There are some people who seem naturally born with a gift in sales. Others scramble to find a perfect sales process and more often than not, it takes years.
Since sales is a part of any type of business and it’s directly related to generating income or cash flow, it can’t be avoided. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to invest time into honing this particular aspect of your business or else everything you sacrificed wouldn’t bear fruit.
But how do you become good at sales? Unlike other things that require intellectual knowledge or a level of academic achievement, being good at sales is highly reliant on the amount of work you’re willing to put in.
There’s no universal formula that applies to everyone and every business. You have to find what works for you.
This is where sales strategies and sales techniques come in.
SALES STRATEGY VS. SALES TECHNIQUES
A sales strategy is the plan a business employs that informs all decisions they make about how they would sell their products or services. This is usually decided by the sales, marketing, and advertising teams of a company and is an almost permanent plan.
On the other hand, sales techniques are the ways, frameworks, and methods that salespeople use to close a sale. These are more flexible in that they can be honed through trial and error and can be constantly changed as deemed necessary.
KINDS OF SALES APPROACHES
Now that we have differentiated sales strategies and techniques, we can liken the former to the approach they take in executing sales techniques. In this section, we’ll share the different kinds of sales approaches when it comes to communicating with customers or the market.
- Solution-Driven Approach
This approach means all marketing and advertising materials are focused on giving a solution to people’s problems. When a business’ products or services have superior benefits that can clear people’s common struggles, this is usually enough to dominate the market and turn as many people into customers.
- Friendly Approach
The friendly approach encompasses building a buddy-buddy relationship with prospects. This approach may take years to perfect but the rewards are big as well. What you’re focusing on here is building trust between the customer and the company, which is a good foundation for customer loyalty.
- Expert Approach
With this approach, you position yourself, whether a person or the company, as the expert in the industry, in your niche, or in your unique product. All interactions with customers are purely professional. This may be more impersonal than the friendly approach, but when done right, you are seen as the authority and that could also build trust in your customers.
- Consultative Approach
The consultative approach a combination of the first three approaches where you try to resolve people’s problems through your superior product or service, but you connect with them by befriending or becoming closer to each other on a friend level. This is best for forming a long-term bond because the positive relationship is built from trust first then continuously grown through the quality and value of product.
- Product-Focused Approach
From the name itself, this approach is heavily about selling the product’s features and qualities. One sales technique related to this approach is doing a lot of demos and coming up with gimmicks to prove the utility and effectivity of the product. This works for specific types of products and business models, but this can quickly crossover to aggressive selling because the main intention is to make a sale and increase income.
- Customer Personality-Based Approach
Every customer is different. There are easy customers who would jump at the first offer, while there are those that you can’t get anything out of, not even their attention. A few others are hyper-critical people who wouldn’t stop asking questions or negating your claims.
This approach is ever-changing based on what type of customer you’re facing. It encompasses several sales techniques and methods.
Traditional vs. Modern Sales Techniques
Sales techniques have changed over the years, mostly due to the opportunities that technology has opened up to gain more sales with minimal time and effort. While it’s innovative to adapt to modern trends, there’s something to take away from the old sales techniques — some of which stay relevant today.
Here, we evaluate the traditional sales techniques from before or right during the boom of the Internet and the modern alternatives that have since taken their place. If not to learn the underlying strategy in each, we also try to unravel whether the old could be better integrated with the new to have a more solid marketing strategy.
Traditional: Cold Calling and Trade Shows
Telemarketing companies are one such example of those that thrived off cold calling. It’s a direct marketing strategy that involved a salesperson soliciting customers through phone calls or in-person appointments.
Though some businesses still rely on this sales technique, it’s considered a traditional practice. Technology has evolved new ways to capture prospective customers in a more effective and less tedious way.
The same goes for trade shows. These events happen in the realm of traditional industries like luxury businesses and companies. It isn’t a norm for modern types of businesses anymore. You wouldn’t see startups getting into these kinds of shows because they almost always opt for alternative modern sales techniques.
Modern: Automation (Speed to Lead)
Automation encompasses a lot of the modern sales techniques here, as you will see later. Specifically in counter of cold calling and trade shows is what most call speed to lead.
This type of automation tracks the time it takes for a prospect to buy a product or service from the first time they interacted with your content or marketing materials, or most likely the first time they signed up to a form.
Instead of approaching the customer, which is the essence of cold calling, speed to lead allows you to keep track of everyone who have shown interest in your brand, product, or service without seeking them out.
Traditional: Drop-In or Door-to-Door Selling
This is a practice of “touching base” with prospects. By showing up personally to a potential customer’s place, it gives you more opportunity to approach them in their place of comfort. They don’t feel as pressured because they’re in their home, and therefore can call the shots with where the conversation is going, but that’s the trick to it — letting them think they’re in charge but slowly inching your way into their subconscious and planting a desire in them for your product or service.
Modern: Website & Sales Library
Nowadays, people expect to find the information they want online. That’s why it’s important to have a website. Before talking to a person who has the chance of tricking them into buying an ineffective product, customers want to feel like they could find a solution to their problems by themselves.
When they find your website and you have an expansive sales library about the information they want, you can lead them to your product without making it seem like you’re doing so. People are more willing to buy when they find it themselves and are not talked into buying.
Traditional: Direct Mail
Since the end of World War II, the rise of direct mail has surged especially by nonprofits to expand fundraising efforts. Everything we do now with email marketing like targeting, copywriting, and even A/B testing were first done through direct mail, though it took more effort and was more costly.
During its peak, the impact of direct mail was big on businesses because it allowed them to reach their prospects directly. Getting a response from direct mail meant big leaps because it took the same amount of effort to send express interest to companies.
Today, some people are advocating for the return of direct mail as an effective sales technique. With the oversaturated world of online marketing, receiving direct mail from companies is proving to create a bigger impact than online campaigns.
Modern: Digital Campaigns & Email
Email became the direct opposite of direct mail in online marketing. Everything that required manual checking in direct mail could be done in bulk and automated through email marketing. Its cost-effectiveness was the most appealing quality of transitioning to this type of marketing.
Testing, personalization, tracking, and getting immediate results for low to no cost at all allowed companies more flexibility with their techniques and faster turnaround of ad campaigns.
As mentioned above though, some resort to combining direct mail and email marketing efforts to increase chances of brand recall. Nowadays, the companies who could achieve more resonance in their audience are the ones who make the strongest impact.
People who did traditional sales techniques and strategies were called salespersons. Though their titles centered around making sales, salespeople usually mostly did non-selling tasks like data entry.
In their selling efforts, their main focus is to convince people towards a bias for a product or service. They focused on presentation and changing people’s minds.
Modern: Marketing Manager
On the other hand, there’s no one title that could encompass everything a modern marketer does. Someone who works in marketing or advertising takes on many roles: educator, storyteller, communicator, expert, consultant, researcher, problem solver, and many more.
Instead of the product or service, they now focus on the customer. What are the problems they have? How can the product and service solve it? That’s where they pull out their sales techniques from.
Traditional: Prospect List
Traditional sales methods heavily relied on prospect lists with potential customers’ basic information. This prospect list is what salespeople used for cold calling references and what they fill up for their non-selling data entry tasks.
Modern: Prospect Intelligence
Prospect intelligence is what’s more apt for the kind of data gathering that we do now using technology. This is a more sophisticated information about prospects collected over a period of time. It’s their whole behavior from the moment they sign up to your form.
What pages they look at in your website, what articles they’re interested in, and what products they add to cart, or any behavior of the like are taken into account to predict what they’ll most likely buy in the future.
3 PROVEN EFFECTIVE SALES TECHNIQUES
The sales strategy — which the approaches above are an element of — is only one aspect of the sales process. The sales techniques are really what brings in the cash. Here are 3 powerful sales techniques that have been proven and are widely used today.
This is a technique similar to what Tim Ferris has described in his book, The 4-Hour Work Week. You can use this to know people’s reactions after reading what is in your email. You can also use this to ask why they’re not engaging with your content anymore.
The idea is, instead of a call-to-action, you give people numbered options in your email, thus it’s also called the “Choose Your Number” hack. They will pick a number and reply with only that. Some people also use letters. It really doesn’t matter what you use.
WHY IT WORKS
This is a powerful way to get people to respond to your email because it requires the littlest amount of effort on their end. Your call to action may not be enough to inspire action. This doesn’t take much from them at all.
Consumers are more aware now of sales techniques now. They know when they’re being sold something. SPIN selling is one of the best ways to sell to people without being pushy.
It entails asking different questions that will lead people to close themselves. You’re only making them realize their existing problem and need, and directing them to your product or service. The questions revolve around 4 areas which spells spin: situation, problem, implication, and need pay-off.
WHY IT WORKS
This is a highly effective technique because you don’t have to say anything about the product or service you’re offering to convince people of its value and their need for it. This method builds more motivation on the part of the person because they have deeper reason to believe your product will solve their problem.
The 3F’s Method
The 3 F’s Method is easy to apply. Just remember the words feel, felt, found. In that order is how you’re going to relate to the customer.
First, you must engage with them through empathy. Show or tell them that you know how they feel. Make it resonate in a more positive light by sharing how others felt the same way. It’s more compelling if you could get from a personal story of how you felt. Then, show them what you have found useful or helpful with the product you’re offering.
WHY IT WORKS
This technique is also used in psychology to resolve miscommunication. In sales, this resolves the objections your customer might have toward your product. Instead of fighting their objections with more objections, you’re empathizing with the person. At the moment of heated emotion, this can be a surprising response to them. When you’re more understanding of where they’re coming from, they become more open to listening to what you have to say.
What are Sales Closing Techniques?
There are general sales techniques that could lead to a sale. These are sales techniques that are solely for the purpose of closing a sale.
A deadline close simply means imposing a deadline on your offer. People love discounts and cutting the cost for a certain time gives your products or services exclusivity. The limited time prospects are given to say yes will likely push them to do it.
This may be on the extreme side, but posing the now or never offer makes your prospects decide faster, if not on the spot. It also positions your brand and product at a high level because it won’t be available for long or ever again.
An assumptive close is constructed in a way that encourages a “yes” from your prospect. Instead of asking them if they want your offer, assume that they do and ask them a question that seals the deal.
An example of this would be making the statement:
“We’re offering 25% off on our services for the first two weeks of summer. When would you like us to set up a meeting to discuss an estimate?”
A good note on this technique is that it usually ends with an open-ended question that doesn’t only get a yes or no answer.
Suggestion or option close
Like the assumptive close, the suggestion or option close ends with a question and is not just answered with a direct yes or no. Instead of asking questions about logistics or future plans that assume they say yes to your offer, give your prospect another option that they might want to get.
If you’re sensing a no coming from them, present them with a bundle, promo, or another product or service that they might want more as a suggestion or alternative option. This gives them the choice to reconsider your offer especially if they get more from it. This could also be a save if ever you fail in convincing them on your first offer.
What are After Sales Techniques?
Sales techniques don’t end when the you close a sale. It goes on until after the transaction has finished. Here are after sales techniques that you can do to promote repurchase or to further brand recall and interaction.
Warranties or After-Sales Services
Warranties or after-sales services work best for products and services with big costs. The possibility of a free service or a product replacement if it turns out dysfunctional eases customers into the buying process and lessens the risk of a big expense.
From the business owner’s perspective, offering warranties ensures you’re the first one the customers call should they need assistance. It also gives you a chance to encounter old customers again, give exceptional customer service, and maybe gain referrals from the positive customer experience.
Nothing feels better than a free product or service. In online marketing, you’ll always see the word “free” in all caps as a way to grab attention. It works almost every time.
Incentives is a sales technique that can be applied during the sales process or after it. Giving incentives encourages prospects to spend more on your brand or company to get the free stuff. After the sale, you can encourage a repeat transaction using incentives that customers get for doing so.
Convenient Online or Offline Customer Service
Good customer service is kind of a rare luxury to customers nowadays. They’re always prepared for a bad experience, a rejected request, or an unaccommodating person on the other end of the conversation.
Make sure you provide a convenient experience for customers if they ever get back to you, whether it’s a concern, complaint, or any kind of feedback. Most of the time, they will remember you and even promote you if they have a good experience with customer service, both online and offline.
Collect Feedback or Testimonials
Testimonials have immense power on the image and selling opportunities of your company. Always ask for it whenever possible. Collecting feedback should always be part of the after sales process.
Be open to negative feedback as well as the positive. This gives you the opportunity to change what’s not efficient and improve on what you’re already doing right.
Loyalty rewards could be a form of incentives, but they specifically promote a long customer relationship. This encourages multiple repeat transactions between one individual or business. It works both ways because the connection is established between the brand and customer, and the latter gets more rewards because of it.
People would more likely patronize a business if it’s been recommended to them by a trusted peer. A referral system is especially effective for service businesses. It’s simply letting past customers promote your business, and rewarding them for every referral in the form of cash back or discounted or free service.
A referral system strengthens the brand-customer relationship especially because the customers themselves know each other and discovered your brand through other people they know.
Sales techniques can be used in every step of the sales process. These are only the basics of what business have used for years. They can be edited and altered based on any type of business, product, service, or offer.
The success of a sales process really depends on the right balance and integration of your sales approach to any sales techniques. If your intention is always aligned with the techniques, no matter if the latter changes all the time, your brand will remain true to your sales strategy.