SALES TECHNIQUES, METHODS & STRATEGIES
1. How does your sales technique and method affect business development?
2. How does your sales technique and approach affect your company’s image?
3. How customers judge your company and sales staff by your sales approach?
4. How can customers become offended or ‘turned off’ from a sales approach or technique?
5. What is a more affective sales approach to business development; nurturing current customers which is often called “The Farmers Approach” or aggressively seeking out new customers which often is called “The Hunters Approach”?
6. How can a company utilize a team approach to enhance their sales approach and business development?
7. Why is it critical for sales staff to be trained in marketing and understand it?
8. How many sales approaches or techniques are there?
9. What is the best sales technique, method or approach?
10. What are the dangers and short comings of being trained in one specific sales technique?
11. Are there sales techniques or approaches better for specific markets, industries, or types of customers?
12. What are the different definitions or types of closing?
13. How to understand and apply affectively various sales techniques, methods, and approaches, utilizing a mental image of a diamond turning or rotating?
14. Is there such a thing as “a natural born sales person or account manager”?
15. What comes first, natural sales abilities or training? (Similar to, what comes first, the chicken or the egg?)
16. Is sales training needed and if so, how often?
17. If sales training is needed, who or what staff should be trained?
18. What are the important ways to make sure that sales staff utilizes good sales techniques and approaches regularly?
19. Is marketing and marketing communications important in successfully using sales techniques, methods, and approaches?
20. What are the fundamentals and key factors to a successful sales technique, method, or approach?
I am often asked about what sales technique or approach that I like the best or think is the most affective in producing good sales results.
I hear this question from all levels of management as well as from people early in their business career.
Sometimes people tell me about the specific sales method and approach that they are trained and proficient in, making them so great.
Some management level people tell me about how their company dedicates effort to a specific sales technique and approach.
Some comment how they are looking for sales people who are “Hunters” and not “Farmers”.
They sometimes even tell me how they do formal testing as pre screening for new sales people to eliminate the “Farmers” and determine who the true “Hunters” are.
Some comment how they only hire engineers with some amount of sales experience to give them the best sales staff.
When I hear these comments and questions, I know that these people need some additional training and experience to learn how to manage and support business development and sales efforts.
After you have read this library subject, you will understand why I say this.
The information to the above twenty questions is critical for business development.
Some of this information can be found in the other library subjects on this website.
In this library subject, I will present the information a little different and in more detail.
As like the other libraries, I will share the information with you in simple easy to understand terms and illustrate much of it with actual true stories.
Let’s start out with the bold statement that “Sales techniques, methods, and approaches significantly effects sales and business development in many ways”.
A poor sales approach will keep you out of a customer or get you kicked out of a customer, pretty quickly.
In addition, a poor sales approach or lack of one can also make your competitor look so much better than you, to customers.
What this means is that for you to grow and improve business, you must improve your sales approach, techniques, and methods.
If you do not, you chance losing customers, not gaining customers, and making customers think that your competitors are better than you.
Your sales approach and technique by your staff is a direct reflection of your company and your image.
To confirm this, just ask your customers.
How do you feel about a store, restaurant, automobile dealership or repair shop, or some other service, that treats you well and the staff have great skills in working with you and your needs?
Probably, you feel pretty good about such places and businesses. You will give them repeat business and probably have told others about what good businesses these are.
Now, for those businesses or places that have not treated you well or not shown good professional expertise, you probably do not go back there. You probably have told several people about how bad these businesses and places are.
With those businesses and staff that you have had a good experience with, the staff’s approach to you and your needs is what satisfied you.
The staff are what made you want to come back whether the business and its’ management was actually good or not.
After all, most likely you probably did not meet the senior management or owner.
With those businesses and staff that you are not satisfied with or are not pleased with, you probably think the entire company or business is bad in addition to their staff.
Whether the business and its leadership truly are bad or not, how the staff treated you gave you your impression of the business as a whole.
The staff produced the image of the business or company.
You will be interested in knowing that some studies indicate that satisfied customers will tell about 3 to 4 other people about their pleasurable experience; and dissatisfied customers will tell 10 to 11 other people about their unpleasant experience.
What does this tell you?
It tells you five important things.
First, your staff produces your company’s image to customers and the market place.
Second, is that satisfying customers and gaining their respect will gain you referrals, additional new business, and repeat business.
Satisfied customers that have a good experience with your staff become your best sales people without having to pay them or put them on your payroll.
Third, is that “turning off” customers or not satisfying them will not only lose you their potential business but they will tell so many other people not to do business with you.
They will actually chase potential business away from you.
Fourth, is that you would be very wise to get the best and well trained staff possible that will work well with customers.
Fifth, is that you would also be wise to find ways to continually improve staff’s skills to work even better with customers.
Continual sales training will help produce sales staff improvement which in turn will improve sales.
Continual sales training is a very cost effective approach to increase sales and profits.
Keeping these simple examples in mind, you will start to understand how important sales approaches, techniques, and methods truly are to your company and business for sales growth and even preventing business losses.
Customers are busy, pressured in getting their tasks completed and done well, sensitive to how they spend their time, sensitive to their own ego, sensitive to their needs, sensitive to doing a good job to produce job security; often they are well informed and educated.
Any sales approach, technique, or method that upsets them or insults them in any way will “turn them off’.
“Turning them off’ will prevent you from doing business with them and will cause them to think your competitors are far better than you especially if the competitor’s staff have not upset or insulted them in any of these areas of sensitivities.
“Turning them off” simply means not satisfying them, not making them feel good about spending time with you, or not feeling good about doing business with you or worse yet, you caused them to have a negative feeling towards you.
It is important for you to think a little deeper or in more detail at this point.
Knowing that sales staff are dealing with customers’ with sensitive issues and needs, how are they to know how to be aware of these sensitivities, do a better job meeting the needs, avoid doing anything that could “turn the customers off”, and avoid creating any type of negative or unpleasant feelings in customers.
The answer should be obvious; in addition to sales training, sales staff must learn how to ask questions, ask the right questions, research, network, and creatively probe.
Today’s business world requires that sales staff conduct far more research and investigation on potential customers, key contacts and their needs, than ever before.
Remember, generally speaking “people like to buy but they hate to be sold.”
Sales staff must be well trained in many sales techniques and approaches, and be ready to
adapt to all situations with professionalism and courtesy.
You must thoroughly understand your customers’ needs and challenges, and all key contacts.
To accomplish this will take highly trained sales professionals, highly trained management and leadership, as well as highly trained marketing and sales support staff to work with as a team.
Sales people just showing up with a sales technique and some product knowledge will not contribute to business growth and sales, compared to a more comprehensive approach as we will be discussing in this library subject.
Marketing, customer service. and sales support staff need to be trained and experience to have a full understanding on how to effectively support sales efforts for business growth.
The business world has become far more challenging and competitive.
Today, professional sales people need to be well trained in many approaches, techniques, and methods, plus must do extensive research on customers and the key contacts.
They must be ready to prove that they are valuable to the customer and the key contacts in the customers.
Years ago, a sales person could walk into the front lobby of companies where there was a receptionist.
You could ask for the names of appropriate contacts such as buyers, engineers, department managers, etc., and the receptionist would actually call the contacts.
Many of these people would come up to the lobby to briefly meet with sales people about their products and services.
Business has changed.
Many companies do not have receptionists sitting up in the front of the building to greet people.
If you do not have specific names and telephone numbers of the key contacts you have to network aggressively to get the information.
Since staff levels are now limited, company staff do not have time to speak or meet with sales people unless there is a problem, an emergency, or some real good reason for it.
Of course this creates another problem.
Companies struggle to keep up to date on new products, services, and technology available, and possibly things that could help improve efficiencies, cost savings, and their competitiveness.
Staff often do not have time to attend trade shows or read trade publications to help get some of the knowledge either.
Several years ago I remember a cartoon that illustrated this situation.
The cartoon had a picture of a King getting ready to lead his men and troops into battle with their bows, arrows, spears, and swords.
Nearby was a sales person asking for just a few minutes of the King’s time to talk with him.
In the arms of the sales person was an automatic machine gun.
The caption under this cartoon read something like “No, I am too busy with the battle to see any sales person or talk with them”.
With today’s business climate of companies downsizing, time is very precious.
Companies do not have staff levels to where sales people can easily meet with all of the appropriate people to discuss business and important new products and services now available.
If sales people are lucky enough to get a few minutes on the telephone with any of the key contacts, they must prove their value within a few minutes into the conversation or they will not get a second chance to go any further.
The same happens if they can actually get a personal meeting.
A sales person has just a few minutes to use a good sales approach and technique to prove their worth to gain the interest of the customer.
This means that sales people need to do adequate research about the company and potential customer prior to any sales calls or conversation.
They need to understand the customer’s business, challenges and needs.
Then, this information needs to be incorporated into an effective sales approach and technique.
Often, I hear comments from companies’ management about needing sales staff that are “Hunters” and not “Farmers”.
Such comments tell me that these companies have 3 important issues needing improvement on and until they improve they will not be growing their business significantly.
The 3 issues are:
1. The management themselves may need some extensive training in sales, marketing, management and business development to help them manage business development efforts.
2. The companies may lack adequate marketing, marketing communications and other sales support that could support a strategic sales approach and sales methods.
3. The sales staff may not be adequately trained and may lack experience
It is important for sales staff to have a mind set, experience, skills, and discipline in both “Farmer” and ”Hunter” approaches.
The “Farmer Approach” which primarily is customer service, good communications and report with customers, and prompt service to all customer needs which is important to keep customers, possibly grow some sales, and keep competitors out.
But it can be leveraged with a “Hunters Approach” to seek out new additional business in upcoming new projects or programs, other company divisions, other company locations, possibly sister companies, and even to find out who their competitors are which of course can be potential new customers for you as well.
Of course the “Hunters Approach” is needed to seek out, contact and visit potential new customers. Sales staff not comfortable with either, needs training or maybe they are not a good fit for the specific sales position that requires such effort.
It is my experience that most sales people need support in finding new potential customers and contacting them.
Rarely, have I seen field sales staff able to do an affective job of this by themselves.
Few sales people are good at this important function but yet so many companies rely on their sales staff to do this.
I suggest that companies also utilize customer service and sales support staff to help find new customers and make initial contact with them.
I do not recommend relying totally on the field sales staff to accomplish this important function by themselves.
Management’s quest to find sales people that are “The Hunters” may never be satisfied.
Seeking out and acquiring new customers in all of a company’s markets is a very important strategic strategy that if done effectively will significantly contribute to business development.
You must also keep in mind the time line to convert possible new customers showing some interest in your products or services to actually doing business with you.
This will take a longer time frame than expanding business with a customer that you already have a good business relationship with.
The only time that you can convert a new potential customer to a customer purchasing from you is a situation where you are satisfying a real important need that they are struggling with or resolving a serious problem that no one else can help them with.
A company will struggle with increasing new customers if they are relying exclusively on the efforts of field sales staff for this critical function.
Only with an aggressive team effort utilizing several support channels will any company or business satisfy their need for acquiring new customers.
Such a team effort needs to have a process established with measurements, time lines, reviews, and incentives.
Support channels for such aggressive effort for developing more customers should include;
Inside sales staff
Outside / field sales staff
Customer service staff
All company management staff and assign them to sales/marketing teams to contribute
External marketing services and firms
Possibly independent sales representatives
PR firms that you may be working with
Publication that you advertise with
Contacts with professional trade associations
Keep in mind that expanding a company’s customer base is critical for business development and growth.
This certainly needs and deserves serious support, processes, measurements, and incentives set up to assure some level of success.
And remember only through a team approach will such an effort be successful.
It is also my experience that sales staff needs training and a process set up to follow, for expanding business within current customers.
Anything that is important to ask customers, communicate to customers, and important for sales staff to do, needs to be in writing in sales and marketing support literature plus be in some type of a process with measurable goals.
All customers should have a profile sheet on them that would require extensive account information to be updated regularly.
The information on this sheet should include every detail about a customer that could help you service them and grow sales.
Customer’s new projects, products and services and where they are in the product life cycle, other company locations, sister companies, competition, key contacts, products/services being sold currently to customer vs. what could be sold, and a lot more.
These customer profiles need to be updated regularly.
Sales staff should review these with the customers.
Managers should review these with the sales staff.
Customer service staff should periodically review these with the customers as well for a nice a check and balance process to assure reliability and accuracy.
As I have indicated, all important information that customers need to know or be asked, should be in all sales support literature and marketing communications.
This helps the sales people to cover all important information and also reinforces to the customer the information that the sales staff should be discussing with them.
All important sales techniques, methods and approaches need to be incorporated into all sales support literature and marketing communications.
This can be accomplished creatively and professionally.
A team approach is very important for business development, creating an affective sales approach, expanding business within current customers, finding new potential customers and penetrating them.
Some of the other libraries on this website covered this subject.
The most successful companies that I have encountered utilize a team approach and get great sales results from it.
A team approach to increasing sales and business development gives you beneficial dynamics that cannot be matched by any other approach.
Simply speaking, a team approach works and it definitely will give you a competitive advantage.
It is important for sales staff to be trained in marketing.
Sales efforts have a strong tendency to focus on resolving customer problems and issues, quoting, and responding to a current or potential new customer request for some information, and possibly communicating information with the customer that could be helpful.
For sales to be more effective and aggressive contributing to a company’s business growth, far more than this is needed.
When sales staff becomes trained in the fundamentals of marketing, many positive changes occur.
Their attitudes towards what their job responsibilities are dramatically change.
They become more proactive and stretch far beyond the traditional sales approach in so many ways.
In addition, they become personally comfortable and confident in doing so.
Marketing training will also help sales staff become good in what some management people call “The Hunter Approach”.
A close look at “The Hunter Approach” will show that marketing fundamentals is the basis for much of this approach.
There are numerous sales techniques that are out in the market place being trained and written about.
They are known by several names and acronyms.
Is there one sales technique better than the others? No
Is there one sales technique that works for all sales staff? No
Is there a specific sales technique better for specific markets or type of customers?
Now this is a tougher question.
Sales techniques that focus on influencing potential buyers to quickly commit to purchasing is often used with consumer sales especially if the sales meeting takes place at the buyers home.
Common products and services that often utilize such an approach or sales technique are;
Major home repairs and remodeling, house siding, special vacuum cleaners and systems, water conditioning equipment, and other household products.
Automobile sales utilize this technique as well.
Some studies of consumer sales indicate that the larger percentage of sales come from the very first sales meeting with a customer rather than later.
With In Home Consumer Sales, often the sales people have been trained that the majority of sales come from the first sales meeting with the customers.
This is why sales people who are meeting consumers at their homes try so very hard to obtain a sales commitment at the first meeting.
Such sales techniques for quick sales closing have been adapted by some business consulting companies that send sales staff out to business owners of small to medium size companies for a couple hours.
These sales people are to gather some information, do some fundamental observations, ask some key questions; then make some simple suggestions and comments.
The main focus of their sales technique is to sell the business owner on the value of retaining or hiring the consulting firm to do more consulting work and to get a commitment to do so right then.
This leads us to the definition of “closing”.
In the above examples, closing meant making a sale.
Closing can also mean getting some type of a commitment other than immediate sales.
This is where sales techniques, approaches, and strategies differ.
In some sales or business situations, closing can mean getting a commitment for another meeting, getting more information, getting an agreement as to the value or need for your products or services, getting an agreement that the specific person will recommend your products and services to upper management, moving on to meet with more key contacts within the potential customer, and several other meanings.
So, closing does not have to mean making an immediate sale of a product or service.
It can also mean a commitment to go on to some next step.
In most sales situations though, it is important that sales people are trained and very sensitive as to when and how to “ask for the sale”.
A trained sales person can softly approach asking for the sale which is sometimes referred to as “a trial close.”
If a trained sales person is not sure if the time or situation is right to conclude the sales, they will just delicately ask.
They can say something like; “What other details, needs, and concerns are there to discuss or questions about the products /services that can clarify more OR are we ready now to arrange for you to get these products/services?”
Most sales techniques have some common fundamentals.
1. Explore the customer’s needs and connect how the products and services being sold meet these needs
2. Explore the motivation of the customer to make a commitment
Do they need to buy to solve or avoid a problem, to avoid a loss of some kind, or to enhance their position to earn money some how.
3. Find out who will influence the decision to buy and who will make the actual decision to buy.
In some sales techniques this is referred to as “identifying the gate keepers, the influencers, and the decision makers.”
4. Find out any purchasing obstacles such as approvals, money, financing, budget, or others.
5. Find out what the result would be for the customer if they do not buy
6. Find out if there is competition and what is the customer likes and dislikes of it
7. Softly trial close periodically so as not to take too long and sell oneself right out of the opportunity
8. Find out if there is anything that the sales person can do to motivate the buyer to commit to buy such as availability of product or service now and later it will diminish or price is lower now and will be increasing later to obtain the products/service to give them a competitive edge over their competitors.
The sales person needs to explore how they can honestly and professionally contribute somehow to the potential buyer’s motivation.
Of course, there are other things that can be added to this list, as well.
Sales people need to be trained in several sales techniques and approaches.
Never is any one technique the best.
Never will any one sales technique be effective with every customer and every situation.
Sales and sales situations can be viewed as a diamond rotating with the many sides and facets.
Every time you learn more about the customer and their needs plus meet other key contacts within the customer, it is like looking at the facets or sides of a diamond.
Every facet of a diamond reflects light and looks different depending on the angle and the light.
Every time you discover more information about the sales situation and the customer’s needs, the sales approach and technique may need to change and adapt.
Sales people need to be trained to adapt to change within a customer as well with different customers.
As sales people are trained in several sales techniques, several positive things happen.
1. Sales people become confident in their abilities to handle different customers & situations.
2. They will be able to professionally manage any changes or challenges that may happen with a customer.
3. They will become more effective and more productive in all situations
4. They will become more motivated
5. They will be able to avoid mistakes
6. They will gain the respect of customers
7. They will help create a good company image
8. They will be able to take the best details from each sales technique and combine them to make it into their own personal style.
This is what makes a sales person effective, smooth, and professional.
Learning just one sales technique can be very harmful.
If sales people get poor results from their efforts, this will turn them off and lose productivity.
Customers and business situations being different, a specific sales technique cannot be good for every situation.
Being trained in several sales techniques will instill the sales tools needed by sales staff to do a good job no matter of the situation and no matter how the situation changes.
I met a young sales person with about 3 years of experience that was extensively trained to sell direct to consumers and small business owners.
The products and services that he sold required a very fast sales and closing technique on the first customer meeting or sales call.
He came from company where he was one of the better sales producers.
He boasted how he had a high rate of sales from his first visits with customers.
This is often referred to as “a fast closer” or “a one time closer” since only one customer meeting is needed to obtain a sale.
At his new sales position with a new company, he worked with different types of owners and senior managers of larger size companies and businesses, and of course with different products and services.
His fast paced sales technique trying to get fast sales got him into trouble with the customers.
The customers complained about his high pressure techniques being unwelcome, not sensitive to their needs, and not professional.
Customers commented about how they were personally insulted with his high pressure technique and did not want this sales person to contact them any further.
This young sales person was shocked that customers reacted this way to his approach and he did not know what to do.
He confided in me about his two big problems.
He had experience and training in only one sales technique and did not know any other approach or technique plus that he had a business degree but of course this did not teach selling techniques and approaches.
Here he is in sales being ineffective, causing customer complaints, and his personal self worth and ego, hurt.
I have also known of professional sales people selling sophisticated products and services to senior management staff and business owners which required a professional sales approach and longer time frame to close sales.
They too were top sales people.
Their experience and training was based only on this.
They too lacked other training in other sales techniques and approaches and lacked experience in other type sales.
Due to economic business situations they had a job change and moved into sales positions of other products, services, and types of customers requiring a faster paced sales technique with quicker closing style.
They struggled in their new sales positions.
Their sales results were lacking and their personal self esteem and ego hurt.
These situations can be avoided by making sure sales staff is trained and experienced in several different sales techniques and approaches.
I am often asked if there is any such thing as a “natural born sales person, account manager, or sales manager.
The answer to this is, NO.
People may have some genetic or personality traits that make it easier for them to learn how to be an effective sales person or manager.
They may even have had an early childhood upbringing that can contribute to them learning or being trained in sales and management, easier.
Good formal training in several sales techniques, methods, and approaches along with experience in several markets, products, services, and types of customers are the key factors in successful sales and sales management.
This reminds me of a cartoon that illustrates this subject to the falsehood of any such thing as being naturally born to sales talents and skills.
The cartoon has a picture of a hospital maternity ward and two people are looking at the new born babies through a glass window.
A maternity nurse sees these two people pointing fingers at a specific baby and smiling.
The nurse inside the maternity ward walks over to the baby and holds it up to show the two people who are looking through the glass window.
The words or caption under the picture has one of the people saying “oh look, another natural born sales person or sales manager” and the other person replying “how can you tell this by looking at the baby”.
Sales training is very important and is a critical factor in business development.
All sales staff, sales management, marketing, and customer service need to be trained in the same techniques, methods, and approaches so everyone understand each other and can effectively work as a team.
The more training and the more often, the better the sales results will be.
Continual training is a necessity for several reasons:
1. As a refresher and reinforcement to the important skills
2. To update any new skill development needed for changing business climates or market changes
3. To help build a team spirit for cooperation within all staff
4. To expand on sales skills and processes
I often hear the same thing from sales and sales management professionals who participate in continual training because they understand the value of it.
What they say is “I can never attend and participate in enough training, whether a several day workshop or a one day seminar. I always come away with at least one important idea that significantly contributes to increasing sales and profits and gain more customers.
The cost of training is always very affordable and inexpensive when I consider the increase sales and profits that I get from applying something from what I learned”
All sales techniques, methods, approaches, and strategies need to be reflected in all marketing, marketing communications, advertising, websites, literature, and sales support.
This along with continual sales training and a total coordinated team effort is the only way to assure that the important sales tactics; strategies, approaches, techniques, and methods are regularly utilized and applied.
If this is done, sales and profits will increase; and your company will experience significant business development.
It is this fundamental and simple.