Selling is a lot like interpretive dance or improv comedy — a free-flowing art form that requires tact and charisma.
And like those two other practices, sales can be grating and obnoxious when done poorly — like so bad that you leave the theater mid-performance and argue with your significant other about how it was unfair of them to drag you to see their cousin's improv troupe without notice instead of letting you watch the season finale of Survivor: Edge of Extinction like you had planned on all week.
Maybe that particular situation was specific to me, but you get my point. Selling is a delicate but structured art with a lot of room for things to go wrong. The success of your sales efforts can often come down to your talent and persistence, but there are some techniques and best practices you can employ to make sure your work is as effective as possible.
Here are some pointers on how to master the art of selling.
How to Master the Art of Selling
Take an authoritative tone throughout the process.
Develop and express your expertise.
Sell with empathy and a personal touch.
Never stop learning and evolving as a salesperson.
Manage your expectations.
Employ the '1-10' sales closing technique.
1. Take an authoritative tone throughout the process.
Sales, at its core, is a matter of trust. It's the practice of conveying value and necessity to an interested party. It's hard to do that effectively if you're speaking uncertain terms with a breathy tone and a subtle stutter. Speak with confidence and authority throughout every stage of your sales process.
Do you have to interact with a gatekeeper, like an assistant, before actually speaking to the prospect? Relay the information the prospect will need to them clearly, concisely, and frankly. Make sure they know what you're saying with some sense of urgency.
Did your call go to voicemail? Don't talk with a tone that essentially says, "I'm so sorry to trouble you, but I'd really like to speak with you if you get the chance — no pressure if you can't though. I understand you're really busy, so if you feel like it, you can call back me if you want."
If you bring that energy to your sales process, you're not going to project the authority necessary to build trust and establish yourself as a guiding force who knows what they're talking about.
And that tone can't stop when you're done prospecting. Keep it going through any meetings or conversations with the prospects themselves. They want to know you're confident in your product or service — speaking with authority is the best way to convey that.
2. Develop and express your expertise.
As important as your authoritative tone might be, it won't mean much if it's used to convey hollow information. I alluded to it earlier, but I'll stress it again — know your product or service inside and out.
Be able to address any questions your prospects might have thoroughly and thoughtfully. Your ability to do so is one of the most crucial factors in building trust and rapport with potential customers. But your expertise has to extend beyond your product.
Understand your competitors' products or services, their strengths and weaknesses relative to yours, their pricing structures, and their reputations. Know all this and more, so you can better frame your product as the smart, sensible choice that will suit your prospect's interests better than anyone else possibly could. But it doesn't stop there.
Develop expertise in your industry as a whole. Have a comprehensive understanding of the prospects you're selling to. Get a feel for how they stand relative to their competitors. Take all of this information, use it to shape talking points, and be able to articulate them naturally and coherently.
Prospects want to know they're buying from someone who knows what they're talking about. It might seem obvious, but the best way to do that is to know what you're talking about.
3. Sell with empathy and a personal touch.
Always remember that sales is customer-centric. You're not selling for yourself — you're selling for your prospects. Lead with empathy and think about how your product or service could solve the challenges your prospect is facing.
Consider who they are, how they're doing, and what obstacles they're up against. Approach them with a sense of genuine curiosity and concern. Let them know you're not interested in profit so much as you are actually improving their lives or business operations.
Focus on relationship building — above all else. That means giving sound advice to prospects, maintaining contact, and potentially providing alternatives like various payment terms or extended trials.
Follow the LAER framework — listening, acknowledging, exploring, and responding. It allows you to stay in control of the process while keeping your prospects engaged and building trust. And know how to pace your efforts. That often means starting your deal slowly and accelerating at the end.
Ultimately, as cliche as it might sound, the customer comes first. Always be willing and able to deliver on that concept.
4. Never stop learning and evolving as a salesperson.
Your sales skills should never be stagnant. There's always room for improvement and adaptation. And that doesn't have to stem exclusively from your own sales experiences. Be mindful of the strategies your colleagues are employing in their sales efforts, and see if you can incorporate some of the more successful ones into your repertoire.
There are always new techniques to learn and opportunities for growth, and you have to stay on top of any potential areas for improvement. If you notice your prospecting skills are particularly weak relative to the other sales abilities, try taking online courses on the topic or touch base with a coworker who's particularly solid at the process for some pointers.
And always practice and develop those new skills consistently and to the best of your ability, so that when you apply them, they're well-refined and backed by confidence and legitimate understanding.
5. Manage your expectations.
Morale is crucial to sustaining momentum in your sales efforts, and keeping realistic expectations is a part of that process. Approach every prospect with confidence, know-how, and preparation — not definitive expectations of the outcome.
If you set standards so far beyond your reach, you'll take the wind out of yourself with every sale that doesn't pan out. Have a good picture of your ceiling, but don't be bound by it or demoralized if it winds up being a bit too high.
The key here is to remain pragmatic and make good on the other points on this list. Stay well-informed, make sure your pitches are well-rehearsed, keep your customers well-served, and always speak like you have the situation well at hand. Just have pictures of both what you'd like to accomplish and what you think you can accomplish.
Both provide excellent reference points. One gives you something to aspire to. The other lets you know if you might be underperforming. Just make sure each one is realistic, tempered, and able to keep you on track.
6. Employ the "1-10" sales closing technique.
The "1-10" closing technique is one of the most effective strategies salespeople can employ to successfully bring deals home. This technique helps you reign in prospects, cues you into which ones require more attention, and lets you know when it might be time to jump ship on a potential deal. Here's a video from HubSpot Academy detailing how to do it right.
Selling isn't a science. There's no be-all-end-all formula that definitively leads to success without fail. It's an art — one that requires tact, grace, sensibility, and persistence. No matter where you are in your development as a salesperson, it always behooves you to understand how to master the art of selling.
Originally published Jun 12, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated June 12 2020