Just as the best athletes constantly practice, improve, and refine their strategy, successful salespeople are always experimenting with existing techniques and trying out new ones. After all, the second an athlete or rep stops striving to get better, they backslide.
I've collected 75 one-sentence tips to keep you in peak selling shape. Whether you want to focus on your presentation skills, your approach to calling prospects, your methods for closing, or all of the above, you’ll find some great words of wisdom in this list.
1) Generate more leads by keeping track of less-obvious trigger events: Major shifts in hiring, an executive leader change, new industry legislation, etc.
2) Before you reach out to a prospect, identify the problems they’re likely dealing with.
3) Think about your lead as a company, not one single person (6.8 people are now involved in a typical B2B purchasing decision.)
4) Schedule time for prospecting each and every day -- even on the last day of the month or quarter.
5) Use multiple channels to prospect -- email, phone, social media, events, referrals -- to keep the top of your pipeline as full as possible.
6) To get more responses, write emails a third-grader would understand.
7) Keep your email subject lines under seven words -- that’s the max that’ll show up on a phone, where almost half of prospects open messages.
8) Don’t use “Re:” in a subject line; your email may get opened, but it’ll be promptly deleted.
9) If you're trying to reengage a prospect who's gone dark, don't guilt-trip them.
10) You’ve probably noticed that your “just checking in” or “just following up” emails no longer get responses, so include a reason you’re reaching out and a clear call-to-action.
11) Use videos to grab your prospect's attention and stand out from the crowd.
12) Include a link to your calendar to avoid the annoying back-and-forth of finding a time to meet.
13) Once you get off the phone with someone, send a follow up email ASAP to ensure it doesn't slip through the cracks.
14) Avoid embarassing typos and spelling mistakes by copying and pasting your emails into Microsoft Word and running them through spell-check, or downloading Grammarly.
15) Keep track of your templates' open and response rates so you can drop the low-performing messages and double down on the high-performing ones.
16) Don't use funky formatting or special fonts (unless you want to look unprofessional).
17) Never send an email without personalizing at least two things -- and no, [prospect name] and [company name] don't count.
18) When it comes to the first call, most prospects want to talk about pricing and product, so while this doesn’t mean you have to skip discovery, make sure you’re accommodating your prospect’s agenda as well as yours.
19) You can use a sales script, but be prepared to go off-script -- your prospects want to talk to a real person, not a robot.
20) Bring “healthy skepticism and a willingness to ask incisive questions” into every sales conversation, says Databox CEO and former HubSpot vice president of sales Peter Caputa: “This is necessary to break down prospects’ walls and uncover the truth.”
21) Treat everyone with respect: Just because someone isn't a decision maker doesn’t mean you should dismiss them or their authority (unless you want to get disqualified).
22) To ensure you’re truly engaged in every conversation, pretend each call you have is the first with that customer, says Babette Ten Haken, sales strategist and coach.
23) People tend to be more honest in the mornings -- meaning if you’re talking to a hard-to-pin-down prospect, you may want to schedule an early call.
24) Don’t try and use your work with your prospects' competitors as a pitch; after all, they want to be better than the other companies in their space, not exactly the same.
25) Never bad-mouth your competitor to a prospect.
26) In fact, if your competitor does something well, say so -- not only does this show confidence, it also tells the prospect you’re honest.
27) Don’t ever lie, Jim Keenan says: “As a salesperson, truth is your greatest asset, because it builds trust.”
28) When a prospect criticizes you or your approach, accept it gracefully rather than getting defensive -- an angry reaction will make them dig in their heels, but a humble one will make them likelier to come around to your side.
29) Picture yourself sitting on the same side of table as your prospect, which’ll help you maintain a friendly and helpful attitude.
30) Defer to a buyer's communication preferences: If they’d clearly rather email than call (or vice versa), then go with it.
31) If you're reluctant to pick up the phone, remind yourself of your financial, career, or personal goals.
32) Switch leads with another salesperson when you're in a sales slump; you'll feel less pressure to perform and it'll be a fun change of pace. (If a prospect agrees to another conversation, give the opportunity back.)
33) If you’re genuinely curious, you’ll have better results, says sales and management trainer and co-author of Your Successful Sales Career Len Fowley: “Get fascinated with your prospect.”
34) Maintain a 2:1 ratio of info to feedback -- for every two benefits you give the prospect, ask a question confirming you’re on the right track.
35) Show, not tell: “At the moment you’re tempted to tell the buyer what 'he needs to do,' instead offer a story about a peer of the buyer,” says Mike Bosworth, author of Solution Selling and What Great Salespeople Do.
36) But keep that story short, because experts say an easy-to-follow success story is dramatically more effective than a long or wandering one.
37) Swap out the word "but" for "and" to sound like you’re agreeing with your prospect and take them off the defensive when you’re actually offering a counter idea.
38) Silence gives prospects a chance to process information and makes interactions feel more like conversations than sales pitch, so don’t rush to fill it.
39) Identify the words and adjectives the buyer uses, then use those same words to create a subconscious connection.
40) Flattery works, so compliment the prospect on a recent company achievement or personal success.
41) But acting overly enthusiastic doesn’t work, so limit your use of words like “awesome!”, “fantastic!”, and “amazing!” (While you’re at it, skip the exclamation marks as well).
42) Get your prospect to smile or laugh if possible, as research shows it’s harder to say “No” while you’re grinning.
43) To show you’re listening, repeat what a prospect has said back to them in a slightly different way, beginning with: “What I hear you saying is … ”
44) Listen to an energizing song before you make calls so you sound upbeat and engaged, not tired or checked-out.
45) Only present solutions that are relevant to the prospect (even if that means leaving a really popular feature out of your presentation).
46) Buyers don’t care about your product’s bells and whistles -- instead, highlight how those bells and whistles translate into real business value.
47) Don’t be afraid to ditch your presentation agenda if the prospect is focusing on a different topic or area.
48) If you’re using a presentation deck, make sure it doesn’t take attention away from you, says SinglePlatform CEO and co-founder Wiley Cerili: “Successful salespeople are trained to capture and manage customers’ attention; you don’t want to give authority away to the deck that’s behind you.”
49) The longer your presentation lasts, the less impact you have.
50) To show you’re truly paying attention, write down the prospect’s objections.
51) Adapt to your customer’s buying process rather than trying to force them through your funnel.
52) Come up with a main objective for your call or meeting (a follow-up meeting, a product trial, purchase terms), along with several alternatives you can present if it’s rejected.
53)) If you overpromise, you may win the deal ... but you’ll face unhappy customers down the line.
54) Don't get mouse-happy -- whizzing around your product's interface will make your audience dizzy and distract from your key points.
55) Strange but true: You can close deals faster by sending your prospects three versions of the contract rather than two.
56) Don’t give a discount to win the business: If your best argument for why your prospect should buy is, “I’ll give it to you for 50% off,” you’ve already lost the battle.
57) Ask, “Is there any reason, if we gave you the product at this price, that you wouldn't do business with our company?” (Either you get a “yes,” or you surface the prospect’s remaining objections.)
58) Avoid manipulative closing techniques, which prospects are now sophisticated enough to recognize and trained to walk away from.
59) Go into negotiations with a few non-monetary concessions to offer, so you can negotiate on terms other than price.
60) When you’re in a sales slump, set a couple small, achievable goals to create momentum and boost your confidence.
61) To make better, more deliberate choices, choose a “sales mission statement” and use it to guide your decision making process.
62) Believe in what you sell, says Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone: “If you believe that all you have is your transaction, you’ll never get there -- you have to build a product that’s so damn extraordinary that you know that you’re inviting people into what is absolutely a beautiful (and long-term) relationship.”
63) Directly address complaints from clients and demonstrate how you’ll improve, and then do it.
64) Your sales manager can be an incredible resource, but you’ll need to ask the right questions (even the hard ones, like “Why do you think we lost this deal?”).
65) Set -- and stick to -- clear activity goals to keep yourself on track when you’re feeling unmotivated.
66) Attend call reviews, says Michael Pici, director of sales at HubSpot. “If you're not running or attending call reviews, you're missing a huge opportunity to improve your sales performance.”
67) Never stop learning: Keep your knowledge of the product up-to-date, role play sales calls, and read industry news.
68) Research shows the top salespeople are resilient, empathetic, and ambitious -- so focus on honing those characteristics.
69) Your mantra should be “Always Be Helping” rather than “Always Be Closing.”
70) Always go the extra mile, meaning that you should keep calling, emailing, and scheduling meetings even if it's the last day of the month and you've already made 125% of quota.
71) Take the top-performing salespeople at your company out for lunch and ask for their advice on selling your product.
72) Protect your time -- you only have so many selling hours in the day, so everything else should be done after-hours or not at all.
73) Don't forget that work-life balance is an important part of staying productive, not to mention happy!
74) Look for team members who will motivate you to get better and encourage you when you're down.
75)Although sales is one of the toughest professions out there, a great manager-coach and/or a mentor can really help.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness, accuracy, and freshness.