If you found that you frequently referenced organization, filing, or math, you are likely to have an aptitude for highly structured tasks. On the contrary, if you answered many of the questions with more human-based responses, that is, that you like to train new hires or work best in groups, then you might do better at more interactive tasks. While there is no set formula for evaluating these responses, seeing what you’re good at written down on a piece of paper can be a good way to build confidence in your strengths. It’s also important to know in which areas you shine, as you can draw on these strengths, no matter what they are, when you sell. The idea is to make your strengths work for you, which you cannot do until you identify what they are.
Now that you’ve figured out what talents come naturally to you, it’s time to discover which elements of your professional personality may need a little work. Everyone has areas in which they need practice or guidance, and the only way to learn to be better at something is to acknowledge a deficit. In sales, particularly, knowing your weaknesses can help you avoid common pitfalls that may tap into them while you sell. Continue the exercise above, but conversely with the following questions:
- What are your organizational weaknesses?
- What do you like to do least at your current job?
- What did you struggle with in school?
- What have you needed extra help from others at your current job on?
- What are the traits of other people you work with that you find less than desirable?
Answering these opposite questions will give you a good idea of what you need to improve on. Some weaknesses, like an inability to comprehend math or use proper grammar, are more difficult to learn than others, so it may be wise to learn strategies to avoid times when you’ll need to call on these skills. By highlighting your strengths while playing down your weaknesses, you’re sure to be on your way to becoming a better salesman.
You’ve identified your strengths and you’ve quarantined your weaknesses. Now what do you do? Let’s begin to talk more specifically about sales. The most important question you need to ask yourself is: Would you buy from yourself? Be honest about this one…if you would, you’re off to a great start. If you wouldn’t, take some time to go back to the drawing board and find out which of your weaknesses are causing you to give a “no” answer. Surely, if you wouldn’t buy from yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to, either.
There are a few cardinal rules of sales that everyone should follow whether they’re a high performing agent or new to the game. These rules, if enacted correctly, are nearly guaranteed to lead to more success in the sales profession, and likely increased confidence and happiness in all areas of life. Many of the qualities that make someone a good salesperson are the same qualities that draw humans to each other. Learning to be more effective at sales may make you more personable and help you in other areas and relationships of your life. Below, we are going to discuss in detail the 13 rules of sales. These simple but challenging steps are easy to grasp, but somewhat difficult to actually employ. Some take more perseverance than others, but following these steps will set you well on your way to a successful career in sales.
Let’s get started.
Keys to Success in Sales
Believe in your product
Have you ever been into a store and been completely turned off by the attitude of the people working there? If so, you’ve experienced what it’s like to try and interact with a salesperson who doesn’t believe in their product. It’s naïve to expect anyone else to be interested in purchasing what you’re selling if you don’t seem to be all that interested in it yourself, so whatever you’ve got, be it shoes, flooring, or travel planning services, do all that you can to get excited about it.
People are good at assessing how real your enthusiasm for your product truly is, so don’t try to feign interest to get results. If your product is such that you cannot find a way to get behind it, perhaps you are not the best salesperson for this particular job. The more sincere you are about what you’ve got to offer, the more people will get excited too, and this translates directly to more sales.
Listen more than you talk
One of the cardinal rules of sales, this proves to be one of the hardest, even for the most seasoned salespeople. Sure, you’ve got a great product and tons of knowledge to impart about it, but what does your customer really want? A chance to talk about themselves. While it may seem counterintuitive, allowing your client to speak to you about what their needs and wants are will not only help you gain valuable sales knowledge, but allows you to silently build rapport that you can later cash in for sales.
Put into practice, if you spend 20 minutes extolling the virtues of a new central air conditioning system to your client over the phone, only to find out that they live in an area that never gets above 60 degrees, you’ve wasted your time and theirs. On the same token, you’ve established with that client that you’re more interested in selling them what you’ve got than finding out what they need, which is never a good foot to start off on. Taking the time to listen to what they have to say as well as asking questions that get them talking gives you the opportunity to reposition your goods in a way that will appeal to them and their needs. In the same way that one size never fits all, one sales pitch is never right for everyone.
Put yourself out there
This rule is always the biggest problem for those who are new to sales, or those who are unfamiliar with their product. It’s natural to be nervous about selling – we’ve all had terrible experiences with salespeople at some point – but don’t let this color your view of what everyone thinks about salespeople. It’s true that “you’ll lose 100% of the games you don’t play,” so take a breath and go for it. One of the most helpful lessons to remember is that the worst thing that can happen to you in sales is that you’ll get told no, and even this is not insurmountable. Sales is, at its core, a numbers game, so the more people you present to, whether in context or not, the more sales you’re going to complete. And as with every new skill, practice makes perfect.
This rule goes hand in hand with putting yourself out there. There’s nothing less appealing than someone with a sour disposition, so if you’re having trouble closing sales, make a concerted effort to maintain a positive attitude. Negativity, even if it’s only in your head, is easily perceived by clients, and is an instant turn off. Try and remember that there’s nothing to gain from getting down, and that the sooner you get positive, the sooner you can express excitement for your product. As discussed, this excitement will ultimately lead to sales, rest assured.
Practice your persuasion
Salespeople are persuasive…no one questions that, but how did they get that way? The answer is practice. While some people are born with a natural charm and likeability, others need to learn these skills through interaction with other people. Practicing your persuasive ability, even in your personal life, will help you learn what humans respond to and what they don’t. Some of these things will be specific to your personality, so knowing what to do and what to avoid can only be ascertained through constant interaction and analysis.
Know your product
There’s nothing less convincing than someone who asks for money for something they know little about. How confident would you be having surgery performed by a doctor that only misspoke or made false claims 10% of the time? One tiny mistake when it comes to answering questions or talking about your product can undo all the expertise points you’ve already earned. If your product is something people can buy elsewhere, such as in a store or online, then part of what they’re paying for is your knowledge. Make sure you give these people what they ask for and encourage them to trust your claims by backing everything you say with facts.
In the same way people can tell if you know what you’re talking about, they can tell if you’re fudging the facts. People are smart, count on that. Being honest from the get-go and even confirming, then rebutting, the negative aspects of your product, you will gain trust from your clients. This trust is necessary and useful not only for closing the sale, but for laying the groundwork for future sales and referrals. A reputation as someone who doesn’t tell the truth is hard to shake.
Appeal to people’s emotions
People want to hear how your product can make their life better, period. While numbers and data are important in setting your item apart from others, the real selling point of any object or service is the impact it will have in the user’s daily life. Appeal to people’s natural sense of fear, doubt, or optimism, and position your product in a way that it become irresistible. Emotion is ultimately a stronger motivator than logic, so play to that when you’re selling.
Would you want to purchase something from someone who was bumbling, constantly said “um”, and seemed to be scared of you? Of course not, so don’t project this image to your clients. Showing confidence, even if it’s manufactured, helps instill that same confidence in your customers, which in the end will lead to sales. Confidence is truly one of the surest ways to convince people they have to have what you’ve got.
Dress for success
Consider every call you go on like a job interview, and dress appropriately. You’re asking your customers to give you a job, in a sense, the job of their salesman, so act the part. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should wear a suit, but be sure to dress as nice or nicer than your customers will be. Conversely, if you’re going to a manufacturing plant where everyone you’re selling to will be wearing overalls or sweats, don’t wear a three-piece ensemble. Dress professionally but appropriately and you’ll notice you get more respect.
Build long term relationships
Even if you don’t sell a particular customer today, never count them out as a potential customer for the future. You never know when their needs or what you’re offering may change. On that same token, people you attempt to sell to can and will act as references for you, so maintain these relationships as a form of constantly evolving personal marketing. You are a commodity just like your product, so keep yourself fresh in the minds of those you meet.
Follow up and follow through
Be sure to follow up with anyone and everyone you may meet. There’s nothing to be lost from getting turned down a second or even third time, and once in a while, you’ll hit someone who wants to reevaluate their decision. By following up, you’ll ensure your clients and potential clients remember your professionalism and dedication. Following through on promises or additional responsibilities made before or after a sale are equally important as they indicate your level of professionalism.
Never give up
Persistence is the cornerstone of sales. It’s so easy and tempting to stop after hearing “no”, but what makes good salespeople good is their inability to accept this answer. This doesn’t mean you should ever be pushy or overbearing, but continuing to press on with old and new leads is the only way to build your clientele and make those elusive but profitable sales that come from long-term relationships. The worst thing that can happen is that you can be turned down, so don’t stop trying to get where you’re going. True salesmen believe in themselves enough to know that the harder they try, the more they are guaranteed to succeed.
Sales is a tricky profession, but one that is naturally rich in opportunities for growth and monetary gain. Like many of the best things in life, you get out of sales what you put in, so follow the simple steps above to ensure you’re doing all that you can to perform as a salesperson. In the end, you’ll only lament the things you did not try, rather than regret how far out there you put yourself. Becoming a better salesman means learning more about not only your chosen profession, but about yourself. It’s a difficult and long process, but the end results will be well worth the effort.