The ‘art of selling’ is a complex process. Each sales call you make, or sales meeting you attend, will be different – sometimes in very subtle ways. The objectives which you set yourself (and it goes without saying that this is something all salespeople need to do) will often be similar for each meeting – but the particular way in which that call or meeting unfolds cannot be totally dictated by yourself. Having accepted this, there are some fundamentals, which, when adhered to and combined with other sales skills, can help you to significantly increase your sales above your targets.
The value proposition
Ultimately, a sale is made when the salesperson has justified his or her solution as being the best value option – not necessarily the cheapest, but certainly the one with the greatest payback. Some of the reasons for your proposition being the most relevant solution may be intangible – like security over time, trust in the professionalism of the salesperson or subsequent technical support. However, these issues quickly become financial when the customer is encouraged to consider the costs or the disruption to be suffered if trust is lacking or ‘security over time’ can’t be proven.
Gain credibility – know your product and marketplace
If a client or potential customer is being ‘sold to’ then they want to know that the person they are dealing with is credible. In other words, they have sound knowledge of their product or service and of the market in which they operate. For example, if you are selling network operating compliance learning programmes then you should have a good working idea of the compliance subjects (such as health and safety) and not just the programme itself. In other words – know what you are selling. This isn’t just true when selling L&D – it’s true of any industry. A salesperson isn’t going to become a high-flyer without sound knowledge of what’s being sold – not to the point of being a practitioner, but enough to be knowledgeable and offer advice.
Know your client’s business
If you are doing your job right the chances are that you will be speaking with senior level decision-makers and influencers. These people want solutions which are relevant to their business. Therefore, you must make sure that you can demonstrate a knowledge of their organisation, including:
- the organisation’s primary business (e.g. finance, retail or information technology).
- the organisation’s competitors.
- the organisation’s turnover and profit in the last financial year.
- how well they are doing in the marketplace.
And you should be asking them:
- what is your job role and on what are you assessed, measured or rewarded?
- what are your most important and most immediate business challenges?
- to whom do you report?
With this information, you can put yourself in the shoes of your client; by achieving an understanding of the business, and his or her role within that business, you will be able to hold a conversation on an equal footing.
Dedication is what you need
There is no point in doing a good job for three months, exceeding your targets and then sitting back to admire your work. Sales is a demanding career – and selling L&D is as demanding as any other sales career. In sales, you are only as good as your last sale – and that is quickly forgotten! High sales achievers realise that you can only reap what you sow – as a result, the exceptional salesperson is continually, tirelessly sowing – regardless of how impressive his or her current sales figures are. They accept praise graciously and then get back to work! They don’t rest on their laurels.
Add these principles to developing your skills in listening, questioning, preparation, objection-handling (and a plethora of others) and you are well on your way to a successful and rewarding career in sales.