Salespeople often want me to answer their burning questions about specific selling situations.
They ask, “When a prospect says this, what exactly should I do?” or “If I get this pushback at the end of a sale, what do I say?”
The reality is, though, that salespeople would be much better served if they focused on mastering the basic principles of selling rather than case-by-case troubleshooting of these types of specific challenges.
Simply put, most salespeople are missing out on the most important, basic principles of selling—they just skip right over them and then wonder what went wrong in the details.
I like to think of the basic principles of selling as the foundation of a house.
You would never start building a house without a solid foundation, because you know it’d crack, wobble, and eventually fall down, no matter how beautiful it looked on the outside.
The same is true for sales. Without a strong foundation of the basic principles of selling, you’ll never have an effective sales process that actually works on a consistent and reliable basis.
In this video, I’m going to show you the 5 basic principles of selling so you can implement them for a stronger sales approach. Check it out:
Basic Principles of Selling #1: Follow the data, not your gut.
I don’t trust anyone’s gut instinct when it comes to selling.
In today’s selling world, so much of the information we’re fed comes directly from some random sales guru’s “gut instinct” on what has made them successful. The problem is, just because something worked for that guru doesn’t mean it’ll work for others.
A good example of this is the myth of the “relationship salesperson.” This type of salesperson builds a successful sales career by forging strong interpersonal relationships over the course of their career. Because relationship-building is what works so well for them, these salespeople then go out and tell everyone they know that sales is “all about building relationships.” They’ll counsel new salespeople that as long as they get out there and start relationship-building, they’ll be successful.
But you know what? In today’s world of selling, the data shows that relationship salespeople, on average, are actually far less successful than top sales performers.
This proves that just because one strategy might work for some, it doesn’t always mean it will work for others—and especially not for the majority of salespeople.
The key is to stop listening to anecdotal advice from gurus or salespeople and instead follow what the data tells us.
We live in an unparalleled time for sales, when we have so much more data than ever before about what actually works for the highest number of salespeople. Take advantage of this.
When you choose a sales approach to follow, make sure it’s based on data, not gut instinct—whether yours or someone else’s.
Principles of Selling #2: Show insight up front.
When I tell salespeople to show insight up front, many misinterpret this to mean that I’m suggesting they “educate” their prospects. I want to clear this up right now. Your job as a salesperson is not to educate your prospects. Your prospects aren’t your clients. And while it’s fine to educate your clients, your goal with prospects should never be to educate them, but rather simply to demonstrate valuable insight at the beginning of the selling situation.
The aim here is to show insight that makes the prospect think, “This person is worth taking the time to talk to.” Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes—do you want to just sit and chat with any salesperson who calls you up or emails you, asking to “hop on a call so I can learn more about your business and see if I can help”? Of course not.
The fact is that most salespeople open up their sales interactions without sharing any valuable or relevant insight. That’s why showing insight is the differentiator you must master if you want to really nail the basic principles of selling. Once you show insight, your prospects will be far more likely to want to hear what you have to say.
Keep in mind that pitching is not showing insight.
If you’re starting your sales conversations with a fancy pitch about your product or offering, there’s no insight. You could teach a monkey to do that.
Instead, what you need to do is demonstrate real insight—and we all have real insight as salespeople, because we’ve talked to so many different clients in the industries where we serve. As a result, we all have a built-in, powerful bird’s-eye-view of the marketplace that makes it easy for us to show real insight and value up front to our prospects. Leverage that power at the start of every sales conversation.
Principle #3: Drop the persuasion.
If you go on Amazon right now and type in the word “persuasion,” you’ll find countless books on the topic of persuading people to do everything under the sun. Persuasion is an idea we’ve all been taught to think of as synonymous with sales. But in reality, one of the basic principles of selling is to drop the persuasion altogether.
The data tells us that great selling isn’t about persuasion at all. In fact, persuasion is an old-school idea about manipulating people to agree with what you’re saying by using some fancy language of salesy technique.
If you’re selling something that’s actually useful to people who have the right budget, however, then your prospects aren’t going to fall for all that—they’re going to be savvy, smart, and well-informed.
Your savvy prospects don’t need to be persuaded. Instead, they need an expert who can walk them through a thorough conversation to help them determine whether you can solve their biggest challenges.
Unfortunately, a lot of salespeople today are still stuck in the old, cheesy 1980s approach of persuasion selling. Be sure to drop the persuasion if you find yourself reverting to these old-school tactics.
All that’s going to happen as a result of persuasion is that your prospects will feel a lot of pressure and their walls will go up. They’ll push back and then run for the hills.
Sales Principle #4: No more features and benefits.
This is an extension of the idea of persuasion. You were probably taught to present your offering by demonstrating features and benefits. (For example, the feature of a computer is that it has a keyboard. The benefit is that you can put information into that computer. The feature of a light bulb is that it’s a 350-watt light bulb. The benefit is that it can light up an entire auditorium.)
This is a very simplistic idea in sales: Demonstrate the feature of what we’re offering and then share the benefit that it has for our prospects. But again, it’s an outdated, old-school approach to selling that assumes that prospects are a little bit dumb.
The reality is that your prospects don’t care about your features and they don’t need your benefits. And they’re not dumb.
What they need are solutions to their problems. When you stop feature-and-benefit selling and instead focus on determining whether the prospect is a fit, then you can actually speak to what your prospect wants and needs.
This is one of the most powerful of all the basic principles of selling. Stop touting features and benefits, and start digging to understand your prospect’s challenges, so you can demonstrate that you can solve them.
Basic Principles of Selling #5: Next steps are everything.
I saved this for last because it’s one of the most critical basic principles of selling. Next steps are everything in sales, yet many salespeople completely overlook them. Maybe it’s because they’re just a bit lazy, or maybe it’s because they were really never taught the importance of establishing clear next steps. Whatever the reason, it’s time to make sure next steps are implemented in your selling process at every relevant juncture.
Have you ever been in a selling situation where everything was going well and the prospect said, “You know what? This is great. Why don’t you call me back next week and we can talk about next steps?” And you said, “Yeah, sure!” and then maybe you updated your pipeline with a note that said, “This deal has a 95% chance of closing,” only to get ghosted by the prospect when you called the next week to follow up? Before you knew it, you started to get the creeping sensation that maybe you’d lost the deal…
But the fatal mistake was not that you were doing something wrong in the follow-up—it’s that you put yourself in the position to have to follow up in the first place. Establishing clear next steps eliminates the need for follow-up entirely.
This means that if a prospect says to you, “Why don’t you follow up with me next week?” instead of agreeing, you say, “I really appreciate that. But actually, just to avoid the back and forth, would it make sense to get something on the calendar where we’re both ready to talk about what those next steps might look like?” And then send out a calendar invite while you’re still on the line with the prospect so there’s a scheduled next step on the books.
Simply put, if you’re finding yourself consistently following up in your selling situations, you’re in big trouble. You’ve already put yourself at a huge disadvantage.
So, there you have it. Now you know 5 basic principles of selling that are critical to sales success. Which of these principles did you find most useful for your own selling strategy? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section to join 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.