The Art of the Sale

Selling Technology

For three years, Alan Mayer, 29, was a top phone-based sales representative for Dell in Austin, Texas, working largely with entrepreneurs from small and midsize businesses making technology purchases from $50,000 to $3 million. He was voted sales representative of the year in his segment for two years in a row and was recently promoted to field account executive. With technology, "everyone's looking for value," Mayer says. "People have a better understanding of technology than they did five years ago."

1. Distinguish purchase price vs. total cost of ownership. Today's technology customers look at the total cost of ownership, from initial price and support to downtime and depreciation. "With technology, there are multiple factors to price outside of dollars spent on day one," Mayer says. "The price is just one element of the sale."

2. Stay flexible and knowledgeable. No two technology sales are the same. Mayer stays flexible, responds to questions quickly and keeps up-to-date on products. "Companies still need technology. Selling is no harder than it ever was," he says.

3. Understand value from the customer's perspective. "If a customer needs a product and they're just deciding who to purchase it from, it's different from a customer who doesn't know they need to purchase something at all," Mayer says. He gets an idea of each customer's time frame and goals, and whether they're working within a budget, so he can propose products and a financing plan. "Realize that value is perceived," he says. "You won't know what the hot button is until you engage the customer. Meet customer needs where they want to be met."

Selling a Service

Nick Elmore, 41, is a senior account executive for FedEx in Oklahoma City. Over a 90-square-mile territory, he serves more than 500 small-business customers and constantly makes cold calls. Last year, Elmore received FedEx's highest award, the Five Star Award, and was also account executive of the year for FedEx's Southwest region, which includes 65 account executives throughout New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

1. Don't talk, listen. Elmore spends more time listening than talking. "So many salespeople want to talk about what they have to offer. But you have to know the customer's processes," he says. "[Listening] is so basic, it's overlooked. But it's the first step to respect."

2. Develop trust. Elmore finds signing a client can take anywhere from a few days to six months. Along the way, he asks the customer very targeted questions: What is the competition doing that you want done better? What would you use our service for? His goal is to build trust. "I imagine I'm an employee of [my potential client], except FedEx pays my salary," Elmore says.

3. Make a difference. Elmore wants to find a cost-effective answer for each customer. "Right now, people want solutions," he says. "Once you show them how to grow their businesses, you have an open door."

Now go forth and sell!

Have You Got It?

No matter what they're selling, top salespeople share commontraits. Want to see how you and your sales team stack up? Greatsalespeople . . .

1. Are entrepreneurial. Theysee themselves running their own business within a business."They're highly motivated, focused and organized,"says Joe Galvin, vice president and research director of CRMstrategies for research firm Gartner Inc.

2. Have developed a process. "They've figured out a process that has been successful for them to maintain their success," Galvin says. "Then they execute against it."

3. Think about clients, not quotas. "The best salespeople focus on the customer," says Skip Miller, founder and president of M3 Learning Corp., a sales management firm in Los Gatos, California. "It's always about the customer."

4. Sell solutions. Great salespeople see themselves selling more than just widgets; they sell solutions. They tailor their sales pitches to offer a clear solution that solves the customer's problem.

5. Get customers thinking. Great salespeople can make customers see value early on so they're selling themselves on the solution. They're able to find "the catalyst for the customer to move forward," says Sam Reese, CEO and president of sales development company Miller Heiman, with headquarters in Reno, Nevada. Stellar salespeople can also find this catalyst early in the sales process. "Closing a sale starts really early in the process."

6. Aren't afraid to get creative. "You have to be creative. It's almost like putting on a show for customers," says Michael Minelli, New York City-based media and entertainment business manager for SAS Institute Inc., the world's largest privately held software company. "You're talking with them, finding out what their vision is, then demonstrating [value] back to them."

7. Are on the move. The great salespeople "are still going out and seeing customers and prospects," Reese says. "They're crafting clear, valid business reasons to meet."

8. Know when to move on. Great salespeople don't waste time on dead ends. They're experts at targeting their resources.

9. Stay current. They keep up with products, clients, trends and what the competition is doing.

10. Love what they do. Top-grade salespeople are passionate about their work. If selling isn't fun anymore, incorporating tips one through nine might help you and your sales reps get your mojo back.

« Previous 1 2 Page 3

Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog,

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the August 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Art of the Sale.

Loading the player ...

Shark Tank's Daymond John on Lessons From His Worst Mistakes

Ads by Google

Share Your Thoughts

Connect with Entrepreneur

Most Shared Stories