10 Useful Tips for your Sales Team [Do not Belittle Your Competition]

[Guest article by Vikram of Tenmiles. This article is more than a 101 for sales team.]

I strongly feel that selling is an art and one that is refined over time. Regardless of the product/concept/service being sold, there are certain key factors which I feel form the foundation for a successful sales drive.

1. Develop a 30 second elevator pitch, that sticks to the 30 second limit
The elevator pitch is meant to captivate an individual to such an extent that he/she is anxious to learn more about your product. It should serve as your opening statement and project a creative, yet factual representation of what your product stands for. That said, content from your sales collateral/brochures should not find their way to the elevator pitch.

For example, a web based application is supposed to run on the cloud, so making references to this in a 30 second pitch just doesn’t add any value. Rather, think about the positive emotions that the use of your product generates, regardless of what your product may be. Does it inspire creativity in those who design with it? Or does using your product deliver a smile on every end user’s face? Bring out these intangible benefits in your elevator pitch and connect with your prospective customers on a more personal level.

2. Know who your customer is before selling to them
A common trait displayed by Sales teams these days is to start selling a product/concept to a prospective customer without really delving into how it would benefit the end user. Your product may have a wide variety of amazing features that potentially serve every conceivable need but often, customers have a single pain point, which one of your standard, run of the mill features may address.

Learn more about your customer, their company and how they operate. Once you’re armed with all the details, paint a picture in their minds that makes it easier for them to relate to how your product fits their needs. You just might find that in responding to how their pain point can be solved by merely highlighting a single feature that your product offers, you’ve bagged the sale.
3. Be passionate of the product you’re selling
This may come across as a cliche, but a committed and focused sales effort never goes unrewarded. Ensure that your passion towards the product is personified in your communications and interactions with your customers.

4. Never commit to something you know you cannot deliver on
In the exuberance of inching closer to the point of clinching a deal, you may be inclined to agree to certain customization requests from your customers. If you have the necessary resources to do so without affecting the very nature of the product, then you’d be in your right. However, the majority of cases involve fairly exhaustive customizations which, in the end, break away from your product’s core offering.

Remember, whilst the customer’s requirements are important, it does not mandate that your product must meet every one of them, especially if your gut instinct tells you that your product offers a mix of features in the best feasible way.

5. Pick up the phone and call. Emails can not replace the human touch.
This applies to the expressions of interest which have developed further into active communications. With the reliance on email to communicate, especially with customers spread across the world, it’s only natural to continue interacting via email since it seems to be the most accepted method. However, it’s amazing how a single phone call during the early stages of the interaction can boost a customer’s comfort level.

Try to employ a balance of communication methods that are dependent on the importance of the message being conveyed to the customer.

6. Do your best to stay within the window of opportunity
From the time a customer expresses his/her interest in your product (either via the web or by signing up for a free trial), you can rest assured of swinging a deal in your favor IF you’re able to make a convincing pitch within the critical window of opportunity.

By visiting your website and signing up for a trial, your customer has clearly indicated he/she is interested in your product. The next and crucial step is to sustain the customer’s interest level, before it begins to waiver. This typically happens when customer’s are evaluating multiple products or are just unable to see how your product responds to their needs. The difficult part here is establishing how long the window of opportunity is open for, so do your best to seal the customer’s interest right from the beginning.

7. Play fair when referring to competitors; don’t belittle them.
With more leveled playing fields for competitors and the ease of brokering a sale across geographies, a potential sale is often governed by how your product stands in comparison to the competitors. Unless you’re the market leader with the product that paved the way for all existing competitors, downplaying the competition and commenting on how your product serves customers better than the others is not the respectable way of selling.

Granted, it is a tough market but each one of us should focus on what our product has to offer and express that in a sales pitch. Competitive analysis is a necessity but its the icing-on-top that your product offers which could potentially seal a deal, not the fact that your competitors are higher-priced or that your product offers better value for money.

8. Always remember to follow through
Responses to expressions of interest from your customers (especially sales queries initiated via the web) shouldn’t just include the information they’re asking for and a quotation of what you’re offering. Delivering an impressive sales pitch is just half the process. The other half is the manner in which you respond, by asking the right questions relating to the need for the product and thereby leading the customer to enter into a series of communications that lead to a definitive sale.

9. If you’re unable to close a deal, do your best to leave your foot in the door
There will always be instances where a deal just cannot be sealed, possibly due to requirements that cannot be met by your product or a customer’s choice to opt for a lower priced, less-feature offering product. Such instances may only be temporary and the same customers may be drawn back to you at a later stage after realizing that your product is, in fact, what they really need.

Therefore, always try to keep that potential prospect of a sale alive. Keep in touch with these customers (without seeming to be a pest) and ensure your customer relations are of exceptional quality. Often, it’s the relational value that drives customers to a purchase decision more than just the product’s perceived value.

10. Focus on a goal rather than individual sales targets
Whether a startup caters to one or multiple products in its portfolio, each of these products were conceived out of the founder’s vision of how these products could potentially alleviate business or social needs. Focus on the larger picture and aim at ensuring that individuals across your target markets are able to benefit by using your product.

It’s just a frame of mind but being driven by the need to achieve a goal, rather than a number based target, is bound to lead to more fruitful results.

Please feel free to share your thoughts/tips that have worked for you and leave a comment.

[Reproduced from author’s blog]