Prepare yourself for the world’s most obvious statement. Are you ready? Here it is:
Every company needs to make money to stay in business.
Alright, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time to ask the logical follow-up question: Whose responsibility is it to convince prospects to hand over their hard-earned cash in exchange for your goods or services (or both)?
If you answered the marketing team, you would be correct. And if you answered the sales team, you would also be correct.
Both sales and marketing are primarily focused on bringing new business to your company. They may go about it in different ways, but both teams can easily agree on their overarching goal.
A sales team and marketing team can make beautiful music together when their strategies are in harmony. The marketing team engages in activities that get people interested in your company, and the sales team effectively develops interpersonal relationships with those prospects and convinces them to sign the dotted line. All the while, the two teams communicate with each other to improve the process, causing the cash register to ring more frequently with each adjustment.
Now that we’ve established the common goals of the marketing and sales teams, let’s talk about what a salesperson could learn from a marketer to be more effective.
1) Stalk Before You Talk
In marketing terms? Know your Target Market.
Do a simple exercise for me. Close your eyes and envision your kindergarten teacher hovering over you. She's giving you a command that, unbeknownst to you, will continue to be hammered into your ears for the next 20 years of your life. Teacher after teacher repeated this phrase, and yet you probably never realized what they were really doing was hammering the most fundamental step of marketing (and sales) into your mind.
"Do your homework!"
This may already be a broken-record-phrase, but when it comes to acquiring new customers, there's no better way to start. In fact, don't start at all without first doing the proper research.
To help put things into perspective – in marketing, we don't sell to a general audience, we sell to a target audience. When you think about cold call sales, the worst problem a company can have is a high call volume with few leads, resulting in a low conversion rate. Ultimately, the company's greatest assets – time and money – are wasted.
Increasing conversion doesn't come down to simply driving your pitch harder. Any marketer knows that you can have the perfect message – but with the wrong audience? Good luck.
This is why marketing and sales experts focus (or should focus) much of their efforts on understanding their buyer persona instead of just developing a perfectly convincing pitch.
I don't care if you're a car dealership or MLM distributor, if you don't understand your ideal audience… conversion rates will be low. Consider quality over quantity when it comes to attracting potential customers.
Tips for "Doing Your Homework":
Know their language: don't assume they know the same lingo you do. Only speak jargon if you know they speak the same jargon, and even then, use it sparingly.
Find them online – through their website, their social networks, their personal blogs, and anything else that fits into the “legal stalking” description. The tidbits gained from stalking them will come in handy when you’re actually talking with them. Just be careful not to share everything you know about them.
Proper Nouns: learn specifics about your audience. As much as possible avoid general vague statements, and give them names and places you know they identify with. If your audience sells athletic shoes, which brand of athletic shoes do they sell the most? Are their corporate headquarters in Seattle? “How about them Seahawks?” sounds a lot better than “How about them sports?”
In the end, it comes down to putting yourself in the buyer's shoes. What needs are you satisfying for them? This takes us to point #2.
2) Listen Like a Boss
In marketing terms? Understand the Purchase Cycle.
This is where marketing and sales see a ton of overlap.
Quick reminder: the purchase cycle (aka buying process) is a set of steps a potential customer will typically go through in their evaluation of a product or brand. The further down this process they make it, the closer they are to handing over cash.
Although drop-off is expected at every stage of this cycle, it is the responsibility of both the marketer and the salesperson to eliminate as much of this loss as possible.
"But how, oh fountain-of-all-knowledge?", you may ask.
The answer comes down to a simple lesson your mother probably tried to teach you - learn to listen.
If you are trying to sell your services to someone who is at the very beginning of the purchase cycle, they haven't heard of you. They probably don't understand the product-specific lingo you're using. So if you pitch the same perfect pitch you use for those who are towards the end of the cycle for those who are at the beginning, you'll lose major traction from the get-go. Adapt your speech according to the customers' current knowledge of the company or industry.
But realistically, will knowing a customer's current location on the purchase cycle be enough to convince them to buy? Probably not. Convincing someone to buy takes much more than using words they can understand. You want to move past the "What a lovely idea, but have a nice day" and get to the "Take this cash out of my hands – I must have your product/service immediately."
This is where step two of being a listening seller comes into play. Step two is rather simple - finish their story.
Marketing is all about telling stories. As a salesperson, you have the unique opportunity to tell your client one-on-one what you can help their 'story' to be. Listen to what they have to say - What keeps them up at night? What need are you going to fulfill for them?
Listen to their problem, and then fill in the solution. Restate what you hear them describing as their needs, and then help them visualize how their personal life or business would improve with you being a part of it. You can’t finish their story if you don’t know the story up until now.
3) Sell Yourself
In marketing terms? Know your Unique Selling Point
This point is pretty self-explanatory, but still deserves some diving into.
Whether you're selling software or sandals, the main thing your customer wants to know is simple: what makes you different? No, this isn't the subject of a college application essay, this is the heart of your sales pitch.
Part of 'selling yourself' includes a lot of behind-the-scenes work before you even speak with a customer. You will need to spend time refining your message. How can you clearly and concisely communicate your value relative to your competitors in a way that motivates action?
This is where you can incorporate another marketing tactic – test. Don’t limit yourself to one tactic, and pay close attention to the ones that appear to be driving the most success. With experience and careful reflection, you will be able to isolate the elements of your sales approach that appear to be driving the most sales. Don’t be afraid to ask current customers, “So why did you pick us?”
Also, just be a cool person. Unfortunately, as a salesperson, you are likely battling an avalanche of negative stereotypes. Show your prospects that you’re not a sleazy snake oil peddler or a walking embodiment of Alec Baldwin’s money-hungry, win-at-all-costs character in Glengarry Glen Ross. If you can prove that you’re perceptive and dynamic, it will reflect well on yourself and the company. And if you are a sleazy snake oil peddler… wait-- you guys can read?
4) Don't be Annoying
In marketing terms? Don't be annoying.
Think of it this way. Let's say you make the mistake of picking up a call from an unknown number. To your horror, the voice on the other end is that of a telemarketer. They give you their pitch - an unapologetic push to get you to sign up for a monthly automatic shipment of bunny slippers.
"Thank you, but I'm not interested."
They continue to pester. They are the #1 bunny slippers in America, after all. But you couldn’t possibly care less. They continue pushing hard, because did you know they sell five different colors of bunny slippers? Your level of annoyance now sky rockets, and you hang up with a hatred of everything to do with their company (bunnies and slippers included).
Say the word "salesperson" to most consumers and they'll run away screaming. The fundamental reason homeowners hide behind curtains when they see a door-to-door salesperson in their neighborhood, or stare at their socks to avoid eye contact with kiosk employees at the mall, comes down to an innate dislike of pressure. Call it obligation, flattery, pushiness or misguidance – too many of these feelings are associated with sales.
The same thing happens in digital marketing. In-your-face ads and "but wait, don't leave!" pop-ups can come across as pushy and even desperate.
So how do we get around it? Stop making sales pitches - make conversation instead. Here at Fit Marketing, we call this tactic "Pull Marketing."
The idea behind pull marketing is this: attract customers by naturally drawing them in instead of strategically pushing them towards you, which doesn't always go well.
I once had a conversation with a girl who had previously worked at a call center. She recounted how she had to make the same sales pitch hundreds of times over. She began implementing a strategy she titled "…but it's up to you".
By simply giving the potential customer all the facts, then backing away and letting them decide, she noticed a significant jump in sales. She attributed this to the fact that she gave control of the purchase decision back to the customer, and appealed to their ability to make wise decisions as opposed to their ability to fall under pressure.
5) Sales Don't End After Sales
In marketing terms? Remember retention.
Remember our earlier discussion about being a cool person? Yeah, about that. Being a cool person is most definitely not handing a new client over to the production team and washing your hands clean of them.If you’re able to convince someone to give you their credit card info, you have done something to show your new client that you’re trustworthy and have their best interests in mind.
A major reason they agreed to come on board might be because of the relationship they developed with you as they worked with you throughout the sales funnel. So don’t make your company (and yourself) look bad by completely forgetting they exist as soon as you cash your commission check.
Relationships matter, and sometimes even the best work by the production team can be overshadowed by a bad experience with a salesperson. If your goal is to turn your clients into raving fans of your brand, it will require a bit of followup to make sure they know you love and respect them.
At the end of the day every sales interaction is about one-on-one communication. The same way you gain a real friend is the same way you gain a real customer. Get to know them, listen to them, give them the best (real) version of yourself, don’t annoy them, and stay true to the them. You’re in sales for a reason, and that reason probably has something to do with your ability to get along with people. Now go get along with people.
Are there any other marketing tactics that could make a salesperson more effective?
Originally published Oct 20, 2014 2:00:00 PM, updated January 18 2023