Let’s be honest: There’s a ton of conflicting information out there about what actually works in sales, about how to be a better salesperson. Right?
I see it all day long. At my firm, we have our finger on the pulse of what’s really happening in sales—so we see the good, the bad, and the ugly of sales advice.
There are wildly differing opinions on virtually every aspect of the sale…
Should you start with a pitch, or should you start with questions?
Should you go for the close, or should you focus on next steps?
Conflicting answers to key selling questions like these can really overwhelm salespeople who are looking to improve their craft.
So I’m going to break it all down for you right here.
If you want to learn how to be a better salesman or saleswoman, follow these 7 steps—and forget all the conflicting information you’re bombarded with every day. Check it out:
1. They can’t hurt you.
This mindset is crucial if you want to learn how to be a better salesman or saleswoman. You must always remember that prospects can’t actually physically harm you.
Especially in today’s selling world, where most sales are virtual anyway, prospects truly can’t hurt you. If you’re making a prospecting call and the prospect gets mad, that’s okay. If you’re on a Zoom and the prospect gets annoyed, that’s fine.
Even if a prospect kicks you out of their home or office, that’s okay, too. They’re not going to hurt you! No matter the selling situation you’re in, there’s no reason to actually be nervous about what will happen. There’s zero risk of physical harm.
The worst that can happen is the conversation doesn’t go well. Knowing this is how you become a better salesman (or saleswoman!).
Take the pressure off of yourself. Forget about the pressure from your sales manager. Get rid of your nerves. It’s JUST a sales meeting. If you’re selling while nervous, you’re in big trouble. Once you realize they can’t hurt you, you free yourself up to dramatically improve and become a far better salesperson.
2. Take them off the pedestal.
Many salespeople put their prospects on a pedestal. They look up at prospects like they’re magical beings. But guess what? Your prospects—even your high-level prospects—are just people.
They have good days. They have bad days. They might have certain qualities that seem impressive, but I guarantee you they also have weird, pathetic, gross qualities, too—because they’re only human. And humans are just humans.
It doesn’t matter if they’re famous, if they’re a celebrity, or if they’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. They’re just people. Their spouse is probably mad at them. Their kids are annoyed with them. They’re just people.
So take them off that pedestal and see them as peers, as opposed to special people who are somehow above you. This is a really important distinction if you want to learn how to be a better salesperson on a sales call. If you think that your prospect is inherently superior to you, you’re going to be selling from a place of massive weakness.
3. It’s 100% about them. Nobody cares about the salesman!
Salespeople often have the inclination to talk about their company or themselves with some fancy sales pitch. But the reality is that your prospects don’t care about any of that. All they care about is themselves.
The more you gear the sales conversation toward the prospect, their organization, and their challenges, the more likely they are to see value in the conversation.
One of the keys to becoming a great salesperson is simply realizing that prospects don’t care about you. They don’t care about your company. All they care about is themselves, and solving the very common challenges that are right in front of them. So drop that sales pitch altogether.
Make the conversation 100% about them. This is what the best salespeople do every time.
4. Get potential customers talking ASAP.
Salespeople tend to go on and on and on…giving a lengthy sales pitch at the start of the sales conversation. They try to persuade the prospect to buy their offering right out the gate. But your prospects don’t want to be pitched, and they definitely don’t want to sit and listen to your pitch for 15, 20, 30 minutes. What they want to do is talk.
Believe it or not, protential customers actually want to share what’s going on in their world. They want to share what’s most important to them. So the more you can get them talking, early on, the better off you’re going to be. Effective salespeople must nail this skill.
If you want to learn how to be a better salesman or saleswoman, talking less is a great place to begin. If you start every sales conversation by giving a monologue, prospects will be turned off and they’ll shut down.
Get prospects talking ASAP.
5. The best salespeople arm themselves with research.
The more insight you have into your prospect’s world, the better off you are. If your opening sales conversation is turnkey and cookie-cutter, prospects may go with it from time to time, but ultimately it’s not as powerful. Instead, start your conversations by demonstrating that you understand specific things about them and their organization.
Even in a business-to-consumer selling situation, understanding prospects and what might be going on in their lives is immensely powerful. Arm yourself with research—don’t use research as a crutch, but try to understand as much as you possibly can about prospects and their organization before you reach out to them.
Having that research under your belt enables you to demonstrate your value, and it gives prospects permission to allow you to go just a little bit further in the sales conversation.
6. Good salespeople dig deeply into what prospects most care about.
This might sound obvious, but I find that it’s the single biggest distinction between average reps and top-performing reps.
Average reps ask some questions and they find out what’s going on to a degree, but they don’t go as deeply as they could.
However, top-performing reps dig deeply to get prospects to slowly unpack their challenges, and that’s where the real value is.
To become a better salesperson, you must consistently dig deeply into what prospects most care about. Be willing to stick to one topic for a while and ask questions like, “Well, why do you say that?” Or, “Help me understand that.” Or, “Why do you think that is?”
The more deeply you can go, the better off you’re going to be, because that’s going to create real value in the sales conversation.
7. Better sales reps focus on next steps over closing.
There’s so much pressure in sales to go for the close. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a sales manager, a VP of sales, or the president of a company say, “You’ve got to go for the close. You’ve got to be closing more. My people aren’t closing enough.” But the problem isn’t closing—it’s actually about next steps.
There are certainly some specific situations where there might be a “one-call close” scenario, but for the most part, selling situations are a multi-step process. Whatever your sales process is, don’t worry about the close so much as having established clear next steps every single time you end a conversation with a prospect.
What you want to avoid is following up, or checking back in, or saying something like, “Would it be okay if I called you on Monday to see what your decision is?”
That’s junk. Instead, what you want to do is say something like, “Do you have your calendar on you right now?” Avoid the back and forth and just get something on the books. Locking next steps in the calendar is so much more important than going after some high-pressure close.
So there you have it. Now you know how to be a better salesman (or saleswoman) in 7 steps. Which of these keys will you use as part of your sales strategy moving forward? Be sure to share below in the comment section to get involved in the conversation.
More Techniques to Become a Better Salesperson…
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I feel like I’m stuck in a sales rut”?
If this sounds familiar, there are simple steps you can take today to start improving in every facet of your selling career.
In fact, there are several small changes you can make right now to begin your journey to becoming a better salesperson.
These changes might seem tiny at first, but when you implement them all together, everything will change for you.
In this video, I’m going to show you 9 changes you need to make right now to become a better salesperson. Check it out:
Bonus Tip #1: Drop the enthusiasm.
I say this all the time, and I cannot emphasize it enough. Enthusiastic selling just doesn’t work.
I can prove it to you. Imagine you meet a salesperson, you shake hands, and the salesperson immediately declares, “It’s so great to meet you! Gosh, I cannot wait to show you all the amazing things I’m going to do to improve the quality of your life!”
What’s your reaction? Immediately you recoil and just want to get away.
Even when enthusiasm is done in a clean, sharp, professional way, it still comes across as cheesy and inauthentic. When we drop that enthusiasm and instead just behave in a way that’s relatable, we become so much more effective at selling.
If you want to become a better salesperson, start thinking and talking like a good doctor rather than a cheerful salesperson. Be calm, measured, and authentic. Focus on the prospect and drop the enthusiasm.
Bonus Tip #2: Pitching is old-school.
I always cringe when I hear the word “pitch.” I hear clients say it all the time. Sophisticated sales organizations with thousands of salespeople say things like, “We really want to get better at pitching to our clients.”
I immediately think to myself, “I can’t believe these successful, well-known companies are still using the antiquated term pitching.”
We don’t want to pitch to our clients. Instead, we want to engage them in a conversation. We want to understand what’s going on in their world.
Don’t walk into a client’s office with a 45-slide pitch deck. Walk in with nothing but a notebook and a pen in that initial discovery meeting with the singular goal of finding out what’s going on in their world, what they care about, and what concerns they have.
If you have something you want to share with them early on, that’s fine. Just make sure you share it in a way that’s meant to spark conversation and get them talking.
To become a better salesperson, you must realize that you’re not there to pitch. You’re there to engage the prospect in a conversation to understand what’s going on.
Bonus Tip #3: No need to persuade.
Just as you don’t need to pitch, you don’t need to persuade prospects to do business with you.
Prospects are smart. They don’t need to be persuaded. They don’t need to be convinced. What they need is to determine whether there’s a fit. They want to see that you’re the right fit for them.
I like to use the analogy of behaving like a doctor who’s not trying to persuade patients to do surgery, but instead focusing on determining whether surgery is the right fit for the patient.
This is key to becoming a better salesperson. When you stop trying to persuade, you take all the pressure off of the prospect and set an environment where they can make a comfortable, informed decision.
Remember, it’s not about persuading, but rather engaging them in a conversation and asking questions to help you understand exactly where they are hurting, what’s going on, and what they really care about.
Bonus Tip #4: Don’t focus on the close.
Sales managers tell me all the time, “We really want to help our salespeople close the sale better. They’re okay up front, but when it’s time to close they get really weak.” When I hear language like this, I instantly think the person has no clue what they’re talking about.
Sales is not about the close—it’s about everything leading up to the point of the close. What you say in the close is almost inconsequential. It’s what you’re saying at the beginning of the interaction, during the discovery, and during the presentation that matters.
Here’s the key if you want to know how to become a better salesperson: By the time the close comes along, if you’ve done a good job up until that point, you should never have to use a fancy close technique. All you need is to be strong early on, and then the close is an inconsequential next step.
Bonus Tip #5: Know your discovery questions.
Knowing your discovery questions up front is so important. When you’re actually face to face with a prospect, or you’re on the phone, or you’re on that Zoom meeting, you should know exactly what your discovery questions are going to be.
You should never be thinking while they’re talking, “What am I going to ask next? What will my next question be?”
When you know your discovery questions, you’re focused 100% on the prospect. This is absolutely crucial if you want to know how to become a better salesperson. You should know your discovery questions every single time—and by the way, these really shouldn’t change.
Knowing your questions allows you to go from focusing on yourself, what you’re saying, and what you’re going to say next, to instead focusing on what the prospect is saying right now.
That way, if they say something that doesn’t really make sense or that you should really dig deeper into, you’re ready to take advantage of it. Know your discovery questions so that you’re totally focused on prospects.
Bonus Tip #6: Establish budget.
It’s amazing how contentious this idea is in today’s world of selling. Salespeople push back on on this all the time, saying, “Oh, you can’t ask for a budget. Prospects simply aren’t going to give you a budget.”
While not all prospects will give you their budget right away, that doesn’t mean you can’t ultimately establish a budget with every single prospect before you give the presentation.
If you’re revealing price at some point in your conversations without having established a budget, you’re doing things wrong. What you want to do is establish a budget with a prospect up front, so that you don’t waste all your time presenting an offering to an unqualified prospect.
By establishing budget, you’re also establishing value before you’ve even shown them the solution.
But how, exactly, do you establish budget? I’ve made a ton of videos about this, but here’s the rundown: You just want to make sure you’re on the same page with money before you present.
So, you might say something like, “Before I go back to my office and put together a proposal, I just want to have a quick conversation about money to make sure that we’re on the same page. Does that sound okay?” Inevitably they’ll say, “Sure,” and you’ll say, “Okay, so I can tell you right now, a project like this is going to range anywhere from X to Y. Is there anywhere within that range where you could see investing to solve the challenges that you’ve mentioned?”
And then they give you their answer, and you go right into establishing budget.
Bonus Tip #7: Learn their decision-making process.
Not understanding a prospect’s decision-making process is one of the most common traps that salespeople fall into. You’ve probably been there before.
You might think you have a great prospect, spend tons of time and resources putting together a big presentation, and then at the end the prospect says, “This was great, but now I need to run it by my team and get their buy-in,” or, “I just need to run this by my boss and make sure she’s on the same page with this.”
Whoa. How did that happen? You didn’t know about this magical boss or team of people who held all the decision-making power.
If you want to know how to become a better salesperson, you need to commit to learning your prospect’s decision-making process early on, every single time. By determining their decision-making process before the presentation, you stay in control of the sales process. Almost every prospect will run their decision by someone at some point. It’s your job to find out who.
Even in a consumer example, if it’s a big enough purchase, they’re likely to be running the decision by someone else in the organization. And even if you’re selling to the CEO, oftentimes they have a team they want to get buy-in from, and they want to have a collaborative process. So you want to learn that decision-making process early on in the conversation, not after you’ve presented.
Simply say something like, “Tell me a little bit about your decision-making process.” If they respond with something like, “I actually have a team of people that are going to be involved in this process,” then say, “Okay, so tell me a little bit more about who those people are, and what are their roles.” Get all that information, and then say something like, “Well, in our next conversation where I present my ideas, would it make sense to bring everyone together into the same place so that everyone can really see what this solution looks like?” And now you have everyone there and you’re taking control of the buying process.
Bonus Tip #8: Always have a next step.
This is one of my biggest passions in sales. I find that so many salespeople go through a solid sales process, but then they end one interaction without a clear next step—and the whole sale falls apart.
We always want to have a scheduled next step coming out of any interaction with a prospect. To become a better salesperson, you need to become completely militant about this. Never let a prospect out of your sight (or off the phone) without scheduling a next step. If it’s moving forward, there should always be a clear next step.
Never say something wishy-washy like, “Oh yeah, I’ll send over the proposal to you on Wednesday and then how about I follow up on on Thursday?” No. Get it on the schedule by sending a calendar invite and wait until they accept before ending the meeting or hanging up the phone.
Say, “Do you have your calendar in front of you?” When the prospect says yes (because everybody does), then say, “Great. I can get you the proposal by the middle of next week. Is there a time at the end of next week that might work for you so we can review and discuss any questions that you have?” The prospect will say, “Sure, I can talk on Thursday morning.” Then lock it in. Always have a next step.
Bonus Tip #9: Be willing to make mistakes.
If you really want to know how to become a better salesperson, it’s important that you’re willing to make mistakes. Be willing to mess things up. That willingness to mess things up actually liberates you from doing things that are timid and tentative—and those things never serve you in sales.
I want you to take risks the next time you’re in front of a prospect and it’s time to ask that budget question. Don’t be worried about messing it up. If you mess it up, so what? Chances are they won’t even notice. Be willing to make those mistakes. You’re going to find that you improve dramatically as a salesperson once you stop being afraid of making mistakes.
So there you have it. Now you know 9 changes you need to make right now to become a better salesperson. Which of these ideas did you find most useful? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below 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.