Good salespeople are hard to find. Use this advice to be one of the best!

How many good salespeople have you done business with?  For most, the answer is zero.  From used car lots to cell phone providers, bad salespeople are everywhere.  The truth is that with a little common sense and practice, most of these well meaning, yet poorly-trained, salespeople could go from bad to good in one day, and then on to the best in a span of a few months.  If you find yourself being thrust out into a sales role with hardly any training, here is the sales advice you need to be successful condensed into ten easy principles.

1.  Know Your Product

For a salesperson, there is no excuse for not knowing your product.  Whatever you have to sell, you must learn it backwards and forwards if you want to sell it with passion.  Understand the features and benefits of your product so that you can confidently describe what makes it unique.  Some might say that a good salesperson has charisma, but in reality charisma can only get you so far.  The best salespeople have a quiet charisma that comes from competence, and that competence serves to convince people to buy from them rather than go with another product.

2.  Build Trust 

Trust is the currency a good salesperson needs to make the sale, for it is only by trust that someone will do business with you.  The best salespeople understand that stretching or bending the truth destroys their credibility and therefore should be avoided at all costs.  Those who have ignored this basic tenet of sales have paid a dear price for their mistake.  Great salespeople say "I don't know" when faced with a question they can't answer, but they also make sure they get the answer and follow up with the customer in a timely manner.  This simple act builds a foundation of trust between the salesperson and the customer that no act of lying could ever outperform.  In short, TRUST=SALE.


3.  Listen

The most important tool a good salesperson has is their ears.  They listen to what the customer has to say.  The customer will tell you what they want.  You have the knowledge to provide them with the right solution provided you are listening.  Assuming what a customer wants or pushing a product for which they did not express an interest is the wrong way to go.  Many times a salesperson is told they will get a few extra bucks to push a certain product, but if the product is not in the best interest of the customer, what is the gain?  You may have lost their repeat business and a potential long-term account if you didn't meet their need the first time.  Remember, you are building trust, and trust means you listen.  After all, you have two ears, yet one mouth.

4.  Ask Good Questions

After listening, asking the right questions is the second most important skill to develop.  Great salespeople put themselves in the mindset of the customer so they can ask great questions.  Why are they interested in product X?  Who will be the user and under what circumstances will they use it?  Are they experiencing problems with what they use currently and if so, what are the problems?  Asking the right questions allows you to introduce your product's value proposition.  Once you have an understanding of the customer, all you have to do then is match the features of your product to their problems.  Asking questions is also a great way to check-in with your customer.  Phrases like, "Are you with me?" or, "How does this sound so far?" will let you know if you are on the right track.  There is a common pitfall that even great salespeople sometimes fall into when it comes to asking good questions.  When you ask a question, let the customer answer it!  Learn to be comfortable with silence following a question.  Don't jump in and assume you know what the answer will be.  If there is silence, that means they are thinking, which means you asked a good question.  Don't wreck it jumping to conclusions.

5.  Confidence

The best salespeople have all the confidence in the world when it comes to their products.  However, most of them did not start out that way.  So how did the great ones get it? Confidence can be learned!  They learned it through studying their product, building trust, listening, and asking good questions.  Confidence is intangible (meaning you can't measure it), but it makes a huge difference in sales.  Customers will notice your level of confidence from the moment you start to engage with them and will know they can rely on you to help them find the answers they need.

6.  Positive Attitude

Great salespeople have positive attitudes.  You've probably heard it said that some people won't take "no" for an answer.  That's not necessarily the case with great salespeople. They can handle being told "no."  But it usually comes after a process of defining what the customer means by "no."  Their initial reaction is to interpret "no" to mean "not right now," or "I need more information," or even "You haven't addressed all my questions and issues."  Only after clarifying what the customer means will they move on.  This positive attitude also portrays itself in the way a great salesperson speaks.  They use positive sounding phrases like "We CAN get started today" as opposed to "You wouldn't want to get started today, would you?"  Take care to use positive phrases to match your positive attitude.  What you say AND how you say it matters.

7.  Practice!

Great salespeople don't get that way overnight.  It takes persistence and work.  The more you practice doing something the better you become.  Imagine that you were going to deliver a speech to thousands of people (side note:  according to some surveys, people would rather die than speak in public).  Wouldn't you practice your speech over and over before taking the stage?  A sales presentation is no different.  Get in front of a mirror and observe your facial expressions and hand gestures.  Listen to yourself talk.  Does it sound and look natural?  If not, keep practicing.  Use family or friends to practice on.  Ask them for honest feedback and incorporate that into your pitch.  Another method would be to craft a conversation tree.  Start with a basic question and then write down on separate branches of your tree what you believe the most common answers would be to that question.  Then, write down more questions you could ask based off each one of those answers. Repeat until you are out of ideas. You will soon have a great conversation flow chart that is ready for most contingencies.  The idea is to develop mental-muscle memory.

8.  Closing

Great salespeople ask for the business.  More than anything else, closing is the key to making the deal.  However, most salespeople balk at this part of the process.  They think it is too cheesy or they feel weird about it.  After all, you are asking someone to part with their money.  But this is the point, isn't it?  Customers know you want the sale, just ask for it.  A great attitude to take about closing is that you've earned the right to ask for the business.  You have worked hard for it.  You studied the product, practiced your pitch, asked great questions, and truly listened to the customer.  Don't worry about what the customer will think.  They are expecting you to close, especially if you've earned it.  Put yourself out there and just do it!

9.  Referrals

Good salespeople ask for referrals.  Just like you earn the right to close, you also earn the right to ask for referrals.  Because you've implemented the above steps, the customer will have had a great experience in working with you.  By asking for referrals you can build a network of potential customers that will hear positive things about your product and, most importantly, about YOU!  A customer is buying from you as much as they are buying a product, so selling yourself is equally important.  Getting referrals is confirmation that you are on the right track.

10.  Follow-Up

The best salespeople follow-up with their customers.  They know that confirming a positive experience with their product leads to increased satisfaction.  Customer satisfaction increases the likelihood that they will return to do business with you and your company in the future.  This is also a great time to ask for referrals if they weren't able to think of any when you closed the deal.  Oftentimes they have shown-off their new purchase to friends and might have come across someone who is in the market for your product.  Given their positive experience with you, where do you think they will send their family and friends?  That's right, YOU!

To summarize, great salespeople are not born, they are made through the consistent application of the principles above.  Seek to help people and stand out from the crowd with your professionalism.  If you do these things, you can be sure that success will follow.