A lot of what sales trainers have told you is wrong. Although, “wrong” may not be the correct word. Their lessons don’t work like they once did. Obsolete is probably more appropriate.
The fundamentals of Sales never change, but their application to a new technologically-driven market will cause change.
Because of this, many established sales training practices don’t work like they used to, and in some cases, they can even hold you back. So, let’s look at 12 things a sales leader or a mentor has probably taught you, and see what you should be doing instead.
Outdated Sales Advice
“Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them what you’re here to tell them, then tell them what you told them.”
You will find this in many sales training classes and best-selling books. The purpose is to reinforce your product’s strengths.
However, your audience is likely to recognize what you are doing. This comes across as manipulative, and it’s also redundant and condescending.
A good alternative is to include the major topics in the meeting agenda, explain what you plan to discuss at the beginning of the meeting, and then at the conclusion, ask them if you have adequately covered the agenda.
Do NOT ask them if they understood you. Even if they don’t, they won’t admit it.
“Buyer’s objections are bad and must be shot down.”
You may have also heard something to the effect of, “Objections should at least be neutralized through the use of various techniques.”
As salespeople, we’re often trained to avoid objections. We’re taught the way to win is by overcoming them.
That is wrong!
Objections are GOOD and should be welcomed. They’re your road-map to a sale and help you determine what information the buyers need. Often, they can help you shorten the sales cycle, as opposed to lengthening it.
Hard closes and tricks to avoid objections, often taught by sales trainers and in sales tip books, should be retired as they are both offensive and ineffective.
Never forget this — closing should be a natural and non-threatening final step of the sales process. If it’s not natural and you have to force it, you’re not there yet.
“A, B, C (Always be Closing).”
Do you start closing right after you introduce yourself? What purpose does this serve?
The notion that you need to be closing throughout your conversations can annoy and offend prospects so much they may show you the door, close off the videoconference, or hang up the telephone.
Rather, you should be perceptive enough to recognize buying signals that indicate they’re ready to move forward.
Some sales trainers instead say that you should “ask for an order at each meeting with the buyer, especially at the end.”
The idea here is that you may be lucky enough to get a yes. Or it may draw out an objection that you can overcome, such as, “We think your price is too high.”
But, is it appropriate to ask for an order at your first meeting? Tackle this on a case by case basis.
“Use the buyer’s first name.”
I have often heard trainers tell salespeople to address prospects repeatedly by their first name. For example:
You: How are you today, Jane?
Jane: I am fine.
You: Jane, I would like to discuss your excessive finished goods inventory problem with you.
Jane: Yes, that is a problem for us.
You: Jane, is that something that you would like to address this fiscal year?
Jane: Yes, that is our goal.
You: Jane, we have provided a solution that has helped XYZ Corp solve this problem by reducing their inventory by 25 percent. Does that sound like something you would like more information on Jane?
You get the idea.
Some believe that repeatedly mentioning the buyer’s first name is more friendly and personal. However, I find this practice to be outdated, condescending, and offensive.
It’s a trick that has had its day and should be rested. If you want to use their first name, earn it. Build a real relationship first.
“Change your style to be similar to, or mimic, the buyer.”
The idea here is that if the prospect is aggressive, then you act aggressively. If they talk fast, you do the same. The idea that by speaking the prospect’s language, they’ll see you as a kindred spirit, and you’ll have a better chance of winning the deal.
This advice is essentially Sales malpractice.
You are what you are, and if you believe that being a salesperson means becoming a chameleon, buyers will see right through you and move onto the next supplier.
“When closing or negotiating, present your proposal and don’t speak.”
You’ve likely heard some variation of this before. The first person that speaks after giving a proposal loses, even if that means sitting for several minutes of silence.
So, if the buyer doesn’t say anything, you’re supposed to act like a statue?
I don’t see the wisdom in this. Never have. Never will.
If you’ve worked with the buyer throughout the sales process — discussing their needs and how you can help — your proposal shouldn’t be a surprise to the buyer. When you present the proposal, allow time for review, and then ask if there are any questions about the specifics.
Ask them how much time they need to formally respond. Sitting in front of them in silence is awkward and can come across as a mind-game.
“Show up and throw up” or “spray and pray.”
This is sometimes called an information dump. You walk in and tell the buyer everything you think they need to know about your product and solution. How much of this, how many of that. why people like it so much.
The notion here is that by providing the buyer with this information, they will be so overwhelmed that they decide to purchase on the spot.
Sounds good, right?
That may have worked when selling copy machines in the 1960s and 1970s, but it doesn’t win now.
It’s missing the most essential part to the sales process — listening.
The sales cycle should be all about them, not you. The buyers aren’t buying features. They are buying a solution to their problem, the opportunity to improve their current process, or the chance to increase revenue.
So, don’t just throw every feature you have at them, tailor your offering based on exactly what they need, or what will help them most.
“Exert great pressure on the buyer to get a commitment.”
It’s easy to believe that extraordinary pressure is the best way to convince a buyer who is disinterested or on the fence. But this strategy is more likely to backfire than anything else.
Selling is no longer about trying to wear down the buyer’s resistance if it ever was. This might work when selling used cars, but it doesn’t work in today’s B2B environment.
High-performing salespeople must have exceptional persuasion skills, but they also need to be able to change a buyer’s mind from negative to positive by presenting relevant information, not by exerting pressure.
“If you are winning, try to get a quicker decision and close the sale as fast as you can. If you are losing, delay the decision.”
A few sales trainers teach that you should accelerate or stall your sales opportunity, depending on whether you are winning or losing. That seems like a winning strategy, right?
For example, common delay strategies include postponing meetings, not providing timely responses, and introducing issues about a competitor that the buyer may not be aware of.
During the delay, you try to convince the buyer that the solution they selected is inferior in value or functionality to the one you offer. Most buyers see through your stall techniques, though, and they’ll react negatively to it.
Don’t take this risk.
“Cold calling is dead.”
One prominent sales trainer and best-selling author asserts that cold calling is not worthwhile and is a waste of time.
While I have yet to meet a salesperson that enjoys calling prospects from a list, there are two reasons why cold calling may still be necessary:
- Most marketing departments do not generate enough quality leads to keep you busy
- Many salespeople do not have enough qualified prospects in their pipeline to reach their sales goals.
If you want to be successful, you need to own the task of filling the gap between your existing pipeline and what you need to achieve your sales goals this year. A personal marketing program, which consists of emails and cold-calls, is often necessary.
“Sell only to the highest probability prospects.”
Many sales trainers emphasize that you should seek out only the most qualified prospects, rather than trying to sell to the whole marketplace.
They often have a methodology to help qualify prospects, such as a questionnaire or a checklist. But some don’t advise you to dig further to identify the best prospects from that set.
This can lead you to spend a lot of time and resources trying to sell to a prospect that passes a basic, high-level qualification test, but who is less than optimal. For example, they may have a need, a project team, and a budget, but no real sense of urgency.
The reality is that you should focus on prospects that are in the sweet spot. This is where the buyer’s needs, your value proposition, and your product’s strength are aligned.
“Do whatever is necessary to be the final presenter when the buyer is reviewing several suppliers.”
Many sales trainers say presenting last gives you an advantage. The thinking is that the buyer will remember what was most recently presented to them when they make their decision.
This strategy is valid, especially the memory aspect. Buyers often forget the key points that you point out during your meeting, especially if there has been either a lapse in time or several presentations the same day.
However, I always prefer to present first. I want to set the bar, emphasize our strengths, and make it difficult for future presenters to live up to what I have to offer.
Here’s another reason to present first — the buyer could make an immediate decision, thus going with your company and canceling all other presentations.
So, before you fight to be the final presenter, consider the benefits of going first.
Do Sales Trainers Have Anything to Offer?
I am not suggesting that you or your company abandon formal sales training. On the contrary, I strongly recommend it. Personally, I have learned a lot from various sales trainers over the years.
However, I am suggesting that many older practices are now out-of-date and should be retired once and for all.
If you’ve worked the sales cycle properly by addressing the prospects’ needs and demonstrating how your product solves that need, you never have to rely on hard closes or manipulation.
To over-achieve in today’s world, salespeople must focus on providing their buyers with ideas and solutions that improve their operations, minimize (or eliminate) their pains, and help them reach their goals.
So, forget about what sales trainers have told you in the past, and turn to guidance that’s designed for 2020!