From the August 2000 issue of Entrepreneur

Have you ever wished you could distill the teachings of the sales masters, so that in those nervous moments just before trying to make a big deal you could pull out a cheat sheet that summed up all the key points you or your sales team had to know? Well, guess what: Your wish has been granted.

Following, you'll find essential tips and expert advice from seven leading sales trainers: Barry Farber, Marc Diener, Brian Tracy, Tom Hopkins, Jeffrey Gitomer, John Tschohl and Kevin Davis. Normally, clients pay thousands of dollars to pick their brains--but here before you (for free, no less) you'll find the basic sales secrets necessary for success. Our complete guide covers the situations you face every day, from closing deals and getting repeat business to responding to a prospect's no and negotiating great deals. You'll also find an insightful look at the biggest mistakes you must avoid and the tactics and ideas you simply can't live without.

So get cracking. Before you know it, your company will be making more sales--and having more fun doing it.

Top Five Sales Tips

Make every sale the one that didn't get away.

For more than 20 years, Barry Farber has been selling and teaching others everything he knows about sales. Author of Diamonds in the Rough (Berkley Books), a handbook for maximizing personal achievement, Farber hosts a cable TV show, writes for Entrepreneur and still finds time to keep selling and teaching.

Here, Farber provides five top sales tips. He agreed, but not without a disclaimer: "There's always another place I can improve...I'm still learning," Farber says.

1. Persist. "Sales are made by the tenacious. You have to stay in there, even when you're getting rejected," says Farber, who adds that often, multiple sales calls are necessary to sell to a customer. Many give up too early--and therefore miss the chance to make the sale.

2. Qualify. Don't rush in to give your pitch without first finding out if there's a chance this person will buy from you. Customers won't buy if they're not qualified (interested in what you're selling). How to deal? "Ask questions," says Farber. "Listen. Learn about the customer and his business."

3. Move On. Congratulations, you made the sale...or maybe you didn't. Either way, the successful salesperson knows when it's time to move on. You can't afford to waste time gloating over successful sales, nor can you waste time trying to sell prospect who will never buy. Farber's advice: "Learn as quickly as you can how to know when it's time to move on."

What makes you or your product stand out in a crowd? Think up ideas and read "Theory Of Creativity" to learn how to touch base with your creative side.

4. Differentiate. How are you and your product or service different? What makes you better than your competitors? "Don't try to copy others. What will shape your success is how you deliver a personal touch," says Farber, who adds: "Knowing what makes you unique lets you sell that much more effectively."

5. Form relationships. "Build relationships with customers, then turn those relationships into partnerships," says Farber. "Provide enough value so that your customers really appreciate doing business with you. That creates lasting sales success."

Making A Deal

Before waging your sales campaign, do your homework.

If you think haggling is the route to sales success, think again. According to Marc Diener, Los Angeles attorney, speaker, columnist for Entrepreneur and author of Deal Power: 6 Foolproof Steps to Making Deals of Any Size (Owl Books/Henry Holt), "Too much emphasis is put on haggling. Preparation is the real key to making better deals."

Never fear, even the inexperienced can become savvy dealmakers. Diener offers this advice:

  • Know what you want from the deal. "People jump into deals too quickly--before they know what they want," says Diener. "Step back and ask yourself what you're really going after."
  • Get help and information. "Dealmaking is a team sport," says Diener, who urges entrepreneurs to involve professionals, such as accountants, lawyers and bankers, whenever a deal is important. "Or do self-help research. That's become very easy to do on the Web."
  • Check out the other side. "Are you dealing with a crook? An incompetent? You don't want their problems to become your problems," explains Diener, who insists entrepreneurs perform "due diligence" (meticulous research into the other side) before closing any deal.
  • Plan for the downside. "Know what can go wrong," says Diener, "and seek to minimize your risks." Ask yourself: If the other side doesn't perform as agreed, what do you lose--and how could you cope? "Using tools such as insurance and peformance bonds can be good policy," adds Diener.
  • Get it in writing. Don't let the glow of the moment prompt you to close a deal on a handshake alone, stresses Diener. A written agreement "is evidence of what everybody agreed to," says Diener, "and putting it in writing forces us to flesh out our thinking."

Sales Rules Not To Break

Dare to break these laws...and you'll fail in sales

If you had to name one of the world's top speakers on achievement, the first name to come to mind should be Brian Tracy, who has written several books, including Advanced Selling Strategies (Fireside Books) and the recently released The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success (Berrett-Koehler Publishers). Based on his two decades of experience, he shares these five "absolutely unbreakable" laws for sales success:

  • Thou shalt build credibility with thy customer before attempting to sell. "The most important ingredient in a long-term sales relationship is trust," says Tracy, who adds that the more a customer trusts you, "the easier it is to sell and keep selling to the customer."
  • Thou shalt learn the customer's real needs by asking questions and listening carefully to the answers. "The better you understand a customer's situation and what he or she needs to improve his or her work or life, the easier it will be for you to match the benefits of your offering to the customer so the customer accepts your recommendation," says Tracy.
  • Thou shalt position thyself as a problem-solver, helper and teacher in the mind and heart of thy customer. "The way the customer thinks about you when you're not there is the most important determinant of how the customer responds to you when you are present," says Tracy. When you're viewed as a problem-solver, the customer welcomes your input.
  • Thou shalt commit thyself to excellence in selling and never stop growing in skill. Like anything, good selling takes hard work. Tracy urges entrepreneurs to "resolve to be the best at what you do. Read in your field. Listen to audio tapes. Take sales seminars. Never stop improving."
  • Thou shalt set goals for every area of thy life and work on them every day. If you want to succeed in selling, says Tracy, you must "have specific, written goals" and set daily schedules to achieve those goals.
Need more sales laws to keep you in check? Read "Focus Pocus" to learn how to center in and go for the sales kill.

Closing The Sale

Tips for perfecting "the close"

An undisputed master of selling, Tom Hopkins is one of the nation's top names in sales training. He spends much of the year on the speaker's platform, but Hopkins is also a prolific author, whose titles include Selling for Dummies, Sales Prospecting for Dummies, and Sales Closing for Dummies (all from IDG Books Worldwide). If you want to close more sales, take these tips to heart:

  • Eliminate distractions. "You need to be in control of potential clients' attention," says Hopkins. "Keep them focused on the matter at hand by moving to a quiet area."
  • Be enthusiastic. "If you're not enthusiastic about the wonderful benefits of your product, why should potential clients be?" Hopkins asks.
  • Emphasize the emotional aspects of the sale. According to Hopkins, people make decisions emotionally, then defend those decisions with logic. "So, you must be prepared with the logic, but sell with emotion," he says. "Get them thinking about how they'll feel after they own the product or service."
  • Be direct. "You'd be amazed at how many salespeople think they didn't make the sale because the client said no, when what really happened is that the salesperson didn't ask the client to say yes," warns Hopkins. "After doing a summary of the points you've covered, hand [the prospective client] the paperwork and pen and be certain to say, for example, 'With your approval right here, John, we'll welcome you to the family of XYZ clients and arrange delivery of your new widget.' Those words are soft and gentle, yet get the message across that it's time for a decision to be made."
  • Stop talking. "After you ask for the business, wait for the answer," says Hopkins. "I've long taught that the first person who talks owns the product or service. Stay quiet until the client gives you an answer. They'll either make the purchase or give you an objection. Then you can talk."

Overcoming When A Customer Says No

A customer says no? It's not over.

As an entrepreneur, you will hear "no" no matter how thoroughly you follow the tips on these pages. In fact, if you haven't heard some nos by now, you're not selling hard enough. But a no isn't necessarily the end of your hopes for making a deal with a prospect, says Jeffrey Gitomer, a Charlotte, North Carolina, sales trainer and co-author of Knock Your Socks Off Selling (AMACOM Books). He offers tactics to use in overcoming initial nos:

1. Use humor. "Say to the prospect, 'Thanks for telling me no. I usually have to hear four nos before I hear yes. Do you know anybody else I can call who'll say no?' " suggests Gitomer. Or: "Say 'Is that your final answer?' " says Gitomer. These tactics can help to defuse the tension triggered by a no and move conversation to the next level.

2. Ask why five times. "Ask why and ask why again, and keep asking until you get to the truth about why this prospect said no," says Gitomer. For instance, if the customer says, "I said no because I need a voice-actuated wireless telephone," start by asking: Why do you need voice-actuation? Ask enough questions, and the customer may find that your product or service does what he or she needs.

3. List the things of value you offer prospects in addition to what you're selling. "If you don't have anything to put on the list, you don't deserve this sale," says Gitomer. He explains: If you're selling long-distance telephone serv-ice for businesses, for instance, you might offer free sales training tapes to customers who sign up. To make any deal of value, "You need to offer more than just what you're selling," he says.

4. Tell prospects you can't accept a no until they make two phone calls. "Ask them to call two of your customers who initially said no, then decided to buy," says Gitomer. "You may not be able to overcome a prospect's resistance, but he or she might listen to your customers."

5. Find out whom your prospects eventually buy from and what the criteria were. Maybe you won't get this sale, says Gitomer, but if you get the reasons you didn't, you'll be more likely to get the next deal.

Retaining Customers

How to get customers to buy again and again

If you're not getting repeat business--the same customers never buy from you time and time again--you're working way too hard. As any smart salesperson knows, the real profits come when past customers return to make additional purchases.

To make sure your customers are return customers, hungry for more, try following these tips from John Tschohl, author of Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service (Best Sellers Publishing) and president of Minneapolis Service Quality Institute:

  • Love your customers. "A customer knows within five seconds if you like and care about them, and they want to do business with people who do," explains Tschohl. "There's a tremendous amount of indifference in today's wealthy economy, but customers still want to be cared for."
  • Call them by name. "This is simple, but it's a magical tool," says Tschohl. "People love it when you call them by name, and they want to do business with people who know them." But just make sure to use the proper pronunciation. (His is pronounced "shoal.")
  • Focus on speed. "People want it now; they want immediate response," says Tschohl. "If you want to keep customers, you'll set standards for response times and keep working to do it faster."
  • Keep your promises. "Nothing turns off a customer faster than when you don't keep your promises, but nowadays few businesses do," says Tschohl. "If you say you'll handle it tomorrow, make sure it's done by then or sooner. Whatever you say you'll do, do it."
  • Make sure everybody has been trained in service. "It's not good enough when only the salesperson knows customer service," stresses Tschohl. "Everybody on your team has to know--and practice--service basics." A consistent commitment to serving the customer is key to winning repeat business.
Keep them coming back and begging for more-check out "Second Time Round" for more advice on winning customers.

Five Sales Blunders

What not to do when selling

Ask Kevin Davis for a list of the five most frequent sales blunders, and his biggest problem becomes trying to narrow down the field of countless common mistakes to a select few. That's because this Danville, California, sales trainer and author of Getting Into Your Customer's Head (Times Business/Random House) has made a distinguished living studying such goofs . . . and, believe us, he's seen plenty of them.

If any of the following sound familiar, at least you can take solace in the fact that you're not alone:

1. Thinking about the selling process, not the buying process. Make this big mistake, and "you're too focused on your own agenda, not the customer's. You're self-absorbed," says Davis. Worse still, customers today can actually predict your next move--at least when you concentrate too much on technique and not enough on what the customer needs. Says Davis, "Today's customers are sick and tired of self-focused product-pushers. Sell slower, and your customers will buy faster."

2. Failing to identify behind-the-scenes decision-makers. Up to 90 percent of the buying decision occurs when the salesperson isn't even around, says Davis, who points out that many other parties often participate in making the decision to buy. Successful selling means identifying those behind-the-scenes decision-makers--and making sure features and benefits resonate with them, too.

3. Neglecting to educate customers about the costs of doing nothing. "For many salespeople, the number-one competitor is the customer's decision to wait," says Davis. Savvy sellers know how to show a customer the real costs associated with delaying a purchase. Waiting might seem a safe choice to them now, but successful salespeople make a habit of popping that balloon.

4. Calling on prospects who don't value your value. If your big selling strength is high quality, you're probably wasting time going after purchasing agents who are far more price-focused, says Davis. A key to successful selling is identifying the right potential customers who already want, need and value the product or service you have to sell.

5. Failing to resolve a customer's fears. What kills the deal in the eleventh hour, when you're sure you've landed a big one? What makes customers quake in their boots before they sign on the dotted line? What's the big reason why customers pull out of a deal in those last minutes? They're afraid that, somehow, their buying decision might be wrong and that they'll suffer in the eyes of their co-workers, boss, family and friends. We're all fearful that we just might be buying the next Edsel--the little product that couldn't--and the smart salesperson "identifies the sources of a customer's fears and finds ways to alleviate them," says Davis. So in every one of your potential sales, be prepared to fall back on a plan for resolving your customers' biggest fears.

Price Of Nice

Being agreeable only gets you so far

Do nice guys finish last? A recent study seems to support that notion.

Two professors at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management in Nashville, Tennessee, spent a couple years studying behavior at the bargaining table. One key finding: Agreeable folks did worse in certain types of negotiations because they tend to value cooperation over protecting their self-interests. That might not be surprising, but how about this: Intelligence had absolutely no impact on the outcome of win-lose negotiations (where one side comes out ahead), say professors Bruce Barry and Raymond Friedman.

What does matter? Nerve and toughness, say the profs. Have them and, odds are, you'll come out on top.
If you're an agreeable person by nature, your best bet is to go into the negotiation strongly focused on what you want out of the deal--not on making nice with the other side--and you'll probably do okay, say the researchers.

Incidentally, in negotiations where true win-win outcomes are possible, intelligence does benefit a negotiator because he'll be more adept at sniffing out what really matters to the other side. In fact, in those kinds of negotiations, say Barry and Friedman, intelligence is a key factor in reaching a successful conclusion.


Robert McGarvey is Entrepreneur's "Web Smarts" columnist.


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