Best Practices for Sales Effectiveness

In today's challenging marketplace, successful selling requires much more than just presenting a product or service to a prospect. A salesperson is increasingly expected to be a complex hybrid of marketing specialist, consultant, customer service representative, and confidant to make a sale and maintain a customer.

It's time for a reality check. Salespeople are simply a dime a dozen.  However, trusted resources and business partners are hard to find and definitely worth their weight in gold to businesses and decision-makers. The more value that you can provide; the less chance that you will be replaced.

Those who have hung on to pre-recession selling techniques are being left in the dust by multi-tasking sales professionals who are more than willing to roll up their sleeves and help their customers in any and every capacity.

Having to wear so many hats to improve sales effectiveness is daunting but also absolutely necessary. Is it realistic? You bet! With the following best practices, you can dramatically ramp up your sales capabilities and ensure that you are your customers' solutions provider and not merely a vendor. If you're ready to redefine yourself as an indispensable resource and partner, read on.

Ask Lots of Questions
Ask the right questions, and your prospect will tell you what they need, when and why they need it, and how much they'll pay for it. Probing for information is a fundamental component to success as a salesperson. You know what they say about those who assume. So, don't fall into the trap of thinking you know what someone wants or needs. You'll never go wrong by being genuinely interested and inquisitive.

Do Your Homework
Learn everything that you can about new prospects. Use the Internet and carefully research their business, market and competition. Utilize Hoover's and other online resources to find out what you can.

Research doesn't stop after you make a sale. It needs to be ongoing so that you can stay current with what's happening with a client's industry and competition. To maximize your ability to be a resource, use Google Alerts, read industry sites, blogs, journals, and even the local business section of the newspaper to be "in the know". Bottom line - the more that you know about your prospects and clients, the more that you can target your message and provide customized service.

Be Creative
Creativity is often in short supply when the economy is in trouble. Too often, salespeople who are frightened about losing their jobs, pull back from pitching forward thinking ideas. But, when times are tough, there is even more demand for creativity. Prospects and clients want salespeople who can use creativity to develop innovative solutions to address specific needs or problems. Order-takers can be found anywhere, but salespeople with out-of-the-box unique ideas are definitely in demand.

Be Timely
Time is of the essence like never before. With a variety of communication modes literally at our fingertips, being slow to respond is a surefire way to fail. Having the right stuff but offering it too late is a double negative for salespeople. If you are spending the time doing the work, but don't provide it in a timely manner, you will never get the credit, and you'll receive all of the blame.

Watch Their Back
Word of mouth marketing is an extremely powerful tool in any salesperson's arsenal. If you are a partner, advocate, or trusted vendor, it's your obligation to create positive buzz about your clients and prospects. Be a cheerleader, and you'll be rewarded with return business time and time again.

Go Deep
Don't forget to dig for other business opportunities within the same organization. Cross-sell, up-sell, and probe for future requirements. You might just find additional sales potential in the account.

Go the Extra Mile
Your job doesn't stop once you've made a sale. In fact, it's only just begun. Make certain that your customer service channels are in gear and that you are as attentive to a client after the sale as you were during the selling process.

To be the most effective salesperson that you can be requires an ongoing dedication to exceed expectations. The economy is slowly turning around, and there are certain to be an increasing number of opportunities to make sales. However, the shake-out of sub-standard vendors will most likely continue as prospects and clients alike will continue to expect salespeople to do more than meet their needs.

Adrian Miller is President and Founder of Adrian Miller Sales Training, a sales consultancy that she launched 20 years ago. Adrian provides real-world, highly practical sales skills training programs and delivers executive level sales strategy consulting. She is the author of "The Blatant Truth: 50 Ways to Sales Success" and is a highly regarded speaker and consultant.

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