Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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The Wrong Assumptions Can Kill a Sale

April 9, 2014

Are you losing some sales that could be saved by changing your own thinking going in? Here are four things to look for.

A child psychologist or development expert could probably give you the answer for this: At what age do we humans start making assumptions? These thought patterns probably start pretty young. Dad is in the kitchen; maybe there’ll be food. Mom is putting on her coat; she’s going outside. My brother pulled the cat’s tail; she’s going to hiss.

ImageAs sales professionals, we can’t avoid this natural tendency to assume. But we can learn to check our assumptions about clients before we go into sales settings. See if you recognize yourself in any of these four statements.

I shouldn’t ask prospects direct questions that might make them uncomfortable.

This involves a judgment call on your part. But if your prospects seem amenable, it’s OK to ask questions about their business. They’ll tell you if they don’t want to discuss it, or you’ll at least sense that they’re uncomfortable. You may be able to glean useful information this way, and it shows that you have some concern about the success of the prospect’s business. Try:

  • What are your company’s biggest problems right now?
  • Who do you see yourself competing with?
  • How are you doing compared to this time a year ago?

An old manager of mine used to preface such questions with “Can I ask …” It softens what can be tough questions a bit.

Prospects always make low cost a high priority.

Undoubtedly, some will. But some buyers will weigh others factors equally in the mix, like customer support, quality and company reputation. Perception plays a role in it. Why is this so inexpensive?, some may think. Others will balk at a higher price. It’s a delicate balance.

I should have all of the information that I need about clients before I meet with them.

You should do your homework, of course, so you have a good sense of who clients are and what they might need. But leave yourself open to the possibility that you might learn something as you draw your prospect out. Go in with a tentative plan, but be ready to turn on a dime if you discover a new angle or need.

Prospects know everything they need to know about my company and products.

They certainly know more than they would have 20 years ago, before the web became a hotbed of reviews and word-of-mouth. Your job as a sales professional has become less about educating and more about engaging. But you undoubtedly have insight that they don’t – in part, because of the interaction you’ve had with other prospects and the more informed questions you’ve fielded.

You can assume that they’ve at least looked at your website and maybe some user comments. So make sure that you know what people are saying so that you’re not blindsided. Browse online sites where your products or services are discussed and look for any negative chatter. Type your company name and words like “complaints” and “reviews” into a search engine to find any of these pockets residing in out-of-the-way places.

There’s one major assumption that we all occasionally fall prey to: I’m not going to make this sale. Find the sweet spot between being overconfident and exuding pessimism. After all, you can safely assume that your customers are reading your attitude as well as hearing your words.

Your Social Selling Secret Weapon: Shares

March 25, 2014

They don’t cost you any money. They take little time and effort. Finding the sweet spot with your shared content can pay off.

Don’t you feel a sense of accomplishment when someone shares something you’vImagee posted online? When someone in your social network audience goes beyond liking some content and shares it, you’ve just made your way into a whole new collection of contacts who wouldn’t otherwise know about you.

Shares are endorsements. They can spawn leads. And while the lion’s share of your videos and pictures and text posts will never move beyond your immediate circles, the ones that do can give you global exposure instantly — with a click of someone else’s mouse.

Your how-to post on removing and replacing your wallpaper the right way will be helpful to some readers. They might like it and thank you for helping them solve a problem. They might also refer your interior design firm to a friend or two. That promotes goodwill toward your company and helps position you as an expert, two of the goals of social sharing.

Unintentional Fame

How do you generate content that makes people want to share? Some social selling experts will tell you that you really shouldn’t try. In other words, “going viral” shouldn’t be a goal. Often, the most shared posts are accidental successes: Their originator just posts something because it’s funny or heartwarming or terribly insightful, and it takes off.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to understand the nature of virality, the characteristics common to some of the most shared posts. The e-book Contagious Content: What People Share on Facebook and Why They Share It, by Brian Carter and Marketo, studied heavily-shared posts to see why they had such impact on people.

The authors of the survey came up with seven attributes. Every viral post they looked at had at least one of those characteristics.

  • They gave. And not just to their mailing list or social networks – to anyone who wanted to benefit from an offer, a discount, a deal or contest.
  • They advised. Everyone is looking for answers to questions, solutions to problems. The most-shared posts dealt with common dilemmas. 
  • They warned. What products and practices have the potential to hurt you? What are some safer alternatives?
  • They amused. You’ve seen pictures of dogs looking guilty and hilarious photobombs, watched videos of babies conversing with dogs and stunts gone awry. Don’t be afraid to lighten up the occasional post – carefully — with some funny original content of your own.
  • They inspired. Those pithy little quotes that occasionally strike a chord with many thousands of people, putting to rest some common anxiety or insecurity. Or the heartwarming animal rescues, the fireman holding an oxygen mask up to a small kitten’s face. Customers will be grateful for an inspiring moment in the midst of a harried day. Share your own inspiration.
  • They amazed. You’ve seen photos and read posts that were so incredible that it was hard to believe they were real. (And sometimes they’re not: Do you know about Snopes.com?)
  • They united. This is tricky. Though some of the most viral videos are political in nature, you don’t want an ideology associated with your company (and you do want people to make an association between the content and your business; just be subtle about it). Some themes are universal.

Though this study was based on Facebook posts, you could easily share similar content on LinkedIn and Twitter, SlideShare and Pinterest, modifying it to be audience-appropriate for each service.

Most of our companies’ products don’t have to do with dogs or cats or babies. And most of the time, your content is focused on the solutions you provide and the market you serve. But keep your eyes open for your own original content that can morph into a viral marketing opportunity.

Build a Better Sales Team with These 5 Training Tips

March 17, 2014

You can help lay the groundwork for success by providing formalized-but-flexible training for new salespeople. Remember that this process never ends.

ImageAs this winter-that-won’t-end starts to wind down, the onset of spring can be energizing for your staff. Their New Year’s resolutions may have gone by the wayside, and they’re almost done fighting the dark or cold or snow or torrential rains of the last two months. They may well be ready for some fresh starts.

If your salesforce has a physical home base that you all share, do some spring cleaning. Get rid of everything that smacks of January and February. Encourage your team to remove clutter from their workspaces — maybe even as a group one slow day. Buy a new coffeepot and bring in some flavored water.

You can also try to shake off the winter doldrums and start fresh by giving your sales team some new tools and motivation. Spend a half-day on training, which is something that should be occurring throughout the year anyway. You could walk them through some mobile apps that might help them with their workflow. Set up some role-plays to get a discussion going about technique. Do a session on self-care, and ask them to evaluate their own work-life balance.

Training the Newbies

These in-service training sessions, of course, should supplement the program you’ve instituted for new salespeople as they join the team. If you’ve never formalized these procedures, pull in a couple of your best salespeople and get feedback about what might have been helpful when they first started, now that they know the pay of the land.

Keep these tips in mind as you’re developing or revisiting your sales orientation, and you won’t have to re-invent the wheel in future training sessions.

  • Let your trainee speak first. What do they want from you in terms of training? Do they know enough about your corporate culture yet to be an effective employee? Let them tell you what blanks need to be filled in. Are there areas of weakness that they’d like to concentrate on? Questions about your products and/or services?
  • ImageMake your sessions interactive. This is important for your ongoing training efforts, but it’s critical when you’re working with new hires. For one thing, back-and-forth helps keep both of you focused and engaged. And while you learned enough about the individual to hire him or her, there’s much you don’t yet know.
  • Support your sessions with written materials. This is time-consuming, but you only have to do it once (not counting periodic revisions). If you’re better at verbal communication than written, ask one of your team who does write well to help (with some extra compensation of some kind, of course). Your trainee won’t have to take notes, an activity that usually results in missing some key information while they’re typing or scribbling.
  • Help them understand that their contribution to the success of the company is unique. Sales teams by nature are competitive, and you certainly don’t want to drive that motivation out of them. But encourage them to shake off the dejection they’ll occasionally feel by focusing on their unique set of personality traits and skills.
  • ImageSet some concrete, challenging-but-realistic performance goals during training. Schedule occasional check-ins during that first six-month period. Let the new salesperson talk about his or her own successes and failures, but ask for feedback on your management and on their other work support systems.

You invest a great deal of time and energy in your new sales team members. Guide them through a successful launch of their new position, and continue your training as needed during their transitional period. You never know who has the potential to be a sales superstar.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

High-Quality Content Can Make You More Visible in Google

February 21, 2014

From Panda and Penguin to Hummingbird, Google is constantly changing and fine-tuning its ranking algorithms. How can you take advantage of them?

When it comes to SEO implementation for your website, blogs and social media marketing efforts, paying attention to Google is crucial in helping your prospects and customers find you.

So what are they up to right now? The same thing they’ve always been: providing useful results for Google users who are searching for relevant content. Contrary to popular belief, Google isn’t interested in your SEO implementation. It’s interested in Google’s users and their searches. That should be your interest, too.

Todd Martin 021914 image 1Google users are asking questions. Does your content give them answers?

Relevance is Critical

Google’s focus on providing relevant search results has borne fruit. These days, Google search engine users are getting the answers they want, and they’ve learned that asking questions on Google or in their browser’s address field gets better results. So, instead of typing in something like “Furnace Kansas City,” they’re asking “Who Sells Carrier and Lennox Furnaces in Kansas City?” They’re doing that because long-form searches give them better, more relevant results.

As Google has changed its algorithms with Panda, Penguin, and now Hummingbird, relevance and quality of website and social media content has become more important than ever. Google users are now writing their searches more carefully as a result.

Here are four ways you can leverage that new search behavior to take advantage of these changes in user behavior and Google’s ranking algorithms:

  • Keep Content Quality High – Content quality should remain your highest priority. Google just gets better and better at measuring quality, and the new long form searches users are typing means that information-rich content will result in better rankings for question-based searches. The same high-quality content that helps you retain and convert visitors tells Google’s ranking algorithms that your content is highly relevant to the searcher’s question.
  • Don’t Skimp on Content Length – One measure of quality Google’s algorithms use is content length. A full explanation of a point that matches the search will rank higher than a cursory one. In addition, extended content provides more chances to match the keywords in a long-form search phrase. Google considers longer content to be more relevant to searchers.
  • Anticipate and Answer Questions – Instead of focusing primarily on keywords based on research, Todd Martin 021914 image 2start thinking about the questions your potential customers and clients will ask. Then make sure your content contains the answers to those questions, and includes the keywords and phrases in the questions. You can ask the question as a heading in your content and then answer it, or just answer the question and Google will find your answer.
  • Give Complete Answers to Questions – The key to making your SEO work with Google’s new focus is to provide adequate information that is relevant to the questions Google users are asking. That’s always been the key, really. Keywords and phrases naturally occur in content that provides information. Keep improving the quality of your website and social media content and give your visitors the solid information they’re seeking. Google will reward you with better rankings, and visitors will reward you by becoming leads and customers.

Todd Martin 021914 image 3Google Has the Same Goals You Should Have

SEO isn’t a magical formula you can apply to your website, blog, and social media content. If your content informs, educates, and helps your visitors get good answers to their questions, Google will recognize that and reward you with better rankings.

Google is constantly getting better at recognizing quality. Feed high quality SEO content to Google and to your visitors and you’ll reap the benefits.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

6 Tips for Motivating Your Sales Team in the Dead of Winter

February 14, 2014

Can’t wait to turn the calendar page to February? Your salespeople are probably suffering from the mid-winter blues, too.

There’s a funny Facebook post that’s making the rounds right now. It’s a picture of the skyline of Minneapolis, MN, but it could be any city that experiences a “real” winter. “Come to Minnesota for the culture,” it reads. “Stay because you can’t start your car.”

Todd Martin 011614 image 1Even if you live in sunny southern California like I do, January can be a bear, thanks to the post-holiday letdown, the weather, the already-broken resolutions, the W-2s and 1099s in the mail reminding you of tax preparation, the December credit card bills – I could go on, but you get the idea.

If you’re charged with managing a sales team and your company’s fiscal year begins on January 1, you’re painfully aware that the sales odometer has rolled over. You’re back at zero, staring at a list of goals and quotas that you’ve just barely begun to chip away at. While your superstars may seem undaunted by the typical January malaise, mere mortals need motivation.

Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First

But before you start looking for ways to help your team find its footing and feel some enthusiasm for its 2014 sales, Make sure that you’re motivated yourself. If you don’t feel it, that lack of enthusiasm will seep through to your salespeople. So:

  • Don’t think in terms of the whole year. That’s too daunting right now. Break off a manageable increment, a quarter or month or even a week.
  • Be as healthy and fit as you can be. Exercise – even just walking – takes energy to accomplish, but gives twice as much back.
  • Network with your peers at the company. You’re likely to get some support. Rising above your own lack of motivation and supporting a co-worker also gives back to you.Todd Martin 011614 image 2
  • Remind yourself why you come to work every day. Do you believe in your company’s products and/or services? Do you like being a part of a team that’s working toward a set of individual and group goals? Are you proud of your past successes? Happy that you’ve been a mentor to your salespeople?

Pass It Along

Motivating people takes a number of characteristics. You have to be authentic. Confident. Honest. Positive. Resilient. And at least a bit of personal charisma wouldn’t come amiss.

Here are some of the approaches I’ve taken:

  • Don’t be vague when you’re praising someone. You know how it feels to be complimented on a job well done. Call out good work from the last year, and be very specific about its merit.
  • Bring in the big guns. Has someone already landed a big sale in 2014? Ask someone higher up on the food chain to make a phone call or send a handwritten note.
  • Todd Martin 011614 image 3Do individual coaching. Schedule ride-alongs. Provide immediate feedback. Get together in a relaxed setting and talk shop – and things other than shop.
  • Host study sessions. How well do your salespeople know the products or services they’re selling? Bring in an expert on your offerings. Focus on the benefits you’re providing to customers.
  • Don’t overwhelm. Be realistic about your short-term goals, realizing that winter may not be your peak selling season unless you’re in the snowblower business.
  • Reward excellence in areas that don’t involve numbers. There’s a lot that goes into a winning sales team besides meeting quotas. Recognize other contributions that employees make.

You can always award prizes. The real challenge is moving people closer to their potential without sending them to Cancun.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is Your Content Hitting the Mark?

January 9, 2014

If you’re not getting the results you expect from your online efforts, take another, closer look at your content.

Todd Martin 010914 image 1On websites, blogs and social media, your content is your voice. It needs to speak clearly and powerfully. Whether you create your own or have it prepared by someone else, making sure that it accomplishes its goals should be your highest priority.

Whatever you’re trying to do with any one online piece, achieving success requires careful attention to some content basics. I’ve talked about these in a previous blog, but they bear repeating.

So before publishing, and during content creation and editing, keep the elements below in mind throughout the process. For maximum effectiveness, your marketing content should:

  • Capture attention immediately – Use the content’s title or heading to grab your readers’ eyes and pull them in. Ask a question. Make a surprising statement. Let readers know what the topic is and how it is relevant. Title lead-ins like “6 Ways to…” are also effective at leading people to what you have to say.
  • Get right to the point – Use the first sentence of your content to explain why what you’re about to say is important to the target audience. Identify the issue you’re addressing and let your readers know that you’re about to help them solve a problem or answer a question they have.
  • Be informative – Every type of marketing content has a single job to do: It must give your audience informationTodd Martin 010914 image 2 that it needs. That’s why people are on your blog or website or reading your email marketing letter. They’re looking for information. If you can provide that information, you’re a hero.
  • Recognize the audience – Know your audience well before creating content. Use that knowledge to decide how the content will be written. Use language that the audience will understand. Don’t talk over their heads, but don’t oversimplify your language. Match your word choices and style to the audience. You must be a content chameleon, but always be yourself.
  • Be concise – Like you, everyone who encounters your content is busy and always short of time. Provide information without beating around the bush. Use lists to lead readers to your important points, and keep them moving through your content. Be brief and be clear.
  • Be relevant and accurate –Make sure that what you’re telling your readers is pertinent to their interests and goals, and do thorough fact checks. If your content includes an incorrect fact that the reader recognizes, you’ll lose credibility — and a prospect.
  • Avoid writing errors – Proofread all content thoroughly for proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization and sentence structure. Errors in these areas may seem unimportant, but anything that jars readers distracts from your message. Double-check everything.
  • Ask for action – Once you’ve provided the information, ask readers to do something. Offer a way to put what they’ve learned to use. Include a link to click, a contact method and help them become new leads or customers. Always provide a way to continue the marketing process.

Effective Content is Key to Powerful Results

Todd Martin 010914 image 3Don’t make the common mistake of thinking quantity of content can substitute for its quality. Focus on your content’s quality by making even the shortest pieces the very best they can be. Top-quality content will make your marketing efforts more effective, more readable and, ultimately, more successful.

Turn Your New Year’s Resolutions into Habits

January 2, 2014

Keeping those annual promises to yourself is easier if you start thinking about them differently.

Todd Martin 010214 image 1

Whether or not you sit down and write official New Year’s Resolutions, we all have a feeling of new beginnings when the calendar turns to January. Maybe you looked at your 2013 sales totals and simply vowed to do better. Or you looked at your sales team and decided that better training and motivational tools were in order. Or perhaps you told yourself you would tackle that dream client that has continued to elude you.

Making resolutions and being determined to keep them isn’t enough. Think of this annual ritual, rather, as developing new habits and responding differently when you slip.

Enjoy your efforts

Some researchers, in fact, recommend that you not even think of these changes as goals. In one study, the participants who were goal-driven didn’t succeed as well as those who just focused on the process and the experience and the tasks needed to reach a particular point.

The latter group, of course, had identified what they were trying to accomplish, but, contrary to what we’re always told to do, they didn’t keep their eye on the prize. They immersed themselves in the steps required to succeed. They weren’t just running a race to finish it. They were learning new, better ways to pace themselves and conserve breath and minimize injuries. Then they turned those into habits.

Make it manageable

“Steps” is the operative word there. You know what end you’re trying to achieve.  But there are numerous, smaller milestones that you can set for yourself along the way, which accelerates the whole process and makes your overall goal more attainable.Todd Martin 010214 image 2

Let’s say you’ve decided you need to come up with five new leads every month. You don’t necessarily have to close sales with them, but they have to be well-qualified prospects that might eventually be converted to new customers. Here is a simple series of bite-sized actions you might take to find them:

  • Find three LinkedIn Groups that focus on your industry and start answering questions to establish your credentials.
  • Visit five competitors’ sites to see how they’re building their contact lists.
  • Offer your services as a guest blogger on at least two blog sites.
  • Send a handwritten note to five current customers that you have an ongoing relationship with. Thank them for their past business and offer them a discount, premium, etc., for providing a referral that pans out.
  • Not using CRM software? Start. These applications can help you manage the life cycle of a lead and keep you focused.

You may feel like you’re going through the motions at first, but these activities can become habits that you do as automatically as turning in expense reports.

Pick your cliché

Todd Martin 010214 image 3In the immortal words of Tigger, It’s not how high or how far you jump. It’s how well you bounce.

Keeping resolutions and achieving goals and creating habits have something in common. They all require that you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. Get back on the horse. If at first you don’t succeed…well, you get it. Any sentiment that has that many related clichés must have some truth to it. So make three more “resolutions” (I call them the “3 Re’s) if you waver from your path:

  1. Re-frame your original goal if necessary
  2. Re-move any obstacles to success, and
  3. Re-double your efforts.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Mother, Please, I’d Rather Do It Myself!”

December 27, 2013

Having trouble delegating tasks? Try looking at the benefits you’ll reap.

I’m probably dating myself, but there’s an old commercial that featured a woman trying to cook while her mother looked on and offered “suggestions.” The daughter, who was suffering from a headache that apparently only Anacin would cure, finally lashed out at mom with that oft-repeated line.

Todd Martin 120113 image 1Does that strike a chord with you in terms of your ability to delegate tasks (headache and cooking and mother aside)? Do you tend to overload yourself with work that could be done by others because – for whatever reason – you’d rather do it yourself?

Maybe you don’t want to impose. Or you don’t feel something would be done as well by someone else. Or you just feel like you’d be shirking your responsibilities. Or you’re just too dang busy to take the time to explain a task that needed to be done.

Try to turn your negative thoughts about delegating (like, It won’t get done right. They’ll resent the extra work. The higher-ups might think I’m slacking, etc.) into the realization that you and your sales team could actually benefit from your willingness to let others help carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Consider that:

  • Your salespeople will appreciate your confidence in them.
  • Someone else might actually know a better, faster way to get something done.
  • You’ll be able to attack your more critical tasks with renewed vigor because of your abbreviated to-do list, and
  • You’re helping your team develop new skills, which in turn can make them better salespeople and more effective leaders.

The art of delegating is a sound management skill, one you should cultivate. Experts in the sales discipline recommend that you follow best practices for delegation though, as always, not everyone agrees on what they should be.

So use common sense. Delegate to others as you would like them to delegate to you. Here’s what I suggest:

Make sure that the task’s outcome is well-defined. Notice that I said “outcome.” You want to provide a thorough explanation of what the end result should be, but you don’t necessarily have to draw a road map. Offer suggestions if asked, but let your designated salesperson see this as a learning experience. Encourage fresh thinking.

Tell the individual or team why he/she/they were selected. Todd Martin 120113 image 2This is an opportunity to instill confidence in your staff that will likely carry over into their other work. Make any necessary resources available.

Together, create a realistic timetable. You don’t want to cut into anyone’s income-making ability, so ask your assigned person or people how much time they think they can put into the task. Designate periodic milestones if it’s a multi-step job and ask for status updates so you don’t come to the deadline and find a lot of loose ends.

Finally, do thorough evaluation and follow-up. Be honest, but look for ways to offer positive feedback even if the task wasn’t completed to your absolute satisfaction.

And keep delegating. You may discover hidden benefits that you hadn’t anticipated.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Make Sales, Get Leads, Check Metrics

December 19, 2013

You can take a small step and accomplish all of these things simultaneously.

It’s time to begin thinking back over 2013 and evaluating your social media efforts. How are you measuring your progress, the leads you’ve found and the sales you’ve made because of your activity on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn?

Todd Martin 112413 image 1There are, of course, many ways to do this. You can:

  • Ask new customers where they heard about you
  • Use the tools provided by the social networks themselves
  • Use third-party tools like Google Analytics (even the free version is worth exploring), or
  • Give a lot of money to a consulting firm that employs a lot of impressive-sounding mechanisms to produce a personalized report.

Or maybe you’re still in the exploratory phase of social selling. You’re not tracking the actual impact that all of your tweets and updates and relationship-building tactics are actually having on sales. Rather, you believe that it’s impossible to know for sure whether something you wrote – or that a follower of yours said – translated into a buying decision. But you know you have to have an online presence.

There are really smart people who believe just that. But there’s validity to each of the methods I mentioned above.

And there’s an easy way to experiment on your own. As you’re planning your social selling strategy for 2014, consider what I like to call insider knowledge metrics.

I didn’t invent this tactic – it’s been used in paper-based marketing vehicles forever. But applying it to social selling as a part of your overall marketing strategy gives you one more bucket of information about what works and what doesn’t, about how people are responding to your brand on social media.

It’s as much about figuring what strategies work as it is about bringing people in.

You can employ your insider knowledge metrics in any number of ways. Todd Martin 112413 image 2Buy a couple hundred inexpensive promotional items that will be easy to package and inexpensive to ship to your leads. Or offer a time-limited discount. Embed a code somewhere within your social networks and offer the discount or the freebie only to people who send you the code (along with their contact information, of course).

Remember two important things:

  • Take the offer off of your site after a certain amount of time, and
  • Make sure that one person on your staff is charged with carefully recording those leads and getting them back to you.

See? You’re getting leads. You’re checking metrics. And – hopefully – making sales.

Of course, this method isn’t absolutely foolproof. Part of what makes social media so useful for both buyers and sellers is the word-of-mouth that goes on constantly. There’s nothing to stop your actual social network members from giving away the secret information needed for a premium or discount.

But, hey – there’s nothing to stop those with secondhand information from going on to actually explore your products and services and maybe even buy something. Your strategy will have resulted in an unexpected sale. So there you are, making social selling work anyway.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Closing the Loop: 7 Tips for Finalizing Sales

November 23, 2013

It happens in an instant: Your prospect finally says “Yes.” How to make that moment a reality more frequently.

Todd Martin 111313 image 1You’ve identified a prospect and learned a great deal about his or her needs. You’ve nurtured the relationship. You’ve followed up. You’ve focused on benefits, not features, in your communications, and you don’t know what in the world else you can do to close the sale.

There are many, many ways to approach this final step. Hire five consultants to advise you on this issue and you’re bound to get five different techniques. And what works on one prospect may be the absolute wrong way to deal with another.

So when you’re trying to close a sale, your chosen tactics will depend in part on:

  • Who the prospect is
  • What kind of relationship you have
  • How your conversations and negotiations have transpired, and
  • The size of the sale.

That said, here is some of the most effective advice I’ve come across for clearing that final hurdle:

Be confident, and display that confidence. Confidence in your company’s products or services only comes from deep, intimate knowledge. You can’t sell something unless you understand it thoroughly and believe in its benefits. Prospects can sense a lack of enthusiasm in a salesperson, and believe me, it can have tremendous impact on the outcome of a selling relationship.

Ask leading questions. Successful closers listen as much as they talk. And they’re able to steer the conversation in a direction that can prompt Todd Martin 111313 image 2their prospects to see the benefits of your product without you having to tick them off first. If you don’t think you can do this off-the-cuff, always have some questions prepared ahead of time.

Recognize the signs of a near-sale. A good salesperson pays as much attention to a prospect’s words, body language and speech patterns as a good therapist does. Look for indications that you may be winning your prospects over. They may either accelerate or slow down the pace of the conversation as they’re getting closer to an affirmative response. Their questions may seem more focused, and they may inquire about things like delivery charges, the last day for the sale price, warranties, etc.

When this happens, don’t rush your prospects. Again, this goes back to the need for a healthy confidence level. You know you’re offering a product that will solve some of your customers’ problems. You believe that they’re ready to buy. Keep those two thoughts in mind and your positive attitude can move them forward.

If possible, give them a space to think it over. I visited a furniture store once that had a few tables and chairs, coffee and fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. Customers were encouraged to spend time there if they were mulling over a buying decision.

Rephrase some of your prospect’s concerns and problems and needs. If the conversation starts to lag, do some active listening. Repeat back some of what you heard and try to reinforce the benefits. “So you think your daughter likes this car’s looks and drivability, and she’s going to need a car on campus, but you’re still not sure about the price? Can I tell you a little more about its safety features and its minimal maintenance requirements?”

Todd Martin 111313 image 3Be gracious. Acknowledge an obvious no-go, and thank prospects for their time. But send them away with a business card that contains multiple points of contact for you, and maybe even an inexpensive promotional item. A lost sale shouldn’t diminish your confidence in your selling abilities or your company’s products. And a friendly, self-assured sendoff may trigger a return visit.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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