Business Strategy

7 Habits of Highly Effective Sales People

Effective Selling Techniques

No matter how good you are at selling, there is always room to improve and grow. Success in sales shouldn’t be focused solely on meeting your numbers.

You’re also selling the brand and the company and that’s as important as selling the product or service because in the end, both you and the company will benefit from customer loyalty and referrals.

The best sales people are those that know how to build relationships. They are empathetic–putting themselves in their customer’s shoes to try and understand that customer’s perspective–and good communicators and listeners. Here are practices you can put in place to build those relationships and up your own sales game:

  1. Know your market and understand what you’re selling. It’s tough to be effective if you don’t really understand what you’re selling, why you’re selling it and what the market for it looks like, from both an industry and customer perspective. Study the competition, their products and how they are pitching what they sell. How does your product or service stack up against theirs? What differentiates the two? Where is there crossover?
  2. Don’t pitch; have a conversation. Pitch is an old-fashioned term for a dated technique—throwing a lot of information at prospects and hoping something sticks. That’s far less effective, say sales experts, than making the sales process a collaborative one. Having conversations instead suggests you want to engage with this person to help them. And that means listening to a potential customer to find out what their challenges are, what they are struggling with and how your solution can help them. In that way you will build long-term relationships with customers who trust you.
  3. Take ownership. The best salespeople face difficult times by taking responsibility for improving their own performance. They don’t blame other departments or other people. Sales in most industries are cyclical and there will always be ups and downs, so take responsibility for navigating the down times. Successful sales people ask questions like “How can I meet my numbers despite these tough conditions?’ “How can I help with marketing?’ or “What can I do to help my customers see the value of our products in the long term?” They work to find innovative ways to thrive, even during tough times.
  4. Refine your leads. Sales are all about lead generation, so refine your own process so that leads are as precisely targeted as possible. You want to find high-quality leads that really need what you’re selling. That starts with knowing your market and then drilling down to what your individual buyer looks like. Learn what problems they struggle with and how can align your messaging and offerings to that. If the leads you target have needs that are aligned with your solutions they are more likely to buy.
  5. Use your CRM. Your customer relationship management system exists to help you learn how your customers are interacting with both you, their sales rep, and your site—what blog posts they’ve read, pages they visited, emails they opened and on which they clicked. This is valuable information, as it tells you what they may be looking for and that’s the best way for you to start a conversation with them. Your CRM can also be used to set certain, sales-specific tasks–like when to follow up with a potential client or send out marketing materials—and help you manage lots of leads at the same time, making sure important tasks don’t fall off your list.
  6. Set goals. Every sales rep has a quota to hit that’s set by management but you should also set your own, one that kicks in after you hit your mandated quota, to keep you motivated and build your pipeline. Determine an objective for each prospective client you contact because that will determine the information you need to prepare for a call or meeting.
  7. End meetings with a “next action.” It’s common for a meeting to end with you, as the sales rep, saying you will follow up about next steps to take. But whenever possible don’t wait, instead establish those next steps before you leave, including a date and time for your next meeting.

About the Author

Eilene Zimmerman is a journalist who writes about entrepreneurship, technology, small businesses and the workplace. She was a career columnist for the New York Times and is a regular contributor to the paper's small business section.