I know. I ended up working in sales almost accidentally. I never intended it, and if you ask me, I have very little natural ability for it. And while I would today still say that I am only a slightly better than average salesperson, I do know that I learnt as much as I can, and improved by focusing on areas that I was capable of improving in, and aiming to remove any specific weaknesses that I had.
So what ways have I personally seen can improve your sales? These are from what I have picked up from other people, then implemented in my own career, have seen them succeed and now advocate them to everybody. Every single member of a sales team that I have led or managed that has actually implemented these, has seen significant gains. And I repeat, implemented them!
Here are some basic sales training tips:
1. Closing sales more frequentlyIs there a way that you can close a higher percentage of the deals that you are working on? We all know that closing is a numbers game. When sales closing involves closing 25% of all leads, you are obviously going to make more money if you can increase that to closing 50%.
This is obviously a massive area. And it could be spoken about for ages, but let me leave you with three simple things to work on.
Firstly, to close more sales, you have to ask for the business. I know! The biggest mistake I was making at the beginning was not asking for the business. It actually took a client to ask me what the next step was for him to get what I was offering before the penny dropped. Why hadn't I asked? (If you want to read more about this error of mine, and about about not asking for the business in general, read it here.
Secondly, if you are going to now ask, don't just ask once. Keep using trial closes all the way through your dealings with a potential client. If they keep saying yes, it's difficult to suddenly say no right at the end.
Thirdly, find some closes that you're comfortable with. There are courses and books out there that focus on this one area of sales. My own experience showed me that some that I tried I was not comfortable with, others I was. Of the ones that I was comfortable with, some worked and some did not. Probably down to how I was actioning them, not because they were flawed. So I decided I would stick to the 2-3 methods that worked best for me. I'm sure you could do that too, and your sales will definitely go up!
Now, the higher your closing percantage, the harder it's going to be to drive up your closing percentage, so this will have a much greater impact on those first starting out in sales, or those with a low closing percentage to start with.
2. Close deals fasterThis is a reference to turnaround time. Is there anything that you can do to speed up the closing of a sale? There is sometimes simply nothing that you can do. For example, a rep might only be allowed to get his new company car after three years. He might come in to look with a few months to go but cannot actually go ahead and order the car until a specific date. Or perhaps you have to wait for the new financial year. However, there will be occasions when you can influence this. The better you become at closing sales, the sooner you can start to work on other prospects.
This issue really hit home to me when I read Duane Sparks' Action Selling. He talks about 5 key areas for a buyer, and one was "Time to Buy".
Now, you will be thinking to yourself, so when can I know about if there is anything that I can do to speed things up? There's only one solution for you as the salesperson. You have to be asking your client questions! Yes, some questions will be about what he wants etc, but you also have to ask about when they want it.
3. Close deals at a higher valueEven if you close the exact same number of deals per month, you will be making more money if you can improve your average deal value. This includes Upselling, Cross-selling and ways to get around discounting etc. By bettering your Upselling and Cross-selling abilities, this can be used in future deals so that profits head in the right direction.
In addition, most organisations have pricing models that have greater profits being made from additional features. For example, the base car model might be selling at a certain percentage Gross Profit (GP), but it can't be too high, as they are having to compete with other manufacturers. But things like high profile tyres, sports packs, different touches and pain finishes all have a far higher GP built in. Which means better commissions in most organisations!
Although this can help people at any stage of a sales career, this tip often makes the biggest impact on people that are already quite experienced in sales. They are already closing a good number of sales, so the higher average is being played out over a greater number of deals. So many people that look to go from experience sales people to really professional sales people look at how they can improve here.
4. Don’t waste time and why planning properly is imperativeSpend time with the exact prospects that will possibly result in sales. Unless an action has a tangible result, why do it? Even if the action is just to get to the next step, Planning is very important and you should always have one which can be referred to.
Another massive mistake too many sales people make is by wasting time talking to people that are either never going to buy, or are not in a position to buy. I love cars, and have a Ferrari dealership less than half a mile from where I work. So I can go and look at the cars often as I walk by on lunch. Now, I cannot afford a Ferrari, so I'm not in a position to buy one. But even if I could, I would not buy one. There's just something in me that says that no matter how beautiful it may be, and how good a piece of engineering it is, the world does not need me burning more fossil fuels, and so I'm likely to buy something way more fuel efficient.
I only mention this to highlight that any time (any at all, even seconds) that a Ferrari salesperson spends on me is time wasted, so they would need to identify that as quickly as possible, and move on to clients that are going to buy.
5. Find new clients fasterAre you creative in finding new clients? What are you doing differently from your colleagues? Instead of regular channels, try to come up with ways that other people are not using.
From most people, you're going to be told that asking for referrals is the answer. It probably is. To be honest, I hated it, and maybe didn't do it as much as I should have. So I had to find other ways to find new clients.
Many years ago, while selling office equipment, I teamed up with an office supplies salesman. If I went in to deliver a new copier and saw boxes that indicated a rival stationary company to my friend, I passed him the details of what company they were using. While delivering supplies, he would look to see what machines they had and he passed that information to me. We were providing support to each other as we were not rivals. Can you find others that can help you?
Now, you still need to qualify them, the same way that you would qualify any other lead that you received. But it helps if you can find more leads faster than other people can. So, I suggest you ask for referrals (everybody knows this but few people do it well), and also look for other creative ways to find clients.
6. Keep statisticsAlmost all of the aforementioned suggestions require you to know something about your own performance. Do you know your typical value deal? Do you know how long it takes on average to close a sale, or what your closing percentage is? How should your improvements be managed? If you do not have such stats already, start keeping track now. It's the only way that you're going to be able to make some changes now, and in a few weeks or months, see what works for you, and what doesn't. Then, build on what works, and don't build on what doesn't.