We live in a truly unprecedented time in selling for many reasons. For one, we have an abundance of really, really good science and data on sales today—something that simply never existed before.
Up until just a couple of years ago, most sales training ideas were just some guru’s anecdotal ideas about how to sell…
Because of this, it was impossible to tell whether those same ideas would work for individual salespeople.
But now we live in a time when we can truly know what works and what doesn’t.
In this video, I’m going to show you 7 killer sales techniques backed by science and data. Check it out:
1. Whiteboard Pitch
Recent data from sales scientist Steve W. Martin tells us that only 31% of salespeople converse effectively with senior executives. The Whiteboard Pitch solves this challenge.
Put yourself in the shoes of a senior executive. Think of how many salespeople are hounding you every single day—and they’re all typically starting the conversation in one of two ways: 1) by opening up their jacket pocket and talking about all the amazing things in their product or service, or 2) by saying something really weak like, “I’d love to learn more about your business and understand what’s keeping you up at night.”
Both of these approaches are deeply problematic with senior executives. That’s simply not how they want to be engaged.
Senior executives want insight. They want to engage with people who can demonstrate that they truly know what they’re talking about.
At my firm the Sales Insights Lab, we teach a sales technique backed by science and data
called the Whiteboard Pitch, which takes place at the beginning of an interaction with a senior executive. With the Whiteboard Pitch, you can demonstrate that you understand some of the key challenges the prospect is likely facing by sharing insight via a quick list on a whiteboard, on the back of an envelope, or even on a Zoom screen-share.
The key is to make sure that you’re really demonstrating that you know what’s going on in their world—and back up those ideas with your own data or outside data that supports them.
Here at the Sales Insights Lab, our own research shows that the majority of salespeople find that around 50% or fewer of their initial prospects turn out to be a fit for what they sell. This basically means that 50% of all prospects you come into contact with are not likely to be a good fit for what you offer.
As a result, you must use a data-backed sales technique early on in the sales conversation to weed out the 50% that aren’t a good fit, isolate them, and then move on and never think about them again.
There are many reasons that a prospect might not be a good fit right now for what you offer. You must use a systematic set of questions to really determine whether someone’s a fit—and if they’re not, move on. If they are, that’s the only time you should take it to a next step.
3. Be Next Step Obsessed
Recent data from Gong.io tells us that close rates actually decline by about 71% when next steps aren’t discussed on the first call. If that doesn’t persuade you to always be scheduling next steps in every interaction with a prospect, I don’t know what will. We must be constantly focused on scheduling that next step when we’re in front of a prospect.
So many salespeople come up to me and say, “I tried to follow up with this prospect and they never got back to me, or they never answered the phone.” And I always say, “Well, why the hell are you following up in the first place?” You always want to have a scheduled next step with a prospect at every stage of the sale.
Top reps are consistently taking time, particularly at the end of any prospect engagement, to always schedule a next step. That means a calendar invite goes out from you to the prospect, into their calendar, and they accept it.
4. Quick, Two-Way Presentation
Another powerful piece of data from Gong.io tells us that top producers in sales don’t dilute their message. In fact, they spend about 39% less time pitching product features. This tells us two things: 1) their presentations are shorter, as they spend less of the sales process actually pitching or presenting their offer, and 2) their sales presentations are not just a one-way monologue; instead, they engage their prospects in two-way conversations.
Other research supports this idea, showing that top performers have more two-way, back-and-forth conversations with prospects. This science-backed sales technique gets prospects actually engaged in the conversation. This is crucial, particularly during the presentation phase, when you want the prospect to be asking you lots of questions.
5. Slow down objections
Another great piece of data from Steve W. Martin shows that two-thirds of buyers avoid revealing the truth about their intent to salespeople. This means that when prospects hit us with objections, those objections are very rarely the actual concerns that they have. Think of each objection like an iceberg. The initial objection is just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s your job to uncover what’s really behind it.
The key is to get below the surface of each objection to understand what’s really going on. That’s why we always want to slow down objections.
Don’t immediately respond to an objection with some way to overcome it, but instead implement a sales technique backed by the real data, and dig in to uncover why they mentioned that objection in the first place. Top performers are doing this on a consistent basis, and as a result, they ultimately deal with the real issue that the prospect is facing—thus significantly increasing the likelihood of actually closing that sale.
6. Use a Prospecting Campaign Blueprint
When it comes to sales techniques backed by science and data, using a prospecting campaign blueprint is one of the most effective by far. Some incredible data from TOPO tells us that it takes an average of 18 calls to actually connect with a buyer, and only 24% of sales emails are actually even opened. That’s why most salespeople who only send a couple of emails or make one or two calls to a prospect are giving up way too early—and that’s why we always suggest that salespeople use a Prospecting Campaign Blueprint.
A strong Prospecting Campaign Blueprint maps out the entire prospecting process that you’re going to take each prospect through. It becomes like a factory line consisting of different steps. Maybe that first step is that you send an email. Then the next step is that you follow up with a phone call, then you leave a voicemail, then you send a LinkedIn connection request, then you send them another email, then you make another call, then you send them a package, and then you make another call…etc. Whatever it is, be sure to map the whole process out.
This shouldn’t be haphazard. This should be structured, but it should also have a lot of steps because ultimately, prospects often aren’t responding to you because they don’t want or need what you have. It’s simply that they’re super busy, and they’ve got a lot going on. And so ultimately, you’ve got to get the right message in front of the right prospect at the right time.
7. Challenge your fears
Some incredible scientific data from Emory University shows that we are born with only two innate fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every time you have fear as a result of something to do with sales, you need to challenge that fear, because it’s not a fear you were born with, it’s a fear that you’ve learned over the course of your life.
When you’re afraid to pick up that phone and make that dial, or you’re afraid to ask that last question about budget or whatever it is, recognize that you were not born with these fears that make you weaker in sales situations. Always challenge your fears and push through them. This is what separates the average rep from the top rep in any industry.
More Sales Techniques to Close More Deals…
Have you ever been in a selling situation where you thought to yourself, “There’s got to be a better way…”?
Well, there probably is.
A wave of new data is revealing what sales techniques actually work in today’s marketplace.
This research is absolutely stunning: We live in a unique time in history when we finally have empirical, hard data on what’s working in sales.
What’s most shocking is that the best sales techniques today can be achieved by making simple changes right away to your selling approach.
These little tweaks to the way you sell can go a really long way.
In this video, I’m going to show you more sales techniques you must know right now. Check it out:
Sales Techniques Video Summary:
8. Break the pattern with your opening.
Do you ever think about what those first couple of seconds of an interaction are going to be like for your prospect?
When you get someone on the phone, or when you sit down with someone face-to-face, the first couple of seconds will dictate how they feel about you for the rest of the interaction.
And yet, most salespeople don’t think about what they’re going to say or do in the opening to those initial conversations.
Breaking the pattern first requires that we understand what most salespeople are doing in this situation. I’ll give you an example. Most salespeople sound like this at the beginning of a sales call: “Hey, George! Marc Wayshak calling! How are you today?!”
Now, what about that call immediately lets the prospect know that you’re a salesperson? Pretty much everything. There’s too much excitement and enthusiasm. Everything is predictable and reliable.
Instead, the new data shows that the best sales technique is to break the pattern by taking a different approach. Your new opening should be calm and measured, sounding something like this: “Hey, George. Marc Wayshak calling. How have you been?”
Think about the difference between those two situations. Not only is the tonality lower (no exclamation points) but you’re asking “How have you been?” instead of “How are you?!”
Data shows that when you start a conversation with a sincere “How have you been?” you have a six times higher likelihood of setting an initial face-to-face meeting. That’s really powerful stuff.
9. Tell them the reason for your call.
Once you’ve asked, “How have you been?” and gotten a response, it’s time to follow up with, “The reason for my call is ________.”
Fill in the blank with the reason for you call—it’s as simple as that. In most cases, the reason for your call is to get a sense of what’s really going on in their world.
Just tell them your reason. It doesn’t have a to be a big explanation, but just a basic reason.
Of all the sales techniques out there, this might be the simplest, and most powerful. That data shows that by stating the reason for your call, you’re two times likelier to get through to an initial sales meeting with a prospect.
So, get right to the point. A buyer or decision maker is really going to appreciate it.
Bonus Tip #3: Give an overview of the challenges you’re seeing right now.
When most salespeople get a prospect on the phone, they go immediately into their pitch. They start talking about all the features and benefits of their product, or how great their company is.
But in reality, your prospects don’t care about you or your offering. All they care about is themselves.
What you want to do is present yourself as a true expert—someone who really understands what’s going on in their world—by giving them a basic overview of the challenges you’re seeing in their industry.
Mine sound like this: “George, right now I’m seeing a lot of companies that are struggling with their salespeople not making enough calls, not getting through to decision makers, and not getting a good ROI on their sales activities. Do any of those issues ring true to you?”
What we’re doing is essentially giving them a list of common challenges. Of course, you have to fill in those challenges or frustrations with what makes sense in your world.
In my world, I talk about sales challenges and then engage prospects in a conversation about those key challenges. What challenges will you talk about?
Bonus Tip #4: Get prospects to tell their story.
Powerful new data shows that when we can get a prospect to talk for around 100 seconds about their story in that initial call, we have a much higher likelihood of ultimately getting that meeting.
This sales technique is all about doing everything you can to get the prospect engaged to start talking and telling their story.
By story, I don’t mean life story, but rather the challenges they’re facing, the frustrations they have, and what they’re looking to accomplish.
Whatever can get them to have that conversation in a way that’s really focused on them, we want to do. Once you can do this, you’re much more likely to ultimately set that meeting, and finally get that sale.
Bonus Tip #5: Understand the upside.
Most salespeople skip this step. To understand the upside, you need to engage prospects in a conversation about their challenges.
Once you’ve gotten them talking about their challenges, they start to see value in a solution. But there’s no tangible value until it’s actually been stated what solving those challenges will mean to them in dollars.
Imagine your prospect is talking about business challenges that pertain to whatever it is that you solve. They say, “We’re trying to do this but so far nothing has really worked.”
Then you say something like, “George, if you were able to solve this challenge what would it mean to the organization?” Now, we’re starting to get the prospect to paint a picture of what a solution means in terms of upside.
If you want to be really hardcore, you could get them to articulate a specific dollar amount: “George, if you were able to solve this sales-related challenge, what could it mean in additional revenue to the organization?”
This is a question I ask every single prospect I ever sit in front of. What always happens is they give me really big numbers.
When they tell me, “If we’re able to solve these challenges it would mean an additional $10 million in revenue,” suddenly a half-million dollar consulting contract doesn’t seem like a lot of money.
Bonus Tip #6: Make it personal.
So often, we want to focus on the business side of the challenge. But the data shows, and psychology has taught us, that every single buying decision has some personal motivation behind it.
Every prospect has a personal objective behind making a buying decision. What we want to do is go from the business objective to the personal objective.
You might want to say something like, “George, I really appreciate what you’ve shared with me so far. But behind every business objective is a personal objective. What would it mean to you personally if we were able to solve these challenges?”
If you’ve built a strong relationship throughout this conversation, your prospect will open up about how this is really affecting them. They’re going to say things like, “You know what? If I don’t solve this, I could be out looking for a job,” or, “This really matters, so that way I can help pay for my kids to attend college.”
Get to that personal motivation and you’ll create so much value.
Bonus Tip #7: Budget is everything.
The data shows that top performers are having the budget conversation later in the interaction with prospects. They’re talking about budget later on in the buying process.
Average performers typically start talking about price early on in the conversation.
We want to make sure that we’re not just having a pricing conversation, but a budget conversation. Any salesperson can say, “This is going to cost $100,000.” But what takes skill is having a conversation around budget that sounds like this: “You told me already that if you were able to solve the challenges we’ve discussed it could mean $10 million in additional revenue to your organization. What kind of a budget do you think you might be able to pull together in order to solve these challenges?”
If the prospect says, “Well, you know what, I’m not really sure yet,” that’s fine. Now you’re just going to say something along the lines of, “Totally makes sense. Typically a project like this is going to range anywhere from about $300,000 to $700,000. Where on that spectrum could you see yourself fitting?”
You’re throwing out some numbers, but it’s a really wide range, and you’re getting them to pick the budget. Throwing out a wide range of pricing options is so much more important than just throwing out a single price. Budget is everything.
Bonus Tip #8: Understand the decision-making process.
Research shows that one of the biggest complaints that prospects have about salespeople in general is that they don’t take the time to truly understand the prospect organization’s decision-making and buying process.
As a result, a sale that could’ve otherwise happened, doesn’t. Or maybe it’s set back and takes far longer to close than it should have.
This is one of those sales techniques that has nothing to do with your abilities of persuading or creating value. It’s just about asking the right questions to understand the decision-making process.
Simple questions like, “George, could you walk me through what a typical decision looks like at your organization?” can be all you need.
Understanding who’s involved, what it looks like, and how they go about doing it, is going to make you so much stronger than ever before.
Bonus Tip #9: Make clear and scheduled next steps.
There’s nothing sadder to me than watching a salesperson do everything right, and then at the end of a conversation, say, “Hey, would it be OK if I followed up with you sometime next week?”
Then they leave the prospect with a wishy-washy, unclear next step.
This is devastating, because it creates so much opportunity for the sale to fall apart. In fact, top performers are significantly more likely to spend a clear portion of the end of any conversation discussing nothing but next steps.
The end of every conversation with a prospect should include getting a clear and scheduled next step. By scheduled, I mean literally getting it into their calendar.
Bonus Tip #10: Only present to their challenges.
Have you ever been in a selling situation where you’re giving a presentation, and you’re feeling great about how it’s going, but then you go off on a little tangent…and you can see you’ve lost the prospect’s attention?
Then, for the rest of the conversation, you’re thinking, “Did I just hurt that sale?” The answer, of course, is that you did. You did hurt that sale.
We’ve all been there.
The reality is, we only want to present the solutions to prospects’ challenges, nothing more. Keep your presentation as short as possible. All you’re trying to do in that presentation is make sure you demonstrate that you can solve those challenges.
It doesn’t have to be a huge, magnificent presentation. You should simply go through a checklist of the challenges that were mentioned and how you’re going to solve each one.
Do that and you’ll show the buyer that you understand them better than any other salesperson they’ve ever dealt with before.
Bonus Tip #11: Keep it under 60 seconds.
Recent data shows that top performers almost never talk for more than 72 seconds without re-engaging the prospect in that conversation.
What this means is that they’re never giving monologues. The same data shows that no closing presentation had any period where the salesperson spoke for more than about 100 seconds before there was some type of a switch in who the speaker was.
This tells us that prospects are losing their interest when we go on for too long in that presentation. We’ve all seen this happen.
What we have to do is make sure that we’re never going on for more than 60 seconds before we’re re-engaging them back into the conversation. This sales techniques gets them to buy into the conversation and share their thoughts.
Bonus Tip #12: Use feedback loops.
Feedback loops are the best sales technique for re-engaging prospects back into any conversation.
A feedback loop sound something like this: “Does that make sense?” or “Before I go any further, are we still on the same page?” or “How does that sound to you?”
These tiny questions pull prospects back into the conversation, and give them the opportunity to provide feedback on how they feel about what you just said.
Feedback loops pull them back in. Does that make sense? (See what I did there?)
Bonus Tip #13: Get bored of using the same process over and over—then do it again.
You’re probably thinking, “What is this guy talking about? Get bored?” That’s exactly right.
The best salespeople are highly systematic. It’s not about getting creative in the sales process; it’s about using the same exact system over and over and over again. And then starting it over once more.
Make sure that the process is an effective sales process driven by sales techniques that actually work. Use that process and follow it exactly every time, without exception.
Get all of your creative needs met in putting together some marketing brochure, or when you go home and paint for fun. Sales isn’t about creativity; it’s about following a systematic process.
If you do that, you’re going to become better and better, because you’re going to continue to slowly but surely refine that process over time. Use that same process over and over again.
So, there you have it. There are sales techniques you must know right now. I want to hear from you. Which of these ideas did you find most useful? Be sure to share below in the comment section to get involved in the conversation.
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About the Author Marc Wayshak
Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.
Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.
Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.