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Guide to Sales and Marketing: Sales Tips

Jan 12, 2012

by Lisa Ricciotti, Michael Ganley and Geoffrey Morgan

Main Article     Marketing Tips

Listen more, sell less

Jared Smith, co-founder of Incite Marketing in Edmonton, says after 12 years in the business, he’s found that the best way to approach sales is by following George Costanza’s infamous “Do the Opposite” strategy. “Don’t act like a salesperson,” he says. “Buyers don’t want to be tricked or coerced, or they’ll push back.” Instead, learn the art of listening and asking great questions.

“Everyone wants to be understood, and the more questions you ask, the better you’ll recognize what they really want. Then you can tailor your presentation to their needs.”

Smith also emphasizes the need to be sensitive to different personalities and cultures, and adapt your sales style to match them. He’s more forceful with aggressive characters and softens up with gentler souls. Within that framework, he also uses the “push-pull” technique common to martial arts. When it comes to buyer resistance, don’t meet force with force. Instead, if a prospect seems to be digging in his heels, back up a bit; if he seems to be slipping away, step up your pitch. But always stay within the comfort zone of the customer. “The key thing is to make the other person comfortable.”

Be a Luddite

Sure, it’s nice to be plugged in to all the latest and greatest technology. But when it comes to selling, sometimes a face-to-face encounter is still the best method out there.

“I know every one of my clients personally,” says Glori Meldrum, CEO of g [squared] in Edmonton. “I’m old-fashioned that way. People want to feel valued and it’s important to keep the personal touch. Getting together for coffee or lunch is also a great way to say thank you, something people often overlook.” Keeping a good client is easier than finding a new one, and taking the time to pick up the phone instead of texting, or meeting instead of emailing, is a great way to build client loyalty.

Know What Sets You Apart

Everyone knows – or should know – that in order to sell effectively it’s essential to do your research and know your target audience. But you might want to take a look in the mirror, too. When thinking of your ideal customers, what is it about your product or service, from their perspective, that makes you special enough to earn their dollars? Why, in a sea of options, should a buyer pick you?

Dig deep for the answer, be honest with yourself and don’t fall back on the usual clichés. “Everyone says they have great service, quality, leadership or other buzzwords,” says Meldrum. “But you need to show how you’re unique. You don’t want to be like your competitors.” Once you understand how your company’s product or services are different, condense that down to an elevator pitch and make it the basis of all your sales and marketing. “Own a position,” Plewes says. “Reduce your message to the one or two things you do best.”

Use Traditional Media Untraditionally

“It’s time to turn the traditional sales and advertising model on its head,” Plewes says. Imagine the money you spend on sales promotion as a funnel. At its widest, most far-reaching (and expensive) span is awareness advertising, including traditional media such as TV, radio and billboards. Direct-mail campaigns fall around the middle of the funnel, while Internet marketing sits at the bottom. Instead of starting with traditional media, build from the bottom up.

“A good website can be a powerful sales conversion tool,” Plewes says. “Make it as easy to navigate and act upon as possible and include a contact form. Then follow up on those leads and measure your results.” He suggests testing a website with a focus group of friends to ensure it’s doing what you want it to do. “Once a company has a solid website, then they can think about layering in ads in community papers or specialty niches and even move up the funnel to awareness ads on TV or radio as sales grow.”

It Still Comes Down to People

Tony Setchi, who sells new cars at Sherwood Kia firmly believes that people buy the person doing the selling rather than the product itself. Retailers who’ve watched customer loyalty vanish as buyers chase the lowest prices may disagree, but when products and pricing are comparable,
people will be the determining factor. “When I want to buy a six-piece luggage set but I can’t find someone to help me, I go to another store,” says Gladys Weiland, marketing manager at Harley-Davidson Gasoline Alley in Red Deer, the dealership with the best sales figures in Western Canada. “I believe if you’re not loving the person who’s helping you, you won’t feel like buying or staying in the store. That’s why we focus on giving every customer a great experience.”

Lose the Battering Ram

Traditional sales manuals spend a lot of time focusing on how to overcome sales objections and break down sales resistance. But those kinds of war-oriented metaphors are increasingly outdated. Sherwood Kia’s Setchi (ranked as the No. 1 Kia dealership in Canada for the past four years), says that pressure sales just don’t work that well. Although his employees brush up on their sales techniques constantly, Setchi says going to war with a customer is almost always a losing battle. “Long story short – honesty is most important,” he says. “We’re open about our dealings so people believe us when we say it’s a fair deal. We find the common ground where the buyer’s needs and wants intersect with ours. Then the cars sell themselves.”

Choose Your Priorities

Part of the art of being a winning salesperson is learning to lose gracefully. Let’s say you’ve done your due diligence on what the customer really wants, and tried to match her needs with your appropriate product or service. If you’ve conscientiously completed this process and the customer still doesn’t buy, then she’s not right for your business.

Remember that in sales there are three variables: price, quality and service. No matter what promises a company makes, no one stays in business by offering all three. You can only pick two. Find the two that are right for your business and stick to them.

Embrace New Technology – Intelligently

Does your company really need a Facebook page? Should your CEO really be tweeting? Maybe. It all depends on whether your ideal customers (who you’ve carefully defined) are using them. If they are, you should learn to use these tools to build relationships, engage with customers and gather feedback on their likes and dislikes to improve your product or your marketing. But save the selling for other media. There’s a reason it’s called “social media” – it is most effective when it’s used to share information and exchange ideas, not promote products. Glori Meldrum uses social media because she wants to be in the know and hear what others are saying about her business and her competitors. “It’s not going away, so I’ve joined the conversation.”

Never Stop

When you’ve put it all together and sales are booming, don’t get complacent. “If you get overconfident and relax, you won’t notice when things start to change,” Smith says. “Audiences change quickly and you have to adapt.” It takes hard work to succeed in sales, but you need to remember to keep working hard in order to keep the next sale coming in.


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