Sales and marketing often get a bad name because of people like the prototypical “slimy used car salesman,” or the stores that bring you in the door with leader ads, only to “run out” of the item you came to purchase. Then you get the salesman who is ready to sweet talk you into spending more money on a similar, but pricier item.
But sales and marketing is about much more than upselling the customer to earn a few more dollars. Sales and marketing can be a quick way to satisfy your customer and garner attention from your employer – earning you commissions and promotions. But sales and marketing is also about building long term relationships and giving the customer what they need.
I recently featured a guest article by Bob from Shark Investor. The guest article, The Remarkable Approach To Your Finances, was about how to invest in yourself. Some of the tips included learning how to speak in public, learning a new language, increasing your financial intelligence, and improving your sales and marketing skills.
Don J. wrote in and asked:
I’d love to hear some suggestions on how to learn sales and marketing. This was the section that really jumped out at me in reading this article, and I have known for a long time that it was a weak spot for me. Right now, I think that it is holding back my career in several ways.
Don, I think this is an area in which many people can improve. I worked a sales position before joining the US Air Force, and even though I eventually changed careers, I learned a lot during my time as a salesman. I have learned more since then by working as a consultant and observing others in my field and when shopping. These tips may not make you the salesman of the century, but if you follow them, your sales and marketing skills should improve – hopefully improving your professional prospects as well.
What it takes to become a better salesman or marketer
It’s not about you, it’s about the customer
Sales are great. They help your company turn a profit and put money in your pocket. But your company wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for its customer base. Unless you are meeting your customer’s needs, he will not return. Ask yourself what problems you can solve for the customer. Solving your customer’s problems will increase customer satisfaction and improve sales.
Know your customer
The best way to sell someone a product or service is to know their needs. The more familiar you are with their product and needs, the easier it is to provide solutions to their problems. Solve their problem and you will have a repeat customer.
Listen more than you talk
The best way to give someone what they want or need is to have them tell you what they want or need. And they will if you let them. Just be sure to actually listen to their answer. You should be an expert regarding the product or service your company offers and you should have no problem recommending something to fit their needs.
Know and understand your product or service
Sales is more than just handing over a product or service in exchange for cash. Sales is about problem solving and you, as the salesman, are the expert problem solver. Customers may have an idea what they want, but of sometimes they don’t know what they need. You can give them the information, service, or expertise they need to get the job done. Consulting is a prime example of this in action.
Know your product, know your customer, and be prepared. You will increase your sales if you can anticipate your customer’s needs and solve their problems. Part of being prepared is rehearsing your sales pitch. You don’t want to come across like you memorized a sales guide, but you don’t want to stammer through your response either. You should aim to come across in a confident, conversational manner. Remember, practice makes perfect.
If you aren’t enthusiastic and don’t support your product or service, why would anyone else want to buy it? You are the face of your company and the more enthusiastic you are about your product, the more the likely the customer will feel the same way.
Sometimes the downsell is the best sell
Sometimes, selling the customer less than what they ask for is better than giving them their initial request or selling them more than they need. While this may seem counter intuitive, this is really just good business. You want your customers to know that you are more concerned with meeting their needs than making a much money as possible. This level of trust can bring you repeat business, and repeat customers are almost always more valuable than one time customers.
Sometimes you need to plant a seed
If you have a prospective client who may become a big customer, it may benefit you in the long run to make a deal or two that may seem disadvantageous at first glance. Maybe you need to throw in a little something extra to sweeten the deal the first time, or maybe you give the customer a one time discount to seal the deal. But sometimes that is worth it. Once you have a customer, they are more likely to stay with you than go through the trouble of finding a new vendor. That doesn’t mean you need to give away the farm. But sometimes you need to be creative in order to land contracts.
No last minute upsells
The last thing any customer wants is an upsell when they think the deal is done. Last minute upsells can come across as underhanded and can break the trust you worked so hard to establish. If there is the possibility of additional services the customer can purchase, let them know before they agree to the deal. That way there isn’t the perception that you are trying to pull one over on them, or are only concerned with lining the company coffers. Remember, it is about providing a service to meet the customer’s needs, not yours.
Ask for the sale
The power of suggestion can be a strong one. That does not mean you need to be aggressive and overpowering when making sales. But sometimes, all people need is a little suggestion before they will make a decision.
Anyone can become a better salesman
Some people are born salesmen. They have the gift of gab, recognize opportunity, and seem to excel at every chance that comes their way. While I can’t guarantee you will replicate their success, I believe anyone can improve their success at sales and marketing. And I don’t think you need to go to college to learn sales or that you need to read numerous books on “sales techniques.” At its base level, being a salesman is about problem solving. If you can solve the customer’s problem, you can be a successful salesman.