Today’s post is by Brad Shorr, director of content strategy at Straight North, a professional SEO agency headquartered in Chicago. With more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Brad has been featured in leading online publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and American Marketing Association.
If you want to catapult up the ladder of sales success, these three ultra-simple tips will help you get the job done. At first glance, these techniques seem so simple, so obvious, that they are hardly worth reading about. But, as you read, let me ask you to reflect on your experience as a buyer and think about how many times the lack of these techniques has led you to buy elsewhere – and possibly infuriate you in the process.
The fact is, most salespeople I have dealt with (I’ve got 25-plus years of B2B buying experience) do not do these three things. They may do one or two, but rarely all three. If you do them all, you’ll make more sales and keep customers longer.
1. Respond to Email and Phone Messages Immediately
There’s no such thing as responding too quickly. In fact, you should make it your first priority. When a buyer or prospect wants something, the speed of your response matters as much, if not more than, the substance of your reply. For an urgent message, an immediate response is required – unless you’re landing a helicopter or delivering a baby.
Buyers are busy people. Do you know what they hate? They hate to wait. The longer an item sits in the “open” pile, the lower you sink as a supplier or potential supplier. Fast response is proof of top-notch service, because the buyer knows you are on the job. You are going to be there when something goes wrong, and you are going to take care of it. You may not have all the answers, but the buyer knows you’ll track down the answers.
There’s a lot of lip service given to “making you feel like our only customer.” To actually follow through on that ambitious value proposition, this is how.
2. Take Notes
Buyers are detail oriented. A sales rep without a notepad makes them nervous. No notes, no assurance everything I’m telling you is going to sink in, no assurance everything I’m asking you to do will get done.
The mere physical act of taking notes inspires confidence in buyers. Note taking is proof of diligence. And note taking facilitates the very important sales quality of full and accurate follow-up. When a buyer asks for 10 things, doing nine isn’t much better than doing three. Buyers are detail oriented – 10 means 10.
The perceptive marketer Simon Sinek said, “There’s a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.” Salespeople are easily caught on the wrong side of this difference!
Listening (greatly enhanced by note taking, by the way) involves emptying your mind of everything except what the buyer is saying – and how the buyer is saying it. But there is so much more to it than even this. What is the body language telling you? The tone of voice? What is not being said? Great salespeople can distinguish a minor objection from a major one just by observing the twitch of a lip or a tremor in the voice.
Full-blown listening is the only way sales reps can understand what buyers need – and, further, the only way they can present their offering in a way that effectively speaks to those needs.
Listening is a difficult skill to master, but much has been written about it, many classes are available, and self-training techniques such as meditation can work wonders.
Hone These Skills
At the top of this article I asked you to think about how many times you, as a buyer, have been put off by sales reps who follow up slowly, follow up inaccurately, and don’t understand what you’re looking for.
If you’re one of the (few) lucky ones who has not encountered these vexing issues, glance at negative online reviews for any business. You’ll most likely find that a great many of them are complaints about lousy follow-up and lousy communication. They never understood what I wanted. They took three weeks to get back to me. All I got was the corporate runaround.
A sales rep can have the greatest products in the world, but it won’t matter if buyers are thinking (or saying) things like this. No service, no deal. Great service – your greatest challenge in listening will be the cash register ringing in the background.