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5 Tips for Improving Sales

Originally published
Originally published: 11/1/2011

Getting better at sales is a career-long endeavor. There's always something you can learn that will help you to do better. In this issue we have two columns on improving sales. This article gives basic tips I've learned, while our regular sales columnist, Geoffrey James, explains how to speed up the sales cycle on Page 14. The following tips seem simple, and so are often overlooked — but they can make anyone better at sales.

1. Leave brief, complete, professional voicemails.

I'm away from my desk a great deal, whether it's off-site meetings, business travel, or internal meetings; and that means sales people trying to reach me have to leave a voicemail. The range of messages is horrible to excellent. When prospecting, you can look at voicemail as either your friend or your enemy. With 70% of your prospecting calls going to voicemail, it's time to make friends with it.

Improve your callback rate by treating them as if they were 30- to 60-second one-on-one sales calls. Prepare three to five separate benefit-focused voicemail messages that you can leave over a period of days or weeks for one decision-maker before you move on, and put the prospect in the long-range category. Each message should focus on a single, unique customer-focused benefit.

2. Answer the question, 'So what?' in your presentation.

When you are giving a presentation, selling on the telephone, or one-on-one in your prospect's office or home, picture them having the words SO WHAT stamped on their foreheads. Imagine that for everything you say, the prospect is asking, "So what? Why should I care?

Remember, prospects care only about how your product or service can eliminate a problem that they have or help to make their business or life better. The answer to this question is always what your product does for them (benefits), not what your product is (features).

3. Cast yourself in a movie.

So, you think you've got your sales presentation down pat and you're pretty slick. Set up your digital phone or camera and record yourself giving that presentation to a co-worker, or a friend. I guarantee you'll find 10 things you'll want to stop doing and/or start doing. For decades the very best sales organizations have paid thousands to tape their sales team in role-playing scenarios. You can do it for free and become a significantly better sales person. 

4. Watch and listen how prospects process information. 

Customers and prospects interpret information differently. Some are visual, others are auditory, and yet others are primarily kinesthetic. If you pay attention and listen, you can tell fairly quickly which method someone uses to process information by the words they choose:

  • Kinesthetic people say things like: That doesn't feel right to me.
  • Auditory people might say: I don't like the sound of that. 
  • Visual people might say: I see what you are saying. 

These clues can help you to tailor your pitch appropriately. Using a lot of words with a visual person doesn't make sense — showing them a picture or presentation would work better.

5. Recognize why customers buy.

Do you ever analyze why you made a sale? If not, I suggest you do because it's worthwhile. In short, it's buyer profiling. Understanding buying is where selling should start. Assuming you "listen and watch" your prospective customer during your sales call, you'll realize they fit into categories. Some of the categories may include health needs, IAQ, price, overall comfort, repeat customer, etc. Often when you "recognize" the customer, you'll be able to tailor your sales presentation to them because they will have similar buying patterns. Clear and specific after-sales notes are a requirement. And, after a period of time you'll recognize the customer and the steps they take as they move through their buying process.


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