Secrets of sales

Four seasoned sales experts tell what their experiences have taught them.

Andy Preston, founder, Andy Preston Ltd

‘Motivating your sales team’

In my opinion, in the UK over the past five to ten years, we’ve forgotten how to sell. There are a lot of sales managers who haven’t had much experience or sales management training. Companies end up promoting the best salesperson to sales manager, which usually means they’ve just lost their best salesperson and gained the worst sales manager in the world.

In order for a manager to motivate their sales team to meet targets – and over the past two years that’s been a challenge – the team has to believe that the target is possible. Then they need to know how they’re going to achieve it, because that will reinforce that it is possible.

In tougher times, companies have returned to traditional methods of generating new business because they’re not keeping existing customers. A mix of sales techniques will get the best results. That should include an element of cold calling but also business networking, online networking and advertising. Cold calling is one of the best ways – it’s efficient and inexpensive.

Daniel Stevenson, managing director, Total Trade Services

‘Technology selling tools’

In order to sell effectively, you need to have the infrastructure and technology in place. If you’re not connecting your sales team with the right customers, they’re never going to sell. When I was selecting the sales system, I was careful to choose a predictive dialler that dials prospective customers only when there’s an agent free and instantly connects them.

We also have a customer relationship management system (CRM) in place. Customer data is automatically fed into the CRM, and when a new product becomes available it flags up the customers that we’ve dealt with before who are eligible for that product. My view on software is that it’s a business tool, it’s not a business philosophy.

Chris Papa, managing director, Qubic

‘The art of selling’

I’ve been selling and running sales teams since 1979. It’s so different from how it was. Today, the buyer is much more aware because of the knowledge at their fingertips. So when you’re selling, you have to be more knowledgeable. Having an understanding of your customers’ requirements is a lot harder than it used to be.

The other key to selling is keeping the lines of communication with the customer open. A lack of verbal communication through the use of the internet has had an impact on selling. Sending somebody a price and a solution by email doesn’t do yourself or your business any justice. Selling is all about making the customer feel comfortable with you. I need to prove that they can rely on me, otherwise they are buying on price and not on service. That’s the art of selling – building a relationship between two people.

Usually, when people get into sales they think it’s very easy. Unfortunately, many salespeople want to do as little as possible for as much money as possible. The ratio between work and reward is very important to identify.

Peter Gradwell, managing director, Gradwell

‘Investing in existing partnerships’

About 15 months ago, we wanted to increase the number of enquiries we received, so we hired a telesales team. We were cold calling small businesses that we thought fitted the profile of our existing customers, but the success rate wasn’t very high. In hindsight we were probably trying to sell the product to the wrong customer.

We thought that we needed to get new customers but actually there was potential business within our existing ones. Increasing the amount of time and energy you put into helping your partner sell successfully seems to make a difference. A partner has to trust you because they sell you to their customers, so you need to have a very strong commercial relationship. We grew our partner business from £900,000 in 2009 to £1.5 million last year by strengthening ties with our partners.

It’s always very exciting chasing the next sale, so it’s a difficult discipline to take time out and focus on the existing customers, but I think it’s really worthwhile.

See also: How to master the art of upselling

Alan Dobie

Alan Dobie

Alan was assistant editor at Vitesse Media Plc (previous owner of before moving on to a content producer role at Reed Business Information. He has over 17 years of experience in the...

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