“No pain, no sale.”
That’s what David Sandler, the father of the Sandler sales methodology, said. If your prospects don’t have an issue that they need to solve (a pain), then you won’t be able to sell them anything.
This is one of many sales best practices you can find to boost your sales process. The digital era has brought a shift in the ways salespeople sell – especially B2B where there are multiple stakeholders and years-long deals. Sales teams today deal with multiple communication channels, diverse customer backgrounds, changing business needs, and prospects who are increasingly well-informed – for example, customers are already 57 percent down the purchasing path before they contact a sales rep.
So, if you dwell in the sales space – as a salesperson or sales leader – what can you do to keep that sales line chart trending up? How do you build your sales strategy and ultimately get that sale? Here are 10 sales best practices that just might help:
|Top sales best practices for sales teams and leaders|
|1. Determine your sales methodology|
2. Take advantage of data
3. Set an omnichannel strategy
4. Be realistic
5. Use the right (amount of) tech
|Top sales best practices for salespeople|
|6. Prepare thoroughly before sales calls|
7. Customize presentations
8. Understand your customers’ “why”
9. Master the follow up
10. Keep your pipeline rolling
Channeling your and your team’s sales talent and natural persuasion skills is great at the beginning of a business’ life. However, as your customer and prospect base gets larger and more diverse, you’ll need a methodical approach to selling.
Enter sales methodologies.
You may have heard, or even used, some of these methodologies:
And there are many others. Each one of them is developed to meet particular needs for the sales process. When you have a methodology you want to work with, find or create a manual for the entire team to study and practice from.
None of the sales methodologies is a one-stop-shop solution. On the contrary, review and refine your preferred methodology according to your particular business model (and possibly over time). But, make sure you always take the time to learn each methodology properly. SAP spent many a day retraining their staff in the Challenger model back in 2012.
“To get to the top of the sales profession, you’ve got to practice. Find a system and learn it. Spend enough time getting to know it, and soon you will own it. And then, even under pressure, you will deliver.”
Anyone looking to succeed in sales without touching data may be in for a surprise. Data governs a great part of a business – it’s inescapable. So, if you want to apply sales best practices, dig into the numbers.
Data provides insight into a variety of factors: from practical issues, like what’s the best time of day to connect with prospects (by the way, research suggests the answer is between 4 PM and 5 PM for the US) or how to build an email cadence, to more complex ones like customer purchasing patterns.
It’s also important to use data to track your and your team’s performance. Metrics like meetings booked, leads converted, calls accepted, deals closed, etc. are used to identify bottlenecks or training needs.
So, here are some sales best practices in analyzing sales data:
The main reason you should look at data is that it allows you to see how you can use what’s working to boost sales and avoid what’s not working. This means you need to take a holistic view on the trends you’re looking at. As Rachel Stolar, Acquire’s Senior Sales Manager, puts it:
“Driving repeatability is essential for the success of any sales organization. In order to be effective in replicating what’s working you need to be looking at trends from both high performers and low performers. If you can’t replicate what’s working or proactively avoid what’s not working, it makes scaling revenue impossible.”
Today, customers engage with brands over a variety of mediums. They may tweet about a purchase on social media, call in support via live chat, and ask about pricing via your site’s chatbot. All of those touchpoints are important to understand your customers and help them discover your products or services.
This means your sales strategy should take into account the diverse and multi-step customer journey. That’s because the impressions of your brand customers discover via research and other touchpoints will affect your sales calls later in the process. So, here are a few things to consider:
Social selling is becoming one of the most important sales best practices. Research shows that top-performing sales reps consider social networking platforms "very important" to their success. Use social media like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to listen to customer needs and cultivate one-on-one relationships (e.g. by sharing relevant content).
Make sure, though, that social selling is part of your omnichannel strategy; this means that every interaction needs to be available in one place. All salespeople need to be able to see whether a prospect has been engaged on social media, when, and whether they had other interactions with the brand that need to be accounted for.
Unmanageable targets are the death of sales talent. Imagine you have a team of effective salespeople who keep your revenue going, and you decide to suddenly quadruple their targets in the next quarter to meet management and/or executive board expectations. This may be fine if the targets were low compared to what the team could do. But if the targets are too high, that can kill productivity and morale.
Some companies think that high targets will make salespeople work better and faster. That’s true only to an extent – if a salesperson starts the quarter realizing that the numbers don’t make sense for the team, then disappointment might hamper their skills and sales could drop. Instead, use psychology to motivate your employees more effectively.
Try to be rational when it comes to setting targets. Find that balance between challenging and unrealistic. If you yourself have been given unrealistic targets, it may be good to have a discussion about this, having prepared data on what is actually realistic. It all depends on the relationship you have with your manager or the business’ executives.
B2B sales are predominantly digital nowadays, and B2C is also following with a good amount of tech ingrained (e.g. in retail or ecommerce). This means that no matter what you do, you’ll be using multiple tools to organize, facilitate, and monitor your sales process.
The question is: which tools are the best for your company? And a follow up question: how many tools are too much? Today’s sales teams are often drowning in tools and this may reduce productivity in the end.
So, here are some sales best practices to evaluate and curate your sales tech stack:
To make sure you choose the right tools, you also need to know what kind of tools are out there.
Examples of sales tools are:
And many more.
One thing that most sales methodologies agree on is that the discovery call is the most important part of the sale. This call is when your business and a prospect explore whether you’re the right fit for one another. Discovery calls can make or break your sales deals.
That’s why one of the most important sales best practices is to research and prepare. Going into the discovery call without the proper information or preparation is a big no-no.
Here are some things that will help salespeople and prospects prepare for the call:
Use the list above as a checklist to make sure you’ve covered a lot of ground before the call. If you haven’t found information about a specific topic, think about how much you need it to engage your customer and whether it’d be good to ask them directly. For example, some salespeople may ask what other similar tools the prospect is evaluating at the moment.
Salespeople using the best sales techniques create presentations to make the business case for their product or services to prospects. These presentations or slide decks shouldn’t be generic: the more personalized the better.
That’s because these decks aren’t just your sales pitch to prospects, they have other uses, too, such as showing prospects you’ve done your research and giving them a ready-made presentation to use internally (for example, if they want to make a decision or get management approval).
So, here are a few sales best practices that can help you and your team to personalize your slide decks:
Your presentation works best as a living document. Share the document with prospects even before your initial call with them, so they can know what to expect. Then, work together during the call (sharing your screen comes in handy) and ask them to make notes or corrections with you. This helps you drive the conversation and get deeper insight into what the customer is thinking.
The key when talking to customers is about understanding what exactly it is they need. No why, no sale. As Acquire’s Sales Development Manager, Jill Button, says:
“The analogy I like to use is snorkeling vs. scuba diving. Snorkeling means that our team only scratches the surface of customer needs in the initial calls. Instead, we need to go scuba diving, go deep, and understand why the customer wants something. You want live chat on your site? Why do you want it? What do you want to achieve?”
Your strategy starts with asking meaningful questions or exploring topics like:
If you’re a sales team leader, it’d be good to give your team these questions as a checklist.
Throughout your conversation, ask “why”. Why is that, what do you think this will help, what would this approach offer to your company? You need to understand the ‘why’ and how important it is to them to change their current situation.
Also, ask about their process. Try to understand what their purchasing process is, where they are in that process, who the decision maker is and what they’re going to base their decision on. This will help you address their needs and also be useful for your follow up, too.
The key here is to pay more attention to your customer’s needs than the sale. Granted, you have targets to meet and limited time. But making a sale that ends up not benefiting the customer won’t end well – possibly tanking customer experience and your reputation, and leading to completely losing a customer.
So, if you realize your prospect isn’t ready to purchase, or that your own service isn’t a good fit, just say no. Tell the prospect you don’t think you can meet their needs right now. Refer them to partner or sister companies if you can. This attitude will also help break the stereotype that salespeople will do or say anything for the sale.
So the calls have gone well and you believe you’re at a good place with the prospect. Should you stop there and let them make a decision on their own? Probably not. You don’t want to appear pushy, but you also want to keep your company top of mind and speed up the process as much as possible. Deals die when salespeople don’t follow up.
So, here are a few sales best practices to keep in mind about the art of the follow up:
It’s a well-known fact in the sales world that one contact doesn’t usually make the sale. Five is the number of cold emails you need to send a prospect. Hopefully, you won’t need to send as many emails after your sales call before you get an answer (positive or negative). But, you’ll probably need to follow up more than once, for sure.
Don’t give up. Just try to be approachable, add value and avoid using canned, impersonal emails you’d send to all your prospects. Every single one of your follow ups should move the process along in some way, either by asking the right questions, or by offering valuable insight, or by creating a sense of urgency by reiterating the solutions to the customer’s pains.
Being great at selling once customers are through the door is critical. But, every salesperson needs, first and foremost, a healthy and steady flow of prospects. Applying effective sales prospecting techniques can help you maintain momentum and hit your targets in the long term.
Here are some prospecting techniques to use:
It’s also important to keep your pipeline clean and organized. Don’t settle for overdue follow ups or winnable leads that you haven’t approached with next steps. Letting prospects slip or not following up with them at all can kill your sales process.
Sales is a tough, competitive sport. But, few professions are considered more lucrative than that of a successful salesperson or sales leader, because sales is the livelihood of any business. It pays to discover more and more sales techniques that may work. Something simple like writing a sales email that stands out from your competition can add a lot of value.
So, do follow sales best practices, but – more importantly – think outside the box and listen carefully to what your customers are telling you. Remember that the best salespeople are first-and-foremost customer consultants.
Above all, be authentic and make the effort to discover and cater to the challenges prospects are facing. After all, no pain, no sale.
Nikoletta is a Content Specialist at Acquire. She's a writer and editor with an avid interest in data, tech, communication, and the customer journey.