Effective sales strategies and tips

July 10th, 2018

Read our Chief Commercial Officer's go-to sale strategy (skip to #15)

According to a report from the Brevet Group, only 13 percent of customers believe that the salesperson attending to them actually understands their needs. Developing an effective sales strategy involves not only equipping your team with the tools they need to succeed but also actively engaging with your customers to better understand them.

We asked experts to share their go-to sales strategies that actually work. Here are the 26 effective sales strategies and tips from the pros.

1. Do One Thing and Do It Really, Really Well

Kevin Mako, CEO & Founder, MAKO Design + Invent

Own your niche. As MAKO Design + Invent has grown, we’ve been able to add to our specializations. However, we are still very niche, which is the go-to physical product design and engineering firm for inventors and startups. We’re the unmistakable authority in this niche and for anyone looking to take their invention idea to store shelves, we are the place to go. By owning it, you development your sales arsenal and, consequently, get more clients. It’s a strategy of exponential gains.

2. Encourage Healthy Competition Within Your Sales Team

Chris Lipper, CEO, The Alternative Board – North Central New Jersey

The number one way to increase sales across your business is with effective sales leadership. Give your team members a reason to sell — motivate them! One of the most successful sales strategies I’ve used again and again is inside competitions. We set up several incentives for top sellers as well as a visual whiteboard, so team members can see how their faring compared to their peers.

Another motivational tactic that has worked well for our business is setting up behavioral KPIs [key performance indicators] for team members, rather than monetary ones (such as reach $10,000 a month). Behavioral goals that have worked for us include: attend four networking events in a month, host two 1-on-1s in a week and ask for 10 referrals. That way, you ensure your team is putting in the work without demotivating them with impossible numbers.

3. Step Away From the Computer and Pick Up the Phone

Nina Pfister, Founder & President, Mooring Advisory Group

Cold calling is absolutely not dead. On the contrary, I believe it’s making an all-star comeback thanks to the overflow of email and LinkedIn messaging. In decades past, before email and social media connections were prevalent, cold calling caught a bad rep as salespeople were knocked for being intrusive and overly aggressive with unexpected outreach. Now to cut through the online noise, I encourage our clients to stay active on email and social media and also to add in an appropriate task flow of cold calling for those VIP prospects you are striving to land meetings with. The key is to not pitch at your prospects if you catch them live, but rather to reference your emails and politely request to schedule meeting at a more convenient time.

4. Always Control the Next Step and Offer Something of Value

Joey Rahimi, Serial Entrepreneur, Investor & Advisor, Aiken House

That means you’re never “waiting” on a prospect to get back to you. You’re prepared to reach out to them with something of value so that they never feel like you’re annoying them. Never contact a prospect to ask for an update, ask to hop on a call, or something similar. Always contact a prospect with something of value, like a custom analysis of their business; a great, relevant article on their industry that may help them; or a more detailed feedback on something you know they’d be interested in, like a quick example of what a competitor might be doing. If you always send something of value to your prospects, they’ll always open up their email because they know you are furthering their career with your value.

5. Design Your Sales Experience for Your Target Buyer

Mica Longanecker, Head of Sales & Customer Success, Referral Rock

Buyers today are overwhelmed with options and buried in emails and calls. In order to win in today’s world, you need to have a clear understanding of your buyer persona and design your sales experience for them. Who are you selling to? What challenges and problems do they face? What do they care about? How do they prefer to communicate? What types of information do they need to make a decision? Once you clearly define your buyer persona, make sure you provide value at every interaction. Use technology to help scale those interactions but make sure you’re not over-automating as this can lead to a very impersonalized experience.

6. Have a Clear Understanding of Your Clients

Sarkis Hakopdjanian, Principal, The Business Clinic

One of the biggest mistakes I see salespeople make is that they don’t have a clear understanding of their audience or their motives. Often, people have been trained in one sales process and use that same process for different clients. No two clients are alike, so using the same process for different customer personas will not work well. The first thing I train my sales staff to do is to be observant and mindful of their audience. I coach them to learn as much as they can from their prospect by asking very key questions to get them to open up and share about themselves and their motivations for purchasing that product or service. Once we have a clear understanding of our prospect, we can custom tailor our sales process based on them and their goals, values and motivations.

7. Cast a Narrower Net

Manny Medina, CEO, Outreach

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not always best to cast a wide net. Managing hundreds of accounts can make even the best sales rep feel frustrated and overwhelmed. Narrow your targets to focus on your ideal customer profile, such as industry, segment and persona. Better yet, start with a target account and contact list so you can focus your time and energy. Zeroing in on a few juicy accounts can be really re-energizing and gives you a clearer and more attainable goal.

8. Make Your Target Customers Come To You

Joe White, CEO & Founder, JoeWhiteGlobal

A powerful tool we use with huge success is a monthly roundtable. We focus on a certain industry or business size and we invite the president, C-level executive or top manager. We supply some food, have a great speaker on a relevant topic and we do not sell. Selling to them in this environment kills the rapport. What happens is that they come back each month and then we slowly get into conversations on how we can help, Then, we close them.

9. Use Augmented Reality in Your Sales Strategy

Caspar Thykier, CEO & Co-founder, Zappar

Augmented reality (AR), which is technology that superimposes a computer-generated image over a user’s view of the real world to give a composite view, generally through glasses or a headset, is a great sales enablement tool, providing a way for small businesses to connect new and existing consumers with their brand and products via their phone, boosting engagement, interaction and purchase intent. For example, brick-and-mortar retailers are using AR to drive footfall, communicate product information, promotions and product reviews to customers, resulting in higher user engagement and closing rates. Right now, the possibility and affordability for small businesses adopting this technology are greater than ever. Not only are more powerful and cheaper mobile devices hitting the market but content creation tools are now so easy-to-use that you can create AR content without specialist skill sets.

10. Keep Asking Questions

Jennifer Murtland, CEO & Lead Agent, Team Synergi

As a sales professional, it’s important to find a prospect’s motivation for buying. When asked standard questions, most prospects will give you a blow-off answer. Don’t move on — ask another question. For example, “What’s important about … (repeat back to them what they said).” When they answer, you’re getting closer, but you haven’t arrived. Keep asking until you hear the emotion in their voice. Once you hear the emotion, ask “If I could show you a solution, would you move forward?

11. Avoid Offering Too Many Sales Promotions

Jeff Magnuson, Independent Marketing & Brand Consultant, Jeff Magnuson Consulting

One major thing to avoid is having too many sales promotions. I know this is a common tactic, but customers will very quickly be trained to wait until the next sale to visit the store. A retailer’s goal is to want their customers to pay the full price and also to want to shop at their store at any time. If customers enjoy shopping at a store, then that will increase the likelihood that they will return sooner rather than later. If a retailer wants or needs to offer some specific items at discounts because they are not selling, that’s one thing. But, retailers are better off finding a consistent price point that makes sense for both them and their customers.

12. Consider Less Travel

David Tevendale, Director of Business Development, Vast Conference

This advice might seem to fly in the face of the conventional sales logic that meeting with prospects in person drives sales. That is true, of course — there’s nothing quite like a face-to-face meeting with a client with actionable goals to drive the sales process forward. Salespeople know this, and so they tend to close for the on-site meeting early — sometimes too early. It’s very easy to overlook otherwise obvious warning signs that the customer is not interested in buying. If it takes a day to prepare for the meeting, a day of travel both ways, and the meeting itself ends up being a bust because the prospect wasn’t actually a good fit in the first place, then the salesperson has wasted three days that they could have otherwise spent prospecting for the right opportunity.

13. Target Impulse Buyers

Kayla Bolien, Senior Manager, Demand Generation, inReality

Many retailers make the mistake of only targeting the consumer of their product. In many cases, the ‘consumer’ and the ‘shopper’ are two different people. Retailers need to understand the mindset of shoppers and learn how to convert that person while they are in the store. Impulsive shoppers typically will respond to displays that stand out such as vivid colors, video screens or sounds. I recommend retailers take the time to entice these shoppers with products that either aren’t selling well online or have high margins. Decide who you’re targeting. Men typically impulse buy for their significant other whereas women impulse buy for their children. Take that information into consideration when determining product placement.

14. Don’t Immediately Start Selling to Your Prospects

Calum Coburn, Director & Vice President, The Negotiation Experts

Before you start selling, have a pre-meeting to uncover not just the needs and wants of your clients, but how these needs and wants rank against each other. Sure, price is important, but would they be willing to sacrifice a lower quality product or a delayed delivery for a discount? Having this information and asking these questions gives your clients ‘aha moments,’ which can lead to their buying more optimal solutions. You can also look forward to fewer modifications and renegotiation and higher long-term satisfaction and trust.

15. Believe That Deals Are Never Lost

Ricki Jones, Chief Commercial Officer, Tech Essence

In industries like business-to-business (B2B) technology sales, there will always be business opportunities that don’t convert within the expected timeframe. A common mistake is to consider these as ‘closed lost’ deals. My advice is to think of these opportunities as long-term, not closed. Maintain your relationships with relevant stakeholders, particularly if the sales process looks like it will take months (or even years) to complete. Check in with your contact, chat with them at trade shows or conferences and continue to build your understanding of any issues or challenges that you can help them with that the incumbent technology can’t. That way, you and your product stay fresh in their mind. When they reach the stage when they want to consider buying a new platform, you will be in a much stronger position than if you had ended the relationship when they didn’t convert the first time around.

16. Use Stories in Your Sales Strategy

Chris Smith, Founder, The Campfire Effect

Using stories to sell is a huge trend right now, and for good reason — customers and clients intuitively connect to stories, helping you move past that awkward ‘getting to know you’ stage. However, so many businesses are using stories incorrectly.

Here are three common mistakes that may be undermining your sales and what to do instead:

  • You make it all about you. Good salespeople know that the more the prospect talks, the better. Your goal should be to enter into their story, not share tale after tale of how awesome you are.

  • You focus on your product or service, rather than sharing the ‘I’ve been there’ story. Let your prospective client or customer know that you understand what they’re going through because you once were in the same place they now are, struggling with the same issues. Then. share how you overcame that challenge.

  • You make yourself the hero. The number one thing prospects want to know is, ‘Can you help me?’ The best way to provide that assurance is by sharing the stories of your past clients and customers. Make past clients and customers the hero, and a potential client will be able to see how you can help them easily too.

17. Pay Early and Pay Often

Erik Charles, Vice President, Strategic Marketing, Xactly Corporation

Too many companies pay, at best, 15 days after the end of the month — if not the quarter. This puts a long delay from ringing the bell to cashing the check. By the time the money hits the direct deposit, the motivational value is decreased. There is no reason to delay the payment — get the commission calculated and pay the rep. Faster payouts get them back in the field and/or on the phone to close the next deal. As for commissions, the best way is to simplify the plan. Most plans are too complex. If you can’t walk into the sales bullpen, ask a rep how much they will make off of their next deal. If they can’t answer to the penny, you have over complicated things. Put some focus on the field with simple, obvious measures.

18. Use Technology to Keep Up with Consumer Demands

Meghan Kavanaugh, Content Marketing Manager, Upserve

The biggest sales opportunities we see for small businesses are upgrading their technology to keep up with competitors and consumer preferences.

Here are three specific examples of real customers who have increased sales using new technology:

  • Kenji’s Ramen added online ordering to their website a few months ago, and it already accounts for more than 20 orders a day and more than 10 percent of monthly revenue.

  • Adding an iPad point-of-sale system enabled servers at Press Bistro to put in orders right away without going back to a stationary terminal. Owner Jeremy Shearer said, ‘Now instead of a customer potentially waiting 20 minutes to get a drink on a busy night, they’re getting it in less than 10, which adds an extra $100 in beverage sales that would have been lost if the drinks were slowly paced throughout the meal because now we’re seeing that we can get a third drink onto the table.’

  • Receiving sales data on menu items that aren’t performing well has prompted menu changes that have ultimately helped shape PRESS Bistro’s best-selling dishes. They took a new menu item from underperformer to a number one seller that accounts for close to 40 percent of dinner sales most nights.

19. Demonstrate Your Unique Selling Point with Free Samples or Trials

Joe Kok, Founder, Voiptoners

We can always begin with free samples or trial for clients for instance. People love free stuff and this provides them the opportunity to really test out the product and fall in love with them later on. But, most of all, is the USP — the unique selling point. Create a USP for your product; it doesn’t have to be premium or fancy. Hitting the pain point of your customer and solving their one particular problem is all it takes to make the special sale.

20. Align Your Sales to Your Marketing Functions

Paul Grant, CRO, MarketStar

Even for small businesses, marketing and sales functions need to be aligned to ensure success. Marketing creates the demand and sales capitalize on that demand. The two functions need to be linked and well-oiled to ensure that upfront efforts enable the downstream desired outcomes. Ensuring documented sales and marketing processes and rationalizing the connection points will help deliver on this concept. Knowing and clearly articulating your specific value proposition through marketing and into sales is paramount. Customers and buyers must be able to understand and internalize the benefits and value provided by your business. Sales leaders in large enterprises use this framework to deliver success, and there is no reason the same framework cannot be leveraged in similar fashion for the small and medium-size business owner.

21. Understand How Your Target Customers Measure Their Own Business Success

Julie A. Thomas, President & CEO, ValueSelling Associates

Whether you call on a for-profit enterprise, government entity or nonprofit group, all organizations have a way to define and measure their success. For many, especially commercial businesses, those measurements are often communicated in financial terms. Not only is it important to be financially literate, demonstrating mastery in the language of business, but it is also important to understand how that terminology applies to the companies you are calling on as well. If you expect to compete on value, you must be able to understand and articulate that value in the context of each company or organization that you sell to.

22. Create an Offer ‘So Sexy Your Prospect Can’t Say No’

Erica Martin, Co-founder, Sales That Don’t Suck!

The best way to overcome objections in your sales process is to create an offer that speaks to those most common objections and addresses your client’s concerns. For example, if you find your prospects saying, ‘I love what you have to offer, but I just don’t have the money,’ have an option for a payment plan or an initial deposit to ‘hold their spot.’ In addition, creating clever names can build value in your offer without you having to change a thing (or do more work).

An example of this is my client, Su-Ann. She’s a graphic designer, and she wanted to charge more and make her offer more appealing, so I recreated the names of each of her services. She had a ‘Branding questionnaire’ and a ’30-minute Skype Consultation Call,’ which I changed to “Dream Brand Assessment” and “Dream Brand Reveal Session.” By changing the verbiage alone, it made her sales process easier and higher converting because her packages sounded more appealing to her prospects.

23. Create Content That Adds Unique Value

Christian Banach, Group Account Director/Sales Director, Catapult New Business

Content marketing and thought leadership continue to be hot buzzwords. But, the market is flooded with blogs, white papers and infographics. Is any of this leading to new business? It’s impossible to keep up with all of the webinar invitations, trend reports and industry news. With so much content out there today, yours needs to do more than simply demonstrate that you’re ‘smart.’ Consider this maxim: Your thought leadership should be so valuable to your dream client that they’d pay for it. If it’s not, it shouldn’t be out there. To capture and hold the attention of your dream clients, your content needs to share new insights from your unique point of view.

Evaluate your content to decide whether it’s thought leadership. Does it meet the following?

  1. It provides true insight

  2. It reframes

  3. It’s credible

  4. It’s forward-looking

Companies with this content strategy are dramatically more likely to break through, get meetings and win more new business.

24. Know How to Lead Your Customer into Making a Buying Decision

Robin Waite, Business Coach, Author & Speaker, Robin Waite Limited

Most of my clients, before they start working with me, let their customers/clients choose which product they want. Why is this a mistake, I hear you ask. Well, most people turn to a professional because they either don’t know how to do something themselves, couldn’t do it themselves even if they did know what they needed or don’t have the time to implement whatever it is the professional is offering. Customers and clients are looking for a professional to take them by the hand and show them what they can do, which means they don’t know which product or service is right for them. Therefore, I encourage all of my clients to close a sales pitch with the following statement:

‘Based on your answers to the assessment/your initial inquiry/the quiz and also what we discussed during your consultation, the product/program/service I would recommend for you is Product B. These are the reasons why … ?’

Then, list the reasons. This positions a single product to their customers or clients, which avoids any question about what they need. It should also appeal to what they want — all things being good. It also moves the sales conversation into the close without confusion.

25. Use Data to Drive Your Sales Strategy

Jaime Horenstein, Social Media Manager, Vanguard

When doing my own outreach or working with internal clients, the first thing I do is set up tracking for leads. Every email, social media post, press release and general outreach I perform is trackable and reports are pulled on a regular basis to see progress and analyze the data. The best part is most of the data I need to track I can access for free by creating tracking links or inserting codes on our website. Knowledge is power and the more you know about your initial outreach the most successful you will be in landing the sale you are seeking.

26. Carefully Monitor Your Brand Online

Andrew Schydlowsky, Founder & CEO, TrackStreet

Too few sales execs have a firm grasp of what is happening with their brand online. If you don’t proactively monitor your brand, you’ll be blindsided by pivotal events. Like resellers starting a price war with each other on your products, counterfeiters launching knockoffs on Amazon. Internet trolls writing negative product reviews or well-meaning dealers using outdated photos or product descriptions. If you are fielding complaints and in reaction mode, check out brand protection platforms like TrackStreet. If your product can be sold online, register your trademarks on Amazon Brand Registry before someone else, like a distributor, does. There are huge benefits if you need to enforce your intellectual property rights or promote accurate information about your products on Amazon.

Your sales strategy says a whole lot about the direction your business is taking and ideally it will have to be the path where you reach your long-term goals. Try these tips from the pros to help you widen your customer base and improve your bottom line.

This article was originally published by Fit Small Business here