Good salespeople know listening is key to success

Many of the following laws of selling are known although rarely abided by. I suggest you consider each and how they apply to you, as improving in the use of even one can significantly impact your results.

The more people talk, the more they like you. I'm sure you've heard colleagues lament, "He's nice but he just talks too darn much." But I doubt you've ever heard the opposite, "Darn, she's nice but just listens too much." Most people, your prospects included, want to be heard and understood before understanding. View this need as a fundamental rule of communication and facilitate it.

A professional salesperson makes a sales call for one reason only: to be of service to her customer. If you're making a sales call to meet quota, earn a higher commission, move the "special of the month," or any other reason not arising from your customers' true needs, it's time to check your integrity.

One of the main reasons selling has a negative public perception is because too many salespeople sell for their reasons, not their customers. A qualified prospect has the need, authority, and budget to buy. Ensure the person you're dealing with meets this criterion. If she doesn't, find out who does or you're merely presenting, not selling, which wastes money and time.

No one's born a salesperson.

Similar to every other profession, highly skilled sales professionals have studied and learned their profession. Much as a doctor, attorney, or accountant isn't "born," neither is a salesperson. Abandon this myth and learn your trade as research reveals that regardless of age, race, gender or experience, a novice salesperson with effective sales training can become as successful as his veteran counterpart.

"What will it do for me?"

If the definition of selling could be boiled down to a single sentence or question, that would be mine. Constantly put yourself in your prospects' shoes by asking that question. It will help you focus on their needs and the appropriate corresponding benefits. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Your prospect must believe that you will do everything possible that's in his interest.

Without his trust, all the facts, figures, and discounts don't mean anything. Once you gain his trust, however, you become much more than a supplier. You become a trusted counselor and partner not easily replaced in spite of your competitors lower price, supposed faster delivery, etc.

People buy emotionally, and justify logically.

Contrary to what many salespeople believe, this reality actually works in your favor if you've done a thorough job of helping your prospect buy. It's imperative that you reinforce your prospect's decision to buy with sound reasons why she is. If you allow your prospect to buy a new iMac computer because she likes the cool color, without reinforcing the time-savings, increased productivity and ease of use, you may as well keep the shelf space open for the return.

Send thank you letters.

Do you really need an explanation on this one? Send thank you letters to anyone and everyone. From the receptionist who set the appointment to each person present for your presentation. Short notes take a little time but show much class. This professional courtesy can open an apparently closed opportunity. Treat every person like they're the CEO. It's been said the true character of person is revealed in how they treat someone who can do absolutely nothing for him. Nowhere is this truer than in selling. This makes good sense because there's the rare possibility the lowest person will someday become CEO. But more likely you'll encounter many employees who aren't decision-makers but can quickly become part of the decision-making process.

When reflecting, I can't believe how many deals with my company various sales people have lost by being rude or elitist to my employees. How many have you lost? Always ask if anything has changed. This simple question is imperative and helps minimize surprises. Never assume things are where you left off. Asking this offers you protection and the opportunity to help the customer know you're working in their interest. You may discover the budget's been revised, there's a new time frame or, as has happened to me, you may learn that your prospect's company has been sold and all deals are off.

Set an objective for every call.

By objective I'm referring to anything that keeps the sales cycle progressing. This could be making a presentation, sending additional information, scheduling a demo, etc

 Discuss benefits, not features.

This law has become almost cliché during the past decade, yet most salespeople still don't apply it. Consider this: There are more than million 1/8-inch drill bits sold annually, but people don't want 1/8-inch drill bits. They want 1/8-inch holes. Show your prospects the benefits of your product/service.

Sell value, not price.

Surveys reveal that price concerns are often as low as sixth in the order of importance of prospects. However, it's always one of the first objections raised. If you're continually locked in price wars, you'll rarely win. You must demonstrate the value of your product/service because if there's enough, price won't be an issue. Every prospect makes five buying decisions in precise psychological order. The decisions are about: you, the salesperson (including your integrity and judgment); your company; your product/service; your price; the time to buy. Know these buying decisions and tailor your presentation accordingly. Every prospect buys for one, or more, of six buying motives. Knowing and appealing to the following buying decisions will help motivate your prospect emotionally and logically, moving you closer to a sale:

desire for gain,

fear of loss,

comfort and convenience;

security and protection;

pride of ownership;

emotional satisfaction.


Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.