How to keep control of your sales process

Shaun Thomson, founder of sales and leadership training company Sandler, discusses how to modify your sales approach for the best chance of success.

Sales can sometimes feel like buses. They either come all at once, or there’s nothing for what feels like ages and panic sets in. This vicious cycle is very common. And when the going gets tough it’s likely a business will disregard all its great practices, to desperately do anything to close a sale. Reducing prices and agreeing to outrageous terms are common tactics.

Many businesses fail because they lose control of their sales process. And in a difficult economy the number of casualties increases at a phenomenal rate, to be replaced quickly by start-ups that then suffer the same fate. The fact is, when it comes to sales, having a clear understanding of best practices will make or break a business.

So here goes. It’s imperative to get the foundation right, to clearly define the sales focus and break the large annual sales down into manageable bite-sized pieces. Gear the plan towards getting in front of your ideal prospect – it’s a lot easier to go out to find clients when you know exactly what you’re looking for.

Whatever the economy or competition you need to approach each prospect in the same way – by listening. If you sound, smell, look and act like every other salesperson your prospect has ever seen, this is how you will be treated. So from the beginning, it’s imperative you personalise the whole experience. Focus every meeting on listening to them and their problems.

It might be hard but it’s imperative to avoid all natural urges to talk about you and your amazing portfolio of products and services, and the fact that you have X number of awards. They really could not care less. Talking about you and the feature benefits of your product is a one-way track to protracted sales, stalling and objections and, ultimately, failure. The amount of sales you make is proportional to the amount of information you gather, not the information you give.

Only once you have listened can you be sure you have identified the challenge that your prospect is facing. Now you think about how you could address it. And that means how you would address that problem alone – even if your whizz-bang widget can do 101 more things. Keep it relevant.

By focusing on exactly what they need you will already be demonstrating value against their issue, which is how they will measure you. And that’s key, because so often a business thinks that the prospect just cares about price. In most cases the buyer does not want the cheapest option, they want the best option. Cheapest and best are usually not the same thing – these expectations must be set from the outset and the value of its services reinforced regularly.

After you have demonstrated understanding and value the sale should follow. But there are always exceptions. Some prospects are determined to go down the price route and try and force you into giving free consulting. These people will always exist; the trick is spotting them early and declining the opportunity. Chances are that you won’t win in any chance as these people are notoriously time-wasters. But if you win, you’ll have just turned a prospect from hell into a client from hell.

Finally, try and relax. There is a reason why someone on a winning streak keeps winning – they exude confidence. If you have lost a few, don’t despair. The sales meeting or the sales calls do not have to be a gritty, hard-won, exhausting experience. You may need to be gutsy for a few seconds at a time, but learn to relax and bring some humour into things. If you enjoy what you are doing, it comes across in your speech, body language and your whole persona.

Related: How to create a successful sales strategy – Six vital steps to help your company forge a strategy guaranteeing immediate lead generation and business expansion.


Shaun Thomson

Shaun Thomson is founder and CEO of Sandler Training UK.

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