To a degree, we're all salespeople, whether our job title reflects it or not. If you work in account management or in a typical sales job, you already know how hard it can be to make the same pitch repeatedly -- to the point where you're not even sure whom you told and whom you didn't tell.
Related: How I Got Into Sales
It's a common hardship, but one that can be avoided if you know a few tricks. Here are five tips for better conversations.
1. Don’t be tone deaf.
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Salespeople are good at their jobs because they know how to talk. By establishing rapport, they can better service their clients because they know what they need.
While salespeople may know how to talk, their gift of gab can make them lackluster listeners. When client speak, their tone gives away a lot of information, even when what they're saying is all positive. If you're too busy thinking of the next thing you want to say, you may lose out on what the client actually wants to hear.
2. Ensure that your responses are personalized.
Responses cannot be rote for proper sales procedures to work effectively. This is why scripts can often get in the way of a good call or visit. That isn't to say that professional language and a carefully sculpted message is a bad thing -- only that clients and potential customers can hear that rigidity in a voice because it's likely not the salesperson's natural speaking style. Responses need to be directed at what a person is saying. A few examples:
Client: "Yes, you mentioned that.” (Translation: "Please don't treat me like an idiot. I already considered what you said and decided against it.")
In this case, the client may either read into the fact that you've repeated yourself because you don't remember giving that information or because you feel the client forgot it. Neither is particularly great. Your response needs to address the fears a client has and demonstrate that this type of miscommunication will not be a continuing problem. It doesn't have to convey that you're embarrassed, only that you heard what was said, and you don't intend to let it happen again.
Client: "I'm happy with the way things are." (Translation: "I feel that you're trying to sell me on something that will be more of an investment than it's worth.")
This would be a good time to point out just how well the client is doing -- his or her successes and achievements. However, it's also a good idea to tie those achievements into what more could be done for the client's business.
3. Be mindful of a customer’s true despair.
There are clients who can feel that their back is against the wall, and they need someone in their corner who is ready to fight for them. These buyers are most likely your best candidates to upsell.
In these cases, you have to acknowledge how the clients are feeling, and offer them real solutions as to how to get out of their sticky situation. This is the time to empathize with how they're feeling. If they've seen disappointments, then they'll likely be open to telling you exactly how things went wrong; now is the time to understand it, and get to work on how to fix it. Many salespeople will jump into how great they can make a business without truly realizing what the original problem is.
4. Find interest in the exchange.
You will have fewer instances when you will need to read between the lines, if you're genuinely interested in the other person.
This can be difficult because you likely have a sales quota, and people can get pretty chatty. But you may find that those extra minutes on the phone, or over email, can translate to customer loyalty and referrals worth thousands of dollars in future business.
5. Know when to fold 'em.
There are certain people who are extremely hard to reach when you approach them under certain circumstances. Most people can be made to open up if you say and do the right things at the right time, but sometimes those conditions just can't be met.
If it seems that a person is dying to end the conversation, there's a possibility you'll say the perfect thing to get this person to come around, but it's more likely you'll just upset him or her by continuing. You need to accept the answers offered, and then exit as politely as you can. You’ve lost the battle for now; however, you will likely have another chance later to win the war.