Making several small changes to your communication style can have a big and immediate impact on your sales results. If you minimize how much you sound like a salesperson trying to push your product, it will be easier to generate leads, start conversations, and build relationships.
After all, most prospects are tired of being pestered with calls and emails from relentless reps. Position yourself the right away, and you’ll avoid setting off their “time-wasting salesperson” alarm. The following eight tips will help you leave a good impression.
1) Present yourself as a business person, consultant, or advisor
I’m not saying you should misrepresent yourself at all or manipulate the situation. But there is a difference between acting as a business professional who represents a company and a set of products and a pushy salesperson who’s trying to sell something.
Think of yourself as a subject-matter expert. You have a bird’s eye view of your prospect’s industry, while they’re on the ground. Use your hard-earned knowledge to make recommendations and provide new insights.
2) Spend less time on your company and products
Nothing screams “stereotypical salesperson” like rambling on about your company and products. Here is an example of a common email structure for a salesperson trying to sell something:
Hi [prospect name],
I am with [company name] and we provide [product]. Our [product] provides [explanation about product].
I would like to schedule a meeting with you to discuss how [product] can help you. What is a good time for a 15 to 20-minute meeting?
Best regards, [Your name]
Here’s a modified version of that message that suits a consultative selling approach:
Hello [prospect name],
My company has found businesses in your space are often challenged by:
[Pain point #1]
[Pain point #2]
[Pain point #3]
Are you available for a brief 15 to 20-minute meeting next Tuesday or Thursday morning where we can discuss how we have helped other companies like yours eliminate these challenges?
Best regards, [Your name]
That second email might not get your prospect to say “Yes, I need this” -- but that’s a rare reaction, anyway. More importantly, it piques the buyer’s interest in speaking to. Once you’ve won their trust, you can successfully pitch your product.
3) Focus on the prospect
Shift the focus of your conversations from your company and products to the prospect and their needs. Not sure how to do that? Ask probing questions. Not only will you encourage your prospect to open up, facilitating a balanced dialogue, you’ll also get to learn more about their situation and gather valuable details.
First, think about the challenges your product might help to decrease or resolve. For each challenge or pain point, come up with a question or two to determine whether your prospect is concerned about that particular pain point.
4) Pre-qualify the prospect
Consultative salespeople try to find prospects who need what they sell. Pushy salespeople try to talk prospects into wanting what they sell. Make sure you’re targeting the right buyers by asking pre-qualifying questions. Good ones stem from the pain points you resolve.
You can also use buyer personas. Periodically review your closed/won deals to make sure your actual customers line up with your ideal ones -- are they from the same industries, work at companies of similar size, sell similar products or services, etc.?
Having a crystal-clear understanding of who needs your product lets you sell authentically -- not to mention, more efficiently.
5) Talk about benefits, not features
Include benefits that your product offers in your sales pitch. It is easy to discuss what your product does and the functionality that it provides. But what does that functionality help your prospect do or improve?
Does the product help your prospect work more efficiently, save them time, decrease costs, improve profitability, increase revenue, or decrease stress? Focus on this value.
6) Get your prospect engaged
A salesperson who’s trying to sell something will do most of the talking. Avoid this by getting your prospect talking and engaged in phone calls and meetings. Asking good open-ended questions will help you to achieve this.
7) Use the sales takeaway (when appropriate)
Express doubt in the level of fit or reason for moving forward. For example, you may say something like this at the beginning of a sales pitch:
“We help businesses to increase their revenue from new accounts. But I am not sure if we can help you in that same way.”
You could also use this strategy when the prospect seems indifferent or on-the-fence about moving forward. Say, “Maybe this is not something that you really need right now.”
Anyone who’s looking to close the deal at all costs won’t deliver these lines -- but a consultant or advisor with the prospect’s best interests in mind would. The sales takeaway will decrease guardedness and build trust.
8) Let them decide next steps
If you want to sound less like a salesperson and more like a consultant, give the prospect some autonomy by asking “What would you like to do next?” or “What direction would you like to go from here?”
You can certainly offer some suggestions, but when you let the prospect decide without pressuring or persuading them, you seem like a consultant.
These small changes will enable you to kick off more conversations and relationships with prospects. Good luck.
Originally published Jul 5, 2017 8:30:00 AM, updated June 11 2021