Listen and learn As far as I know, you can’t do a degree in Sales – so what are the prime qualifications for a sales career? The willingness and ability to listen, analyse and respond appropriately. In a word, empathy. My degree was in Town Planning. How did that help me in Sales? It gave me certain analytical skills, but I leant the other elements of empathy – listening and responding – all by myself. Even now, I remind myself to stop talking and start listening. Try it.
Know your strengths I’ve never bought that mantra, “You’re only as good as your next sale”. Wrong. You’re the sum of your triumphs and failures, the product of what you’ve learnt along the way. That means you have so much more to offer your next sales prospect.
Arm yourself with insights In B2B sales, it’s helpful to approach prospects sector by sector. So if you’ve got products or services with evident appeal to local accountancy firms – dedicate a month to targeting them. But before you do so, arm yourself with insights into their business. Find someone you can talk to informally about current needs and issues in the sector – that’ll give you valuable source material for your discussions.
Know the competition Ignorance of your competitors is a big turn-off for sales prospects. How can you know how good you are if you haven’t measured yourself against the competition? Acknowledge your competitors’ strengths, but find distinguishing strengths of your own.
Talk to the decision-maker It’s staggering how much time sales people spend talking to the wrong person – often the first person they’re put through to. Ascertain – in a friendly way of course – whether you’re talking to the decision-maker. If you’re not, get a name and job title, but don’t ask to be put through to them. Make a separate, cleaner approach.
Get to the point Pre-sales patter is tiresome. They know why you’re talking to them – to do business – so get to it. There’s time for the small talk once the deal’s in the bag.
Know when you’re beaten You know when you’re losing a sale. What you need to do now is withdraw quickly with your dignity intact, and move on to the next opportunity. If you persist in flogging a dead horse, it will take a toll on your morale. And you’re going to need all that morale for the next challenge.
Accept decisions with grace I’ve done some very good business with people who initially turned me away. That’s because I learnt early on to accept and respect my prospects’ decisions, even when I thought they were wrong. So don’t suggest they’ve made a mistake, but do say you’ll be happy to hear from them again should they change their mind.
Love your existing customers In your anxiety to win new business, don’t neglect your existing customers. Remember how much effort is involved in finding a new customer to replace them. Don’t be afraid of asking your existing customers for referrals. Nothing beats a recommendation from someone whose judgement you trust.
Track your contacts It’s an increasingly fluid workplace, with people changing employers every five years on average. Don’t lose touch when one of your main contacts in a customer organisation moves on. Use Linkedin and other channels to show you remember them. And keep in touch with me, Nick Cuff. You’ll find me on Linkedin, Twitter and blogging on