It’s not so much that these bits of “wisdom” are wrong. It’s that so few salespeople ever question the validity.
These were compiled by sales consultant and author Ted Barrows:
- Selling is selling – a good salesperson can sell anything. We’d like to believe this one, but large sales and small sales require different skill sets – and not every salesperson has them.
In small sales, salespeople do most of the talking and may win the business thanks to their high energy, enthusiasm and glowing product descriptions.
In large sales, the customer may do most of the talking and the sale may involve a complex business solution. Salespeople who listen well and ask revealing questions that move the sale to a closing are more likely to succeed.
- Always call high. Just because salespeople can get appointments with top management doesn’t mean they will close the sale.
Research clearly shows that the most successful salespeople don’t call at higher levels than less successful salespeople. They start their calls at the level where the problems are, which is generally lower in the organization.
Once they understand the customer’s problems, they move up the ladder or get someone on the inside to carry their sales message – and solution – to the top for them.
- To get more orders, make more calls. There are two sides to this one. If you sell lower-cost products and services, making more calls generally translates into more orders.
But on the high-end side, there may be a negative correlation between the number of calls and the number of sales. Reason: To increase the number of calls they make, salespeople may cut back on researching prospects and call preparation.
- Ask open-ended questions. Some salespeople have an unshakable faith in the power of open-ended questions. Problem is, research shows, calls high in closed-end questions are just as likely to lead to sales.
In theory, open-ended questions result in open answers and closed questions in one-word answers.
In practice, 60% of closed questions during sales call result in answers of more than one word. About 10% of open questions get one-word answers. Also, closed-ended questions tend to be sharper focused and result in specific answers.
- You never get a second chance to make a first impression. First impressions are critical in the small, one-call sale. But in larger, complex sales, there’s no correlation between openings and sales success.
You still want to make a good impression, but prospects will overlook a poor first showing, if they think the salesperson can solve the problem.
Ted Barrows is the president of Barrows & Associates, a sales and marketing consulting firm based in Bristol, RI.