How to learn to sell better (without trite clichés)

Are you self-employed and want to know how to sell your service(s)? Are you planning to start a business and would like to learn how best to sell your products?

Then you've come to the right place!

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For entrepreneurs and sellers
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Steps to implement a sales guide

On this page we show you step by step how to prepare for the sales pitch, how to prepare a sales guide and how to avoid common mistakes

The good news right from the start:

Basically, everyone can learn to sell better - including you! Regardless of your previous training and the industry in which you work.

Of course, there are certain character traits or personality traits that can be an advantage in sales. Nevertheless, we are convinced that, for example, rather introverted people can also become top salespeople

Because sales is explicitly not about pushing oneself into the centre, but rather about really understanding the customer and then offering them the best solution to their problem.

And of course, classic qualities such as ambition, motivation and persistence are an advantage... But doesn't that also apply to any other professional field?

In this article we show you how you too can learn to sell -- from doers for doers!

Preparation for the sales talk

Inform yourself in detail about your client

It should be a matter of course to thoroughly inform yourself about the client before every appointment.

Very important:

Perceive all information and every detail as it is.

Avoid interpretations and do not judge. Remain value-free and "open-minded".

The brain is a master at quickly evaluating new impressions and sorting them into categories. Become aware of this and "resist" it.

Moreover, it can be invaluable to immerse oneself in the life, environment and experiences of the other person. 

Fortunately, the internet makes this very easy nowadays:

On northdata.de or linkedin.com you will find a lot of information about the entrepreneurial or professional career of your interview partner.

You may also be able to find out who your client knows, what they like to do in their spare time and which countries they have already travelled to via the popular social media channels. 

To train your own instincts and gain more insight into learning to sell, we recommend the book "Closing" by James W. Pickens.

Full concentration on the next conversation

How do you behave when you are expecting guests at home?

They make sure that your flat is clean and tidy and that the sweaty sports clothes from the day before are not flying around the living room.

You should also go into every single (!) sales talk with the same care.

A well-groomed appearance is a must - especially at appointments on site, but also on the phone. Because clothing influences our entire behaviour and thus also our voice.

To put it bluntly:

It makes an enormous difference whether you are sitting in a bright office with smart trousers and shirt or at home in a dark room with a T-shirt and sweatpants. And your customer can hear this difference, really! 

Sort your papers and make sure your desktop is tidy and programmes you don't need are closed. Remove all unnecessary documents from your desk.

And very important: Be in good spirits!

After all, you now have the chance to win a new customer!

We recommend meditating 5-10 minutes before the appointment. Let go of negative experiences and stressful thoughts and concentrate solely on the upcoming conversation.

Etiquette: Give others the opportunity to shine

Always be friendly and courteous. This is truly not an insider tip, yet it cannot be repeated often enough. Gentlemen run the show.

Show sincere interest in your client, his problems, his concerns and his goals. Listen into his world and into his thoughts.

The best salespeople are good listeners...

Because only those who listen well can really understand what the customer needs or what the real need is behind his or her wishes.

Give your counterpart the space to unfold. If you take a step back, he will reveal more about his current situation and his needs all by himself. 

He or she cannot give you a better template to pitch your product or service....

Guidance: Developing a guide for the sales pitch

A sales guide is a sequence of questions that you ask your counterpart in order to get more information about them, their plans and/or their problems.

Guide for a sales talk - example with the tip to follow the sequence

Attention: 

A sales guide is explicitly not a script that you read more or less "blindly".

If you work with 1:1 prefabricated sentence templates and conversation modules, you run the risk of making the conversation seem artificial and contrived to the customer. 

The purpose of the guide is not to tell you in detail what to say and when to say it....

Rather, it ensures that you stay on track during the conversation and do not digress.

And if you do stray from the conversation path, the guide will get you back on track. 

If you are serious about learning to sell, you cannot avoid developing an individual guide.

1) Welcome & introduction

Your guide should always start with a greeting. You may also praise the client at the beginning for getting together.

The introduction should be simple, confident and friendly. Your customer should have the feeling right from the start that you really want to help them - within the framework of your service or with your product.

Immediately after the greeting comes an essential step:

You explain to the customer how the conversation will proceed or what your process looks like. Whether on site, by phone or via a video call, always communicate very clearly what the rest of the conversation will look like.

This makes a professional impression and shows that you know what you are talking about and are able to guide him reliably through the conversation. 

The result: the customer immediately feels in very good hands with you. 

Here are two examples:

Sale of a product.

"Dear customer, normally our product consultations go as follows: I ask you a few questions, you tell me what is important to you in finding the right product and I will show you the best possible option. Shall we get started?"

Sale of a service.

"Our talks go as follows: We first want to find out what business you are in, what business model you have - so we check whether we can support you - and if this is the case, then we go into more detail. Allow me to ask you a few questions?"

As soon as you have obtained the "GO" or the "YES" from your counterpart, start with your questions.

2) Ask questions & listen well (Play doctor)

We strongly recommend asking open questions.

With yes-or-no questions, you deprive the client of the chance to tell more about himself and his problems. 

Focus on really listening to the client and understanding what problems they are facing and what goals they want to achieve. 

Maybe it helps to imagine that you are a doctor and the client is your patient.

Because what is the main task of a doctor?

He asks (a lot of) questions to find out what your symptoms are and which method or medicine is best to treat your symptoms. 

So the doctor is looking for the best possible solution to your complaint.

As a salesperson, you are in a very similar situation:

Only if you know exactly what problems ("symptoms") your client has, you can offer him a tailor-made solution ("medicine").

Think carefully beforehand about what information you need from your client in order to get a clear picture of their current situation and their objective.

Another hint:

Especially in the case of complex services or products, a single customer meeting is not always sufficient. In such cases, it makes sense to divide the conversation into several appointments.

This way you give yourself (and the client) the opportunity to process what has been said and all the new information and go into the new conversation with a fresh mind.

2.1) Attention: Meaning traps in sales

We all see the world through our own eyes or, more precisely, through very individually tinted glasses. The way these glasses are tinted depends on many different factors (e.g. upbringing, environment, experiences). 

Among other things, this leads to the fact that two people can understand something completely different under one and the same term.

There is very rarely (if ever) an objective truth or an objective right or wrong. 

Becoming aware of this is paramount to the outcome of your sales calls. 

Let's take a look at the whole thing using a fictitious sales pitch.

Your client explains:

  • "I want to efficiently increase my sales in the company. I want to know exactly what I can do in marketing to reach my target group."
  • "I would like to strengthen my market position and grow next year. Please provide me with a concept with which we can implement this internally."
  • "We want to achieve a higher return and at the same time be able to control our expenses better. To do this, of course, we first want to see your concept."
  • "We have to make sure that we are serious in the market. That's why we are looking for a reliable marketing partner. Also important for us are the breakdowns of individual positions and costs so that we can plan sufficient budget."

You may have noticed while reading that many of the client's statements are quite vague and unspecific.

Your task now is to find out, through targeted (and if necessary persistent) questioning, which individual ideas are hidden behind the terms that the customer uses.

In order to offer our client the best possible solution, we need to understand exactly what the client really wants to achieve or what goal they are pursuing.

You should definitely "decode" ambiguous terms, vague statements, empty phrases and unspecific values.

In addition to the nouns, you also take a close look at the verbs and adjectives one after the other. 

Let's look at the nouns first:

  • "Target group" -- What do you understand by this? Have you already clearly defined your target group?
  • "Market position" -- What is your current market position? What is your current market position?
  • "Concept" -- What exactly do you mean by that? What points should the concept cover?

Now for the verbs:

  • Reaching" the target group -- What exactly do you mean by this?
  • Increase" returns -- What does that mean in concrete figures?
  • Control" expenditure -- What would that look like to you? In which areas do you think spending is not currently well controlled?

And last but not least the adjectives

  • Appearing "serious" -- What does that mean for you specifically? In which areas do you think you are currently not appearing serious?
  • a "reliable" partner -- What qualities does a reliable partner have in your eyes? What do you wish for?
  • "sufficient" budget -- How much budget is sufficient in your eyes? Do you already have concrete ideas here?

In this way, we work through all the questions one by one. And we do this in each case until we get a satisfactory answer that moves us (and the customer) forward.

Since the questions always have a very similar structure and are repeated in case of doubt, many salespeople are afraid of appearing clueless in front of the customer

But you have to overcome this fear.

Because if you don't ask these questions, you run the risk of just doing anything you think the client must have meant.

Misunderstandings, unpleasant conversations and a lot of stress are then pre-programmed. 

When it comes to the client's wishes and ideas, we must not guess under any circumstances.

Of course, we could simply work out a marketing concept according to the blueprint, just as we did for the last two clients.

But then we only follow our own interpretation of the term "marketing concept" without knowing what the client actually imagines by it.

No wonder the customer then feels misunderstood, right?

Treat your interlocutor with respect at all times and question as much as you can in the first conversation to understand the meanings of your counterpart's terms.

Only when you have really understood what the customer wants can you even make him an adequate offer.

3) The conclusion

Once you have analysed exactly what the customer needs and presented your solution to them, you now need to actively ask them if they want to buy or accept your offer.

You may feel a little apprehensive about the closing question in your first few sales calls - that's perfectly normal.

However, it is literally vital for you and your business to ask the closing question clearly.

For:

If you try to avoid the closing question out of fear, you will sell nothing and make no money. 

Moreover, a conversation without a closing question is also extremely frustrating for the customer. After all, he has signalled clear interest in a purchase and even sacrificed valuable time just to talk to you about your offer! 

Behind the fear of the graduation question is the fear of rejection or the fear of rejection that every human being carries within him or her as a social being. 

In sales, it is imperative that you detach yourself from this fear - this is also a matter of practice. 

An important first step towards combating this fear is to realise that it is simply impossible to achieve a 100% completion rate

This means, conversely:

Sooner or later there will be interested parties who will turn you down (for all kinds of reasons).

Only if you really sincerely accept this fact will you be able to see rejections as part of the process and not as personal defeats.

So:

Ask the closing question confidently and don't lose heart if you get a rejection.

3.1) What happens after successful completion?

Purchase loyalty with sample questions

After a job is completed, two things are very likely to happen:

  • They are happy about the contract they have won.
  • The customer feels loyalty to the purchase.

Surely you know the feeling of buying loyalty from your own experience.... 

You have bought an expensive watch and the first thoughts that arise a little later are: "Do I really need this? - Was it worth buying? - Am I really satisfied with the product?"

No matter how well the conversation went and how much the customer is looking forward to working with us - probably more than 90% of customers feel a sense of buying loyalty

This is precisely why you should ensure that the transition from purchase to service delivery is as smooth as possible.

It is crucial that you let the customer actively participate in the further process. 

Here are a few examples:

  • Send your customer an order confirmation (by e-mail or post).
  • Provide your client with information about the next steps. Explain what will now be done from your side (e.g. the project will be set up internally).
  • Let the client know when the next conversation/meeting will take place. Tell them who to contact if they have any questions.

The goal is to give the customer the feeling that they have made the right decision. Let him participate in your process, be transparent. 

If the client completes the order and doesn't hear from you in the following two weeks, his head understandably starts working:

What happens now? Is my money gone? Is work already being done on my project? When will I get a water status report?

Imagine you book a holiday and receive no confirmation of your booking and/or instructions on check-in etc. from either the tour operator, the hotel or the airline.

How would you feel in such a situation?

Don't leave your client out in the cold after the deal! Keep in touch as closely as you can.

Learning to sell: The 3 most important principles

In the following paragraphs we have summarised the three most important principles in selling. Follow these principles if you want to learn how to sell.

Strictly follow your process

Once you have set up a process in sales, you cannot deviate from it.

Especially at the beginning it can be really hard.  

Often we tend to adapt too much to the customer's wishes and offer things that we actually cannot do at a price that is actually much too low... 

This can lead not only to problems in order processing, but also to internal disputes

For this reason, it is essential that you adhere to your own sales processes and regulations. 

If the client does not fit your company in terms of budget or requirements, you must not offer them anything.

Even though this attitude may seem arrogant to you at first glance, it can determine the success or failure of your business in the long run. 

Even if you cannot meet the demand, for example, you should cancel and refer the client to a professional if necessary. 

Customers will not only be grateful for this - they will perceive you as serious and sincere. 

Always leave a very good impression, even if the order should not materialise. Who knows what the future will bring...

Listen to your customer

When thinking of a salesperson, many people have in mind a nervous and penetrating screamer who likes to hear himself talk. 

Yet the true art of selling lies not in talking, but in listening.

We recommend taking notes of the client's answers during the conversation. In this way, you automatically focus on listening and resist the urge to say something yourself. 

We would like to share a quote from Henry Ford with you:

"If there is a secret to success, it is this: understand the other person's point of view and see things through his eyes."

One of our customers and a good friend, Serkan Öztürk, who heads a 50-man sales team at Elithair, is always preaching:

"Focus on your customer, not on your commission. A top salesperson excels at helping their customers the best way they know how. Make your customer realise that they are important to you. It's all about solving their problem. Closing the deal is then just a consequence of that."

Professional appearance in front of product features

In the first conversation, you should not immediately throw detailed product characteristics and features at your counterpart.

Much more important is the first impression the customer gets from you. 

Customers sense whether you have done your "homework" and show genuine interest in them and their business.

Therefore, always prepare well for your conversations and collect information about your customer. The better prepared you are, the higher the customer will rate your competence.

Think about it: 

What impression do you think it makes on the customer if your first question is: "What business field are you in?" or "What products do you sell anyway?". 

Study the market and/or your client's business model in detail beforehand. Then you can already shine in the first conversation with very specific questions and comments. 

The consequence:

The customer feels in good hands and notices that you are really interested in him and want to help him with your service or product.

"Customers buy emotionally and try to explain the purchase rationally afterwards."

One thing is clear:

Even if your service fits the customer's needs perfectly, they will not buy from you if they feel they are not taken seriously and/or you make them feel like just another "annoying" customer....

Here's what you should look out for if you want to learn to sell

As mentioned earlier, we are convinced that basically everyone has what it takes to learn how to sell.

Below are some important tips to follow if you want to learn to sell better.

Off to practice

Similar to sports, regular exercise should be at the top of your priority list. After all, even professional footballers who can actually do everything already train every week...  

It is crucial that you do not get lost in theory, but move into practice as quickly as possible and gain real field experience. 

Yes, that can be hard at first. However, the advantage of this approach is obvious: 

You get feedback from real people very quickly and learn what works and what doesn't.

Set the right example

The search for the right role model or the right coach is not always that easy. 

Look specifically for a person who fits your current situation:

Are you just getting into sales for the first time? Then you should look for a trainer who can teach you the basics.

You want to build up a sales team? Then take your cue from a role model who specialises in leadership and motivation in sales.

Be selective and only learn from credible people who have already proven that you know your subject. 

In his 2017 book"Principles", Ray Dalio explains what distinguishes believable people:

"I define believable people as those who have repeatedly and successfully accomplished the thing in question - who have a strong track record with at least three successes - and have great explanations of their approach when probed."

Learning to sell: the best books

Here you will find a selection of recommended books on the topic of "Learning to sell":

We can recommend these seminars & courses

Here you will find a selection of recommended seminars and courses on the topic of "Learning to sell and sales":

Seminar: Sales Offensive by Dirk Kreuter

Course: High Speed Selling Course by Dirk Kreuter

Summary

If you want to learn to sell, you must be prepared to practise a lot and continuously improve your skills.

Ultimately, the key to success is to truly understand the client's current situation and desired situation and then present them with the best possible solution to achieve that desired situation.

Developing an individual guide can help you to steer the sales conversation and not digress too much. This guide should also be continuously improved, adapted and refined. 

Have courage and dare to take the step into practice as soon as possible. This way you will make the most progress in a short time. 

We wish you every success!

...and finally a sales guide from your everyday life with the closing question:


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