All too often, the words ‘sales’ or ‘salesman’ conjures up images of the stereotypical glad-handing, fast-talking used car salesman, ready to make a quick buck at the expense of the customer. Polls regularly show car and insurance salespeople rank the bottom of lists based on perceived trustworthiness, and some polls show most respondents distrust all salespeople.
Like all stereotypes, the fallacy of the slick salesman has its roots in fact. Sometimes, those who make a poor impression in sales or fail in the area haven’t been trained well. We’ve got some suggestions to help you overcome negative impressions that come with the sales business and further, to help you excel in your own right.
Sell to fulfill a purpose. Many people enter the field of sales as a means to an end: they need money and they aren’t trained for other jobs. Desperation can make ‘sales’ a dirty word. The best salespeople are in the field to fulfill their own purpose and meet the needs of customers. The pride you take in selling a product or service in which you truly believe serves your clients’ results in improving your own performance and driving up your volume and revenue. Yes, Virginia: there is altruism in sales.
Be curious. Surveys conducted by the Harvard Business Review show 82 percent of top salespeople out of 1,000 respondents showed high levels of curiosity. As soon as people find out you are in sales, they expect you to pitch your product, but conversely, the most successful salespeople are those who ask more questions than they answer. Before you can know if the client needs your product, you must first know what the client’s needs are. And, pay attention to what the client doesn’t say: be an observer of body language to gauge if someone is tense or relaxed.
The customer isn’t always right. You should be an expert in your field, not an order-taker. That means you must be willing to take control of conversations, challenge inaccurate statements customers make, and be willing to guide them beyond what they think they know about your area of expertise.
Focus and control. In sales, you want to leave as little to chance as possible, so the best salespeople obsess over detail. That might mean laying out clothes the night before a big client meeting, creating a checklist of tasks to complete before a closing – even if you’ve already been through hundreds of closings. The most accomplished sales professionals have the ability to zero in on details and never stop sweating the small stuff.
We’ve all heard that some people are ‘born-salesmen’ and it may be true that a few of us seem wired with an innate understanding of what makes customers tick – but that’s a rarity. Like other skills, becoming great in sales requires study, practice and time.