How to sell more, better and faster: It's what keeps salespeople awake at night, no matter what they sell. And in an economy that's still soft around the edges, selling well is more important than it's ever been.
So how can you and your sales team excel in turning prospects into long-term customers? Here are 17 how-to secrets and words of wisdom from sales experts and entrepreneurs for mastering the entire sales process.
How to make a cold call
A cold call is not a time to make a sale. It's [a time] to give something. The first question is, "Is it OK if I share with you what we do and why people use us? Then, we can decide whether it makes sense to go further." Be as discerning of the prospect as they are of you. No one's going to do business with a beggar.--Bill Caskey, author of Same Game, New Rules: 23 Timeless Principles for Selling and Negotiating" and founder of Caskey Achievement Strategies, a B2B sales training and consulting firm in Indianapolis,
How to get past the gatekeeper
Voice mail is today's gatekeeper. The [most important] part of an effective voice mail is establishing your credibility by referencing a referral, your research or some newsworthy event in their company. The secret is to not talk about your product or service; focus on results. Talk like a businessperson, not a salesperson.--Jill Konrath, founder of Selling to Big Companies , a St. Paul, Minnesota, sales training firm
How to write a sales letter
The secret to a successful sales letter is making it look just like a typical business letter. You want to position yourself as a peer who has a great idea and a helpful offer. In working with sales consultants at IBM, we coach them to start where the last conversation left off--something like, "After your comment to me on the phone last month, I've been thinking about a way to X." Your opening shot can't be a misfire.--Dianna Booher, author of E-Writing: 21st Century Tools for Effective Communication and CEO of Booher Consultants Inc., a Dallas/Fort Worth-area communication training firm
How to generate repeat business
Our customers aren't customers; our customers are owners. That sets a certain bar. If one of our owners is going to take a flight, a sales vice president may be helping with the luggage and the catering. We feel like if we get in front of our customers and we hustle, at the end of the day, it will be translated into repeat business.--Kenny Dichter, founder of New York City-based Marquis Jet, an 80-employee global leader in private jet cards whose Marquis JetCard Program has a 90 percent customer renewal rate
How to upsell your current clients
I asked a client if they were thinking about redoing their website. They said, "No." I didn't tell them, but I was going to work on something because I had a vision for it. I presented it to them, and they loved it. I had a $10,000 sale for that website. The biggest secret is just taking the time to think, "What does my client need that he's not asking for?"--Paula Yakubik, founder of MassMedia , a 7-year-old Las Vegas PR and advertising firm with 18 employees and $3.5 million in annual sales
How to hire a good sales manager
Successfully hiring a strong sales manager is a balance between science and art. All strong sales-manager candidates exhibit three behavioral traits: a high energy level, tenacity and competitiveness. The biggest mistake companies make is that they try to find someone who will change the process because sales are not at the desired level. The majority of the time, the process isn't broken; what they didn't find was someone who has sold in that process before. Finding a manager compatible with the process is crucial.--Jim Kasper, author of Creating the #1 Sales Force: What It Takes to Transform Your Sales Culture
How to offer great customer service
The big secret is to passionately believe in your people. It's easy to say and difficult to execute unless you're in a culture that supports and encourages great customer service. Everyone's going that extra mile. Behind every transaction is a personal relationship.--Jack Mitchell, author of Hug Your Customers: The Proven Way to Personalize Sales and Achieve Astounding Results and CEO of Mitchells/Richards, a high-end Connecticut clothing retailer with $70 million in annual sales
How to close a sale
At the end of a sales conversation, the customer knows everything [he or she] needs to know to make a decision. The key is to ask the customer to take action. Simply ask, "Why don't you give it a try?" Don't sit there hoping that somehow, sometime, somewhere, the customer will take action on his own. Like a dentist's job is to pull the tooth, the sales-person's job is to ask for the order at the end of the presentation.--Brian Tracy, author of The Psychology of Selling: Increase Your Sales Faster and Easier Than You Ever Thought Possible and founder of Brian Tracy International , a Solana Beach, California, sales consulting firm
How to sell when price is the determining factor
If you're selling something on price, you'd better start learning how to declare Chapter 11, because you're on your way. Look at what's going on with the airlines and department stores. Everyone gets confused thinking it's all about price, but it's about relevance. Get away from price, and get to value.--Sergio Zyman, founder, chairman and CEO of the Zyman Group , an Atlanta management consulting firm
Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.