Ten Top Tips: Sharpen up your sales in 2012

This year might not strike you as the most auspicious, says Shaun Thompson - but a little hard work and your sales team could be on fire.

by Shaun Thompson
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Given the imminent collapse of the world as we know it, it’s easy to assume that we should all shut up shop because 2012 is doomed to failure. But with many businesses struggling just to stay afloat, those who aim higher can buck the trend.

We asked Shaun Thomson, the CEO of sales, management and leadership training organisation Sandler Training, for her tips on taking a positive approach to sales.

1. Get organised
Before you start selling, invest time in putting together a water tight sales plan to define the annual sales focus and best practice. Break it down into bite-sized chunks: look at the stages you need to go through and try to work out the steps you need to take to put yourself in front of prospective clients.

2. It doesn’t hurt to dream
As with dating, we always have our ideal match in mind. Don’t be afraid of dreaming about your ideal prospect – it's much easier to go out to find clients when you know exactly what you're looking for. Once you have a detailed profile of your ideal client, it will help you when asking for referrals and deciding on who to target in networking meetings.

3. Track your progress
Even with a simple sale, there are plenty of elements that are subject to change. Have a basic structure so you can measure your results, making adjustments when necessary.

4. Learn your lessons
A part of this is setting time aside to debrief after a meeting and documenting what you’ve learned. If it went well, what can you take from that to replicate in other meetings? If it didn’t, what’s the one thing you could have done better? Can you practice it through by yourself for the next time?

5. Appearances aren’t always deceiving
If you sound, smell, look, act like every other salesperson your prospect has ever seen, that’s how you’ll be treated. Personalise the experience: if everyone else is doing it, do the opposite.

6. The art of listening
The number of sales you make is proportional to the amount of information you gather, rather than the information you give. One of the greatest skills to master in a sales environment is effective listening.

7. It’s not you, it’s them
Remember: people are most interested in themselves and the problems they encounter. Talking about you and the features/benefits of your product is a one-way track to protracted sales, objections and ultimately failure.

8. It’s ok to be choosy
Sometimes it pays to be discerning. In the business world there will always be time-wasters. The trick is to spot them early and not let them waste your most valuable resource. The best sales strategy has a screening process whereby the fit between your prospects needs and your solution is ‘win win’ for both parties.

9. It doesn’t have to be a battle
Sales meeting or calls don’t have to be gritty, hard-won, exhausting experiences. You may need to be gutsy for a few seconds at a time, but learn to relax and bring some humour into things. If you enjoy what you’re doing, it comes across in your body language. 

10. We’re all equal
The sales process is infinitely more enjoyable when the buyer and the seller treat each other with equal business stature. This should be an adult-to-adult conversation. The transaction is all about you working together to satisfy a need – believe that you’re helping the client, not that they are doing you a favour by choosing you.

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