Within the teeming ocean of salespeople out there, you are but a mere drop. A speck. A mote, floating along among hundreds of others. In order to perform well, you must stand out. You must become present in the mind of the buyer, and they must be happy to speak with you. When the prospect makes a buying decision, you want them to be thinking of you and not your competitors. Here’s how to stand out as a salesperson, and make sure that happens.
The first and most important point is to remember to be yourself. Sales training hides a pernicious trap: if you fully become whatever methodology it is you’re learning, you will become a top star salesperson. Rather than doing this, think about how you can employ the methodology to strengthen your qualities. Focus on what works for you.
Likewise, think about your own personality and the qualities you bring to the table. Perhaps you are a personable individual with whom it’s easy to talk. Perhaps you’re not that chatty, but extremely business-focused with a deep knowledge of business models and economic theory. Both of these skills are disparate, but both can be useful in sales. You should work on building them into your sales approach, and learn how to highlight them gently if necessary.
Building relationships, rather than just pitching (for example), is core to successful sales. This becomes easier if you are yourself. Being someone others can relate to, rather than a pitching sales automaton, is the essence of creating a relationship.
Beyond this critical point (which is much too often overlooked), you can foster a relationship by always keeping your promises. If you said you’d send an email, then make sure you send it! If you promised something by a certain date, do it as soon as possible and destroy that deadline. This is something you should always be doing in any case, and builds trust.
On the topic of trust: one of the easiest ways you can destroy trust is by lying or bending the truth. With anybody in that company, not only the prospect (read my guide about gatekeepers for more along these lines). There are many sales “tips” out there which involve you bending the truth or lying. Don’t even think, for one second, about following those. Truth is absolutely vital, and your reputation must be absolutely clean.
Another point on the topic is your treatment of competitors: don’t attempt to belittle them or say anything negative about them. It’s an entirely transparent tactic, and leaves a bad impression with the prospect. My personal approach is simply to acknowledge their existence and get on with the conversation.
Listen and ask the right questions.
The best way to build a relationship is by communicating well. In sales, this means listening, and by that I mean active listening. Don’t think about what to say next, don’t think about anything but what the prospect is telling you. Take the time to think about questions when they’re done telling you what they need to tell you. A good sales conversation will have the prospect speaking at least 80% of the time.
The right questions are vital to a good conversation. Don’t just drive the conversation where you want it to go; instead take it where the prospect wants to go and, if necessary, guide it gently back. A good starting point for this kind of conversation is to find out what the prospect hopes to achieve or what their long-term goals are. This will put you onto the right footing to find out more, and will let them tell you about their business on their terms.
Focus on helping.
Rather than being a pitching machine trying to sell at all costs, focus on the value you can provide the prospect. Put your prospect at the center of everything you do, and consider where you can improve their business (or simply their life). Keep in mind you’re an expert of whichever field you’re working in. You’ve received abundant training and you have resources at your disposal they may not have.
By focusing on helping rather than selling, you position yourself as a resource for the prospect. Sure, this can mean more work, but you will also reap the rewards. If you were purchasing a complex product, would you prefer to be speaking with someone who’s willing to go out of their way, provide knowledge, and help you, or would you rather speak with someone who’s trying the hard sale? I know which one I’d prefer.
Embrace introspection and self-improvement.
Becoming a salesperson that stands out means not only adopting a sales mindset, but also seeking constant betterment. You should seek to improve your skills and knowledge constantly, and learn to analyze yourself honestly. The latter is vitally important in any walk of life, and can make your sales job decidedly easier.
The best thing you can do to kick-start this is to set goals for yourself. Ignoring the target for a moment, think of areas where you think you need genuine improvement. These are not areas which are “good enough” but rather “lacking.” Some examples could be goals for conversational awareness, getting over gatekeepers, or creative introductions. Make sure you track the goals, and assess your improvement every week.
Research and read widely. Become an expert.
Finally, you must become an expert in the field, and, importantly, maintain that expertise. The training you were given when you started the role was enough to get you to a certain level. If your company provides ongoing training, that’s great, but don’t let that be enough. Get out there, and read industry journals and publications. Be on top of industry trends, and know who the key players are.
Don’t limit yourself to that industry, though: branch out as far as you can, and make sure you have an understanding of the kinds of industry they partner with. By maintaining and expanding your knowledge, you’ll be better able to help your prospects, becoming a valuable resource for them.
A final note.
If you want to truly stand out as a salesperson, it’s important to make these points part of your identity. For example, don’t pretend to help, or help one and not another. You can hear when people are being insincere, and, I promise you, prospects certainly can as well.
Instead, adopt these points as a part of your character. Turn them into habits, and make them commonplace practices in your sales career. Ingrain them deeply, and build your sales success on this solid foundation.
I hope this has been useful to you, and, as ever, I wish you all the best!
Do you agree with what I wrote here? Disagree? Did I miss something? Could I have done something better? Please let me know in the comments!