Ten Great Selling Tips

georgecouttsThe other day I had lunch with George Coutts, a friend of mine. George has worked in sales most of his career, and is now a sales executive at Duro-Test Canada.

Sales is not my forte, but I recognize good selling skills when I see them, and George is one of the best. Over lunch, we shared some horror stories about incompetent salespeople we had known over the years, and some stories of outstanding sales success and sales technique. We discussed what it is that differentiates great salespeople from awful ones.

We ended up trying to compile a list of the most important ‘rules’ for good selling. George came up with these ten, which I thought were outstanding, and well worth sharing with readers:

  1. Invest in face-time with customers: It’s tempting, especially if it’s bad weather or if you’re not entirely comfortable with a customer, to try to resolve an issue or make a sale by telephone or e-mail instead of face-to-face. But many studies have shown that only ‘face-time’ builds relationships and trust, and that customers are willing to buy more, buy faster, and pay more (sometimes much more) from people they trust and have a relationship with. The ‘savings’ from the omitted trip are often a false economy. In fact, some research indicates that time spent with a customer (even time on the golf course) correlates more highly than any other variable (including price, product quality, and sales skill & experience) with sales volume. It shows you care.
  2. Solve the problem, don’t excuse it: Generally the customer is not terribly interested in whose fault the problem was, or why it occurred, or that you feel badly about it. These explanations only become pertinent if you’re unable to solve the problem quickly. So make it easy on yourself — fix the problem quickly to the customer’s satisfaction. No apology required.
  3. Return calls promptly: Nowhere does the very human tendency to procrastinate cause more grief and damage than in unreturned phone calls (and nowadays, unreturned urgent e-mails). It is fine to say you are going to need some time to get the answer to the question that prompted the call, but return the call immediately, even if it’s only to acknowledge you received it. And allow some leeway in what you tell the customer when you call — always under-promise and over-deliver, rather than the other way around.
  4. Make it easy for the customer to buy: Simplify the customer’s life. If the customer is seeing you, he/she generally is willing to buy. Use every possible way to make it easy — one-stop shopping, minimal paperwork, on-the-spot service, organized displays, processes and layout, a hassle-free buying experience. Save them time, reduce the number of substantially-similar choices, suggest appropriate buying criteria. Offer advice if it’s requested or obviously needed. Be helpful. 
  5. Give the customer something ‘extra’: A free gift, some unexpected service or add-on, samples, free delivery. The extras differentiate you from competitors, and they’re memorable.
  6. Listen first, sell later: It is much easier when the customer buys on their own initiative, than when you have to sell. Pay attention, indicate that you have heard and understood the customer’s needs (feed back to them what you heard). Prompt them with questions (“if we did this for you, would that help you decide?”) that put the transaction decision back in the buyer’s court. Learn to read the body language, an important part of ‘listening’.
  7. Show, don’t tell: Let the customer see, touch, sense the product. Let them try it for themselves. Take it out to them, or let them take it home. Demonstrate.
  8. Understand that the customer is not buying your product: They’re buying the benefits it brings. “Coolth”, not an air conditioner. A 1/4″ hole, not a 1/4″ drill bit. It’s the job it does, not its features and attributes, that counts. When you look at it this way, nothing is a commodity.
  9. Don’t sell yourself short: Nothing sells itself. Your knowledge, experience, helpfulness, advice, appreciation of the customer’s needs and wants, responsiveness, self-confidence, courtesy, attentiveness, and even your mere presence are an inseparable part of every product and service you sell. Although it may not be apparent, or appreciated, what you do counts. It’s important. It makes a difference. When you convey that you know that to your customer, it makes an even bigger difference.
  10. Know your customer, know your products: The more you know about your customer’s business, the more you will understand their needs, and the more you will sell. The more you know about your own products, the more you will be able to match those products to the customer’s identified needs. Don’t hoard this knowledge: Tell your colleagues what you learn about your customers, and their unmet needs and frustrations, even if there’s no obvious sale in it for your company. And spread what you learn about your own products around your company too — it’s astonishing how ‘silos’ emerge within even fairly small companies, between which even critical knowledge rarely passes.
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3 Responses to Ten Great Selling Tips

  1. Kevin says:

    Give the customer something ‘extra’: A free gift, some unexpected service or add-on, samples, free delivery. The extras differentiate you from competitors, and they’re memorable.

    I had to chuckle at this. Yes I agree, it is usually great for sales, but only if you know the customer. Just thirty minutes ago my wife and I were disgusted to open the door and find that the newspaper company had left us a “free gift” consisting of a collection of huge plastic crappy pens wrapped in an even bigger notebook sized plastic box, along with a worhtlessly small towel wrapped in more plastic, and just to be sure, the wrapped it all in more plastic. We will be calling them telling them to come pick it up and never leave us anything we don’t ask for again, scolding them for being so thoughtless about waste and consumption. They obviously thought they were “building a relationship” with thier customers, but more than anything they pissed us off.

  2. Zephyr says:

    That’s a beautiful comprehensive quick start guide to customer service. I love the common sense you bring to issues, Dave…How many ways could this have been written bydifferent people? Usually, there would have been technicallanguage, or some other thing obfuscated. By contrast,your ideas are written in a very transparent manner.Those who are going to take part in the movement whichyou propose, will need to have the time free todevote to these vital goals. A small business is, perhaps,a way to escape the 40 hour a week grind; one can bringin a very good amount of money, while working on flextime.

  3. Dario says:

    Lekker simpel lijstje, niks nieuws.Zonde van de tijd die ik er aan besteed heb.

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