We are all salespeople. Some people only sell when they have to. And then there are folks like you and I who pitch solutions to others for a living. The first group can afford to be average, but we can’t.
I get it. Being great at selling is a big deal. It hurts when you fall short of your quota or watch prospects walk away. But hit those top numbers, and you discover that closing high-ticket deals aren’t reserved for “born salespeople.”
You can get a seat at that table.
What you need is a better grasp of top sales techniques to help you expertly handle the different aspects of the sales process.
Drawing from my experience and the works of other experts, I have explained five practical sales tips you need to up your selling game immediately. Dive in!
Proven Sales Techniques and How to Execute Them
1. Handle Objections
Objections can either be genuine or ways for prospects to avoid committing.
Either way, they can ruin all the hard work you’ve done and leave you feeling like the proverbial punch to the guts that knocks the air out of you. And if you don’t anticipate them or prepare a response that will help you take back control of the conversation, the prospect slips away.
One of the objections that may come up during your interaction with prospects is price. You’ll likely hear stuff like “I can’t afford it” or “it’s too much money.”
You’ll find various sales scripts detailing how to tackle the price or affordability objection. Some work and some might leave you with eggs on your face. But here’s my two-step process, which helps with dealing with any type of objection.
The Two-step Strategy For Handling Objections
After hearing the objection, you want to defuse the tension by using expressions like “no problem” and “got it.” Then pull out the two-step method outlined below.
Step 1 – Clarifying Objections
The goal here is to understand the prospect’s objections. Earlier, I mentioned that objections could be genuine or cheap “get out of jail free cards” for prospects who are not ready to commit financially.
Your task is a little more straightforward if, for example, the financial objection is genuine. But if it’s just a cover for uncertainty on the prospect’s part, you need to uncover the actual objection and deal with it. You do this by figuring out if they believe your offer is right for them and that now is the right time to purchase.
The reason is if prospects aren’t sure that your solution is a good fit, it doesn’t matter how well you deal with other objections, including financial ones. The deal won’t close.
So to learn if leads are sold on the solution, ask a question along the lines of “for a second, let’s pretend that money is out of the equation. Do you feel (the Solution) is what you need to achieve (Outcome)?”
They will either say yes or say no directly or through a vague response that connotes uncertainty. If they give an outright no or communicate uncertainty, like say, “You know, I just don’t know”, move to step 2A.
Step 2A – Handling Uncertainty
Here’s where you take a quick step back and regroup. You’re losing the prospect, so you need all the tact you can find.
Begin by reaffirming your commitment to ensuring your prospect gets the perfect solution. Then follow up with a question that helps determine just how sold on the product the lead is.
It can be along the lines of “just to be clear, on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “this is absolutely not for me” and 10 being “this is exactly what I need,” where do you stand?”
If they are quick to reconsider their position and give ratings between 8-10, then you can proceed to deal with the initial financial objection that prompted this line of questioning. But a low rating implies there are objections other than finance that need handling.
So next, you want to follow the rating question with one that asks what’s keeping the prospect from giving a score of, say, 9 or 10. Their answer will likely reveal the underlying source of uncertainty.
Step 2B: Double Down to Confirm and Resolve the Objection
Double down on the uncertainty revealed in 2A above with another question that looks to isolate it.
Present something along the lines of “so just to be clear, (objection) aside, nothing is stopping you from being 100% certain that this is what you need to (outcome)?”
If you get a positive and definite answer, you can move on with handling the objection. But if there’s more uncertainty, now apply step 2A to uncover yet another hidden objection.
You’ll have to repeat this process as many times as necessary till you’ve handled all the objections the prospect is willing to share.
Note: if the prospect answers “yes” to the “for a second, let’s pretend that money is out of the equation. Do you feel that (the Solution) is what you need to (Outcome)?” question in step 1, you can skip step 2A and jump straight to step 2B.
2. Use a Battle-Tested Pitching Format
Pitching will never go out of fashion. It’s how you lay out the value of your product, raise your prospect’s interest and convince them that your solution is what they need to get the desired outcome and or avoid an unpleasant one.
How you approach your sales pitch is dependent on several factors ranging from your target audience to your industry and even personal preferences. But there are general principles you can apply and pitfalls to avoid to improve your pitch and have more productive conversations with prospects.
What Needs to be in a Sales Pitch?
Let’s start with what has to be in your pitch.
A. Value Proposition
Your value proposition is how your product or service adds value to users. And your pitch has to state this clearly from the get-go. It needs to answer the question, “why choose us?” in a way that matters to those you’re communicating with.
That means you’re not just spotlighting what separates you from your competitors but also what makes the product or service the perfect fit for your prospect. You must finetune your approach ahead of interacting with the prospect.
Here are boxes you should ensure your value proposition ticks:
- It is relevant to the prospect.
- It clearly points out the differences between your product and the alternatives.
- It offers tangible benefits.
- It’s believable.
- It’s specific.
B. Customer Profile
Tailoring your pitch to your prospect’s profile gives it the context and relevance required to get the prospect interested and have them consider your offer.
Your customer profile, in this case, refers to anything from their pain points to their expectations.
Weave your pitch around them (pain points or expectations) to quickly establish common ground. Then show how the benefits of your product move the prospect to a better place.
You can make your pitch even more compelling with proof that your offering can deliver what you’re suggesting. Depending on what you’re pitching, this proof can take different forms.
You need to present genuine evidence that your solution works, from customer testimonials or stories to research or competitor comparisons.
D. Call to Action/Next Steps
What you’d like the prospect to do is obvious. But that’s not to say that you should simply lay all the cards on the table and hope the prospect decides in your favor. Instead, close out your conversation with a short recap connecting your product with what you’ve learned about your lead.
That way, you’re delivering a personalized and relevant closing that’s likely to trigger a reaction in the other party.
Then ensure that the next steps you’d like your audience to take are simple, short, and straightforward. Help them avoid as much friction as possible, as this may fast-track their responsiveness.
My Sales Pitch Best Practices
Here’s a simple framework plus rules of thumb to keep handy to craft a compelling pitch.
Framework: Problem — The value proposition — Process — Proof — Call to action.
In delivering your pitch using this framework, keep these best practices in mind:
- Focus on the result.
- Break this result into three to five steps that reflect how your product will take prospects from where they are to the desired destination.
- Set high stakes by stressing the cost of leaving the problem your product solves unattended.
- Ensure your pitch explains why everything they might have tried in the past failed and why this will be different.
- Anticipate questions and objections when possible and prepare answers for them.
- Practice your delivery.
- Prioritize getting to know the prospect by asking thoughtful questions.
3. Apply This Sure-Fire Four-Step Process To Close Any Deal
Even after delivering a great pitch, there’s what I like to call the commitment phase.
This is where you get the prospect to admit that money aside, the product you just pitched is what they need to get the desired outcome.
Getting the prospect to commit after you’ve pitched requires tact. Ideally, it’s their turn to share their thoughts, but you don’t want to leave them committing to chance.
This four-part selling technique will show you how.
So here’s the scene: you’ve just pitched your audience your solution. The first step finding out what they think and if they are sold on the product. I call it the temperature check.
Ask the prospect a direct question like “what do you think about (the process you just pitched). Do you feel like it’s what you need to get (desired outcome)?”
If you get a positive and enthusiastic answer, you can move on to the next step. But if your prospect seems uncertain, here’s where you apply the tactics on uncovering and handling objections previously discussed till you can move on.
Once you’re confident the lead is sold on the solution, you want to open the door for questions.
So ask, “what questions do you have on the process specifically?” if there are no questions, reiterate that they believe your solution is a great fit, and then ask, “What’s next? Where do you want to go from here?”
A prospect you’ve successfully taken through the first two stages of commitment will likely ask what the investment in the product is, following your “what next?” question. But before talking about the price, run through the key things you’ll be doing to ensure they succeed with your solution. This can take different forms, depending on what you’re pitching.
For instance, say you’re a marketing and sales company. The onboarding stage may include sharing how you’d arrange for a strategy session to understand the company’s marketing efforts better and offer recommendations.
The final stage is where you present the cost of your offering.
You could opt to do this using phrasing that places the prospect’s desired outcome first and the cost of the solution last. Something like “the investment to help your company begin to do $200k in monthly sales is just $15k” should suffice.
Follow this up with silence. If you’ve executed the other stages correctly, your prospect will fill that silence. But if for some reason they don’t, prompt them with a simple question such as “how do you feel?’’
4. Establish Rapport
Connecting with a prospect, especially one who is a total stranger, is no easy task. You don’t have all day to chat. Not to mention that people’s bias against salespeople may frame even your most genuine actions as pretentious.
The easy way out is to dive right into your pitch and keep it moving. But that would lead to you hitting brick walls more often than not because people are more likely to buy from those they like and trust. And building rapport builds trust.
You also come across as genuine and likable.
Although connecting with people often depends on many variables, there are best practices you can account for when trying to hit it off with prospects.
Find out how to gain mastery of this basic sales technique.
Do Your Research
Besides helping with your pitch, researching your prospect can also provide a great angle to kick off the conversation. For instance, mentioning what the prospect’s company has been up to lately can lead to a discussion that includes your product.
Also, relevant information you dig up via research can show prospects that you’re thorough, intentional, and interested enough in their business to invest quality time in learning about it. These are admirable qualities that may help your cause.
Luckily, learning about people and companies has never been easier. From company websites to social media, the details that will help you establish a common ground or pique a prospect’s interest are likely just a few clicks away on some site.
Yes, sales quotas and quarterly targets are waiting to be met. But if the next sale is all that’s on your mind when dealing with a prospect, your interaction will lead nowhere.
Instead, adopt the mindset that while your sales conversation is pure business, it’s an interaction between humans looking to reach an understanding and should come off that way.
Don’t make it all about the product. Relax, introduce humor where appropriate, and offer information about yourself too.
Show Genuine Interest and Concern
This isn’t about nosing around every bit of the prospect’s life. It’s about showing that you care deeply about seeing them succeed in the way only your product can help them.
Your concern will reflect in several things, including the kind of questions you ask.
An unrelenting attempt to understand your prospect’s needs, for example, is proof that you’re not just looking to ship off a product or service and hit your sales goals, but you’re interested in finding out if your product is a right fit for the prospect.
I admit this might be difficult. You’re seated right there, itching to advocate for your solution passionately. But the prospect can’t stop talking about how a previous option failed.
All you want to do is cut in with stories of how your product is more reliable but don’t.
Let the person vent. For one, it’s a good sign that they are comfortable enough to talk about it. And two, you can also glean valuable information that will inform your approach to selling to them.
Such revelations will also ensure you both are on the same page.
Focus on their Pain Points
Your research process and conversation with the prospect should reveal their pain points. You want to double down on these problems to show that you’ve been listening to the prospect and understand their issues.
Such efforts place the spotlight on the lead and your product but only as a solution to the prospect’s problems. So you cast the prospect as the hero, your product as the tool for achieving success, and yourself as the loyal courier.
Some of these questions may be useful in uncovering the pain points you should be focusing on:
- What’s preventing you from achieving (desired outcome)?
- How is your current solution inadequate?
- If you could solve one problem regarding (the area your solution is designed for), what would it be?
5. Use Storytelling
One of the easiest ways to make people care is to tell a great story. Everyone from politicians to managers use stories to inspire and convince others, and salespeople can also use them to convert.
How can Storytelling Help You as a Salesperson?
Nothing screams credibility more than customer stories and testimonials.
With well-delivered customer stories, you get your prospect to trust your solution. Relevant stories prove you’ve once dealt with problems similar to your prospect’s pain points if nothing else.
Helps in Handling Objections
Encountering objections is an inescapable aspect of dealing with prospects. But apt stories can help you scale this hurdle conveniently.
You can chip in a story about how a customer had the same fears but later enjoyed massive success after purchasing your solution.
Stories are Sticky and More Engaging
In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath detail an experiment they conducted.
Students had to give a speech on whether non-violent crime is a significant issue or not. Only 5% could recall the statistics cited by some presenters, while 63% remembered the stories told.
Not only are stories more memorable, but they are also engaging. They activate more areas of the brain compared to just facts and figures.
Types of stories
Wondering what types of stories you can deploy when dealing with prospects? They include:
– Company stories (such as the origin story)
– Customer stories
– Personal anecdotes
How to Craft Compelling Sales Stories
Storytelling frameworks are all the rage. Before getting confused about which to employ, here’s a simple formula that will get you results. Donald Miller’s StoryBrand framework from his book, Building a StoryBrand:
1. Present a character
Your story should instantly point out a character who desires something. In your overarching narrative, prospects should be the heroes.
2. Who has a Problem
Your offering only matters to your prospect because of the problem it can solve for them.
3. And Meets a Guide
The guide is your product. Your product isn’t the hero; instead, it’s the tool that will help the real heroes (your target audience) achieve their goals.
4. Who Gives Them a Plan
The product presents a clear path to overcome the obstacles and lead the heroes to their destination. In more precise terms, this stage is where you describe how your offering works.
5. And Calls Them to Action
Here’s where you challenge your audience to seize the guide (purchase your solution).
6. That Helps Them Avoid Failure
Be sure to communicate the negatives of not doing business with you. State what’s at stake and present it unapologetically.
7. And Ends in a Success
Point out the positive implications of doing business with you. Show prospects the reality your solution can create for them.
Keep Honing Your Skills
Becoming a better salesperson is no different from learning any other skill. Begin by breaking down the sales process, and then identify your areas of weakness. Next, actively seek to improve those areas.
Training, books, courses, and other materials, including the best sales techniques listed in this piece, will come in handy. But nothing molds you into a solid salesperson like good ol’ fashioned deliberate practice.