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The internet is full of sales strategies that aim to help you reach your monthly quota in no time.
“Do your research”
“Grow your network”
But these directions tend to be vague. What are the real and actionable recommendations behind them?
No one approach will single-handedly lead you to the commission-based promised land, but an understanding of these vetted and intuitive techniques (and a few tricks) will result in more qualified leads and deals won.
1. Respond Quickly
Of all the sales strategies, this one is by far the most important. It’s also the simplest to implement but somehow seems to get overlooked.
Whenever a new lead is generated, you should call them as soon as possible. In fact, fresh leads contacted within one hour are six times more likely to be qualified than those after the 60-minute mark.
Does this seem like a ridiculous statistic? Well consider this: web leads contacted within 5 minutes of being generated are 100x more likely to get on the phone than those contacted a mere 30-minutes later.
Shockingly, despite these findings, salespeople still seem reluctant to attempt a quick outreach. According to one Harvard Business Review study, it took businesses, on average, 42 hours to respond to their web leads. When all is considered, this results in a lot of lost opportunities.
Don’t get caught handing away perfectly good leads to your competitors. Always be ready to make that first contact.
2. Have a Conversation and Listen
You heard me, now go out and do it!
Just kidding, there is (of course) more to it than that. This classic piece of sales advice is rooted in the belief that aggressive, one-sided sales pitches are a recipe for disaster. Also, a large part of successful selling relies on timing. You have to speak to your leads when they’re ready to be sold to — they have to be in the right mood.
As it turns out, people become more comfortable (and more likely to engage in a sales pitch) when they get to talk about their own experiences or ideas. The secret is asking questions that both encourage “self-disclosure” and relate back to your product. These questions should elicit more than a one-word answer.
For example, rather than asking if a prospect is satisfied with their current social media management tool, you can ask them where they see the most room for improvement in their social media presence.
Even if their greatest pain point isn’t directly related to the product you’re selling (some sort of social media scheduling software), you’ve gotten them thinking about social media and talking about their experience.
And don’t be afraid to let the conversation drift away from the exact line of questioning you envisioned. Reacting to remarks and asking unplanned (but conversationally relevant) questions is what other sales strategies will simply describe as “displaying empathy.” It takes off that harsh, salesperson edge and creates an environment of helpfulness.
But, of course, it’s important to do your homework on whoever you’re speaking to and have an end goal for the conversation, even if that goal is a verbal promise to give your product further consideration.
3. Tell A Story That Solves a Problem
Let’s say your cold call, email cadence, or lead generation form has worked well, and you’re now ready to make your pitch. How can you ensure this critical step goes off smoothly? A hiccup here could mean all your other sales strategies have been in vain.
Most sales professionals (and public speakers for the last two millennia) agree that storytelling is a trusted way to captivate an audience.
The key here isn’t to tell just any story related to your product. Rather, for simplicity’s sake, you want to follow a formula for repeatable success.
The general idea: you need to describe how your product solves a problem or significantly improves some aspect of the prospect’s operations. Set your story in a world similar to the one they’re currently living in. It’s okay to match industry exactly: eCommerce, SaaS, retail, etc.
The “Hero’s Journey” is a popular story-formula in today’s media.
Then, describe a problem that many similar organizations or individuals encounter in this setting. It’s possible that your prospect may not realize the scope of this problem until you’ve illuminated it to them.
The problem, or dilemma, must clearly indicate what the prospect stands to lose. This point should be plainly recognizable to the listener and supported by statistics and use cases if available.
In the end, your product must fly in to save the day — sorry, no dark plot-twists allowed. Your conclusion should also incorporate statistics indicating past successes. This reminds the listener that the story is rooted in reality.
As a final note, you don’t need to memorize the pitch. In fact, it’s better if you don’t repeat it word-for-word each time. The first and last sentences should be well rehearsed, but everything in between should live as bullet points to maintain a natural, conversational tone.
4. Provide Multiple Purchasing Options
Decision paralysis is real. Give a lead too many options, and they may just end up choosing none of them. However, research suggests that giving consumers only one option has similar negative consequences.
By presenting a prospect with more than one purchasing option, you’re giving them a sense of autonomy and power in the sales process. Everyone wants to feel like they have a choice, and in fact, it’s a good thing that they do. People want variety, just not too much of it.
Tech companies do this all the time. Take the iPhone for instance. Apple knows the X and 8 models are going to “cannibalize” each other’s sales. These models are similar enough to attract the same type of buyer, but the small differences in appearance, performance, etc will create options and therefore more sales overall.
In the B2B world, we have pricing tiers and multiple service packages. If you can give your leads a choice, they’ll be less likely to find alternatives elsewhere.
Obviously, multiple buying options begin at a pre-sales level. It requires a cross-company approach, syncing product, marketing, and sales to achieve the desired results. Even small pricing variety, such as payment plans, should be communicated widely and have a planned rollout.
5. Build your Network and Make Friends
People tend to be suspicious, and for this, we can blame our early ancestors.
With no large claws or sharp fangs to defend themselves, every creaking tree or slinking shadow was reason to believe they were about to become dinner.
What protection they did have, however, was each other. They survived because the group — when working together toward a single goal — could avoid or scare off saber-tooth cats and velociraptors.
In the sales context, your prospect might think you’re a velociraptor. You need to prove you’re a human. A good way to convince them of this is to become acquaintances with other humans they know. Ergo networking.
If a prospect believes they have some sort of personal connection to you, they’re over 5-times more likely to return a phone call. This connected-approach leads to 243% more efficiency throughout the sales cycle.
Now, the question is: How do I meet people? The answer here is up to you, but a good approach is to become familiar with your peers at industry events. Think fireside chats, networking happy hours, and panel discussions. (Note: this may be the only venue where “So what do you do?” is actually a relevant conversation starter.)
Your goal at these events shouldn’t be to sell your product but to meet other sales, marketing, engineering, and entrepreneurial types. Hang out, get some business cards, and always remember to connect on Linkedin. Top sales professionals use Linkedin to their advantage when researching and messaging leads. A mutual ‘connection” could do wonders for your social proofing.
Sales Strategies: Unpacked
There’s no magic pill to help you meet quota. The sales strategies covered in this post provide a holistic outline, but remembering these 3 main points never hurts.
Respond to new leads quickly
Your product solves a problem (know what that is)
The prospect-sales relationship depends on trust (try to be courteous, professional, and amicable)
If you’ve tried numerous sales strategies, you’ve probably found that some methods work better than others. A lot depends on the industry, product, and individual. Try something new and see if it works!