What adjectives would you use to describe a successful salesperson?

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Common terms that come to mind may include goal-oriented, attentive, charismatic, and proactive. Let’s take a moment to zero in on that last term — what does it really mean to be proactive when working in sales?

To know how to take a proactive approach to selling, it is important to also understand what a reactive approach to sales looks like.

There is no single approach to selling reigns supreme for all deals. Whether you should take a proactive or reactive approach to sales will depend largely on your product, sales enablement resources, and the needs of the customer you’re working with.

Proactive salespeople may choose to present their products as a solution to a problem the client doesn’t yet know they have.

On the other hand, being reactive is to merely respond to a situation or scenario without taking steps needed to control it or reach the desired outcome. When a salesperson takes a more reactive approach, they are more focused on responding to the inquiries of their potential customers than reaching out and initiating the sale.

Many salespeople are trained to take a reactive approach. While in some scenarios taking this approach is appropriate, relying on reactive sales tactics can leave viable deals on the table.

If your way of selling is reactive in nature, you can easily be discouraged when a potential customer takes too long to respond or make a decision. Furthermore, sitting back and waiting for the perfect customer to come to you can cause you to waste time by focusing on potential customers who aren’t a good fit for your product.

When you take a more proactive approach, you as the sales professional are able to guide the pace of the sales process to better support your company’s bottom line. You can also ensure you are working with the right decision maker who can move through the sales process with you, resulting in a closed-won deal.

Ready to be a more proactive seller? Try these tactics.

Proactive Sales Techniques

1. Take time to plan and research.

First and foremost, to be a proactive seller you must take time for ample planning before approaching your sales conversations. Does that mean you need to spend hours pouring over the LinkedIn profiles and career histories of your potential customers? Not necessarily.

However, it does mean you need to approach each sales conversation with a solid plan laid out indicating where you want the conversation to go. Remember, being proactive means taking the necessary steps to create a situation that leads to the sale. Consider all of the factors within your control that could lead to the sale and approach each conversation prepared to reach that outcome.

2. Initiate conversations with potential customers.

Don’t be afraid to initiate conversations with potential customers who are a good fit for your offering. Now, I’m not telling you to solicit customers and spam them with your sales content. Quite the contrary.

What I am saying is if you encounter an individual who has expressed a challenge or problem they are facing and you know your product is a good solution, speak up and say so. Your next closed-won deal could be on the other side of a conversation you took the initiative to start.

3. Establish credibility by adding upfront value.

As a proactive salesperson, make sure you are taking the necessary steps to build trust with your potential customers. One of the most effective ways salespeople can build trust with their prospects is to add value.

Whether you add value by providing content that is informative and relevant for your prospect or position yourself as an expert in an area of interest for the potential customer you’re working with, by taking the necessary steps to build credibility early on in the sales process you are proactively shaping the prospect’s opinion of you. This will help you be better positioned for the sale.

4. Make data-driven decisions.

Chances are, you are constantly reviewing sales data with your team. Do you and your team then use this data to inform your future sales tactics, or are you merely reporting on data month after month without applying the lessons learned from the information?

Proactive sellers use relevant data from their CRM to guide how they interact with potential customers. For example, if your CRM reports that customers who view your company’s "About" page are more likely to result in a closed-won deal, you can use information from the "About" page in your sales talking points because you have data that strongly suggests this information resonates with potential customers, making them more likely to buy.

Dig into what information you have about what converts your customers and look for ways to implement relevant tactics in your sales process from the beginning to positively influence the sale.

5. Ask open-ended questions to understand customer pain points.

In addition to facilitating conversations with potential customers, to take a proactive approach to selling you must be able to guide the conversation to reach the sale. The best way to do this is to ask open-ended questions to better understand your customer.

The ability to ask open-ended questions is an essential aspect of active listening. When you ask questions that cannot be easily answered with a "yes" or "no" question, you are giving your potential customer an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns. This information is vital for proactive sellers because you can use this information to determine if the prospect is a good fit.

By asking open-ended questions and learning if your prospect isn’t sure what they want or isn’t ready to commit to the sale, you can then determine if they aren’t a good fit for your offering or you can choose to proactively work with them to solve their problem.

6. Anticipate objections and concerns.

Remember, being proactive means approaching a situation with the intention to influence the desired outcome. One of the most tangible ways a salesperson can sell proactively is to anticipate customer objections and concerns before they are voiced.

For example, if you work in tech sales and you know your potential customer is concerned about your product’s ability to integrate with their core system, you could then plan to include talking points about the smooth integration between your software and their core system in your presentation. By tackling relevant topics for your potential customer before they have a chance to ask, you are invalidating reasons your customer could say no, moving them closer to the sale.

7. Ask for feedback regularly.

Last but certainly not least, proactive salespeople ask for feedback from their customers and colleagues often.

By asking your prospects and customers for feedback about what influenced their decision to purchase (or not purchase) your product, you can gain valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to closing the deal.

When you ask for and regularly implement positive and constructive feedback into your sales approach, you can positively influence the outcome of your next deal.

Choosing to take the lead and proactively guide your customers through the sales process can be a useful strategy in your sales toolkit. For more advice on improving sales performance, check out this post.

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Originally published May 26, 2020 6:30:00 AM, updated May 26 2020

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