8 Ways to Improve Your Sales Skills

By: Anamitra Roy

“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”

Seth Godin

Trust me; there was a point of time in my life when I used to hate the word “Sales”. I was a student of finance. I had done my post graduation in finance and accounting. I was working in the operations department of an institute where I was mainly looking after the financial operations. But there are certain things that are destined to happen. A career in sales and marketing was perhaps something like this for me. I was pursuing a 2 year management program in TASMAC B- School. At the beginning of the program I was sure, in fact, I knew that I will opt for finance specialization. There was nothing else in this world for which I would have opted. But I was convinced by the course coordinator and one of the best persons whom I have ever met in my life, Professor Subhajit Chatterjee, to go for marketing. Professor Chatterjee always had more faith in my abilities than I ever had. He always believed that I was born to take up marketing and sales as an integral part of my life. I was stubborn and rigid enough to not listen to anyone or get convinced by anyone. But certain things as I told you are destined to happen. I just took up marketing as my area of specialization. There was a complete change that I begun to experience since then. But still, I was not comfortable with the word “Sales”, as if it was something bad.

It was during one of those long and absorbing classes during specialization that something happened. It was a “Brand Management and Promotion Strategies” class. I was asked a question by Professor Monalisa Dey. She asked me about the institute where I was working. I was describing to her about our span of operations and sales strategies. But during this conversation I fumbled. I apologized to the professor for using the word “Sales” while talking about the way we used to get the students admitted to various IT courses being conducted in the institute. The professor smiled and got me rectified. She said, I still remember, that as a student who has opted for marketing major, I should feel proud to use the word “Sales”. She said, “After all it is not wrong to sell.” The world changed in front of me. A fraction of a second later I was not the same person that I used to be. I was proud to be a student of marketing. I was happy and comfortable to utter the word “Sales” as many times as was required. And sometimes quite unnecessarily, just to prove in front of others that I was proud to be a student of marketing, actually marketing and sales management.

Since then I went ahead with a career in marketing. I met a lot of people, attended seminars and other management programs on marketing. I learnt a few fundamental facts about sales which I am sharing with you all. My intentions are simple. I took five years to learn these. When you go through this article and learn these fundamental facts within the next half an hour, I will consider my job done. I will consider that I have been able to contribute towards the progress of education and the civilization.

On that note, those fundamental facts about sales are as follows:

1. Gather Information about the Prospective Buyer:

It is always better to gather information about the prospective buyer. Try and understand his social and cultural background. Communicate to him to learn about him. Show interest about the buyer, his life, his interests and disinterests. The great, Dale Carnegie always use to opine that you will earn more friends from out of strangers by showing interest about him rather trying to get him interested about your product.

Your interest about the prospective buyer will help him to open up in front of you. When you have a person with an open mind, your job gets doubly easier. You are getting closer to that person. Gradually a time will come when you will have no barriers in front of you. You have all the information about your prospective customer.

In this context, let me share something that I learnt from one of my bosses. The whole world knows him as a great sports administrator. He actually is one. He is the Senior Vice President of the All India Football Federation and the President of the Indian Football Association. But I know him as Director: Finance of The George Telegraph Group. My boss at The George Telegraph Training Institute which happens to be one of the oldest, largest, professionally managed and best vocational training institutes in the world. I am talking about Mr. Subrata Dutta. During my tenure as a part of his team managing the franchisee business in this institute, I have always seen Mr. Dutta talking in business meetings about gathering information about the prospective customer. The George Telegraph Training Institute has a wide repertoire of vocational courses. As a sales personnel you would be in a fix if you do not have knowledge about your would – be – customer sitting in front of you. Mr. Dutta in his business meetings and in house training sessions always focuses on gathering knowledge about the prospective customer. He believes that the most difficult part of your job is selection of what you are going to offer your customer. When you have knowledge about him, you know what he likes and dislikes, you have no problem in selection of what to offer him.

The ultimate conclusion is that knowing your prospective customer is the first and probably the most important step to selling.

“Each person you meet is a lesson to be learnt.”

Bryant McGill

2. Analyze the Needs of the Customer:  

Psychology varies from man to man. There may be two men doing the same thing but not with the same intentions. This idea can also be used to understand the buying patterns of buyers. Let us take the example of computers. A man may be buying a computer so that his son can play games in it. Again, another man may be buying a computer from the same shop at the same point of time for his new office. The actions are the same in these two cases but the intentions are different.

Analyzing the needs of the customers is extremely important. This is because on the nature of the needs you can highlight the features which will attract the customers towards the commodity that you are trying to sell him/ her.

“Needs can never be replaced; wants get replaced.”

Umair Naeem

3. Get into the mind without letting the customer know that:

When you try to get in to the minds of a person, by a natural process the mind shuts down. As if, it starts to challenge you. It won’t allow you to enter. This is an experience that every sales person has to encounter at some point of life. You have depicted how fantastic the gadget is, you have told how it can be used to reap maximum benefits and then you did that mistake. You started talking about the sale price and discount offers. The mind of the customer developed a repulsive force. It told itself let me check out how smart this guy is. I will not allow an entry inside me. Let me see if this guy is intelligent enough to still get into me and sell this gadget to me. There is a repulsive force that starts to work in the mind of the customer.

This is the point in the sales process when you begin to face the stiffest challenge as a salesperson. To tell you the truth if you can win this challenge, then you are near to being perhaps the best salesman in the world.

There is actually no science that can tell you how to win this battle. But of course there is a way to get rid of this problem.

Try to get into the mind of the prospective customer without letting him know. Let me give you a simple example. Suppose you are running a boutique. There is a wide range of men’s top at your boutique. A customer walks in and tells you that he wants to buy a men’s top. What would be your approach to him? Just talk to him. Begin by saying hello and then carry on talking to him. You can carry on talking to him about everything in this world. But let there be no silence. Whoever said that silence is golden must not have been a salesman. Talk to him. In between your conversation manage to tell him how fantastic he looks in what he is wearing … probably blue denim and a red shirt. He is probably feeling shy, probably starting to open up to you. This is the time for which you worked for so long. This is the time for which you went on to speak so many non sense things for the last five/ ten minutes. Pitch your product. Tell that man that you a have a yellow men’s top in which he will look even more gorgeous. Stop there. You have done your job. You have got into the mind of your customer. You are making an effort to sell him what you intended to but he does not know that. You have got into the mind of that man without letting him know.

The best and the only way to sell something are to get into the minds of your prospective customer without letting him know that. You have inspired the mind of your prospective customer.

“Education means inspiring someone’s mind, not just filling their head.”

Katie Lusk

4. Don’t sell features, sell advantages/ benefits:

Suppose you are running a showroom that deals in electronics products. A man walks in. He wants to purchase a computer so that his son can play games in it. As a salesperson you can tell him that the computer that you will show him will not cause any harm to the eyes of his little son. The screen of that computer has an anti reflector in it. His son can go on for hours playing games in it.On that same day suppose, a man walks in who wants to purchase a computer for his new office. You can tell him that the computer you will show him has a large memory. So he can store all the data of his office in that. Moreover, the process of taking a back up of the data in that computer is really simple. So he doesn’t need to worry about the loss of his data.Now if you are doing the reverse, then my friend, you may have a great life but that cannot be achieved through a career in sales … perhaps through something else.

So it is extremely important to understand your customers and their needs as stated in the earlier portion of this writing. It is then that you can pitch your product accordingly.The football in the question which is the best in the world in terms of quality has no advantage/ benefit for a person with polio. Even if it is the best in the world that man will not purchase it.

Initially I asked you that can you sell a football to a man who has polio. Now I am modifying the question. Think about selling the world’s best quality football to a man who has polio. Still your answer has to be a big no. Do you know why? It is because you cannot sell features. Only advantages/ benefits can be sold. Well, when you say no to this question you indirectly highlight on a fundamental fact about sales. Let me expand on what I am trying to say.

Have you ever given a thought to selling a football to a man who has polio or selling an audio CD to a man who is deaf? I know the answer is obviously a big no. How can you do that?

“Write injuries in dust, your benefits in marble.”

Benjamin Franklin

5. Focus on after – sales services:

I have personally seen that after receiving the after – sales services, customers get ready to give you a few morereferences. Thus, after – sales services can at times be used to generate more business. As a sales person you cannot come out of your relation with the customer immediately when the sale gets over. It is so because you are just not selling the product to the customer but you are also representing the entire organization to the customer. The customer does not know your MD, CEO, Directors or any other high flying executive of the organization. Let me in fact; put it this way that the customer does not need to know about the greatness of your organization. He just knows you. So if the customer has some problems after the sale is over then also it is your responsibility to help him/ her. You are the sole representative of the entire organization in front of the customer. You need to stay in touch with him and help him get the after -sales services whenever required and from where ever required.

“After – sales service is more important than assistance before sales. It is through such services that one gets permanent customers.”

Konosuke Matsushita

6. Sales is a process, it is not a destination:
So management of frustration is one of the biggest challenges for any sales person. You know that you have done everything perfectly but still after the tenth meeting if the client tells you that he needs more time to think about the deal you tend to get frustrated. It is natural. It happens to the persons with the coolest of the heads in the world. So do not bother too much about that. Just pick yourself up, if not spiritually, just physically. Go and meet the client again. Just carry on. Do not expect returns. Just carry on doing what you are supposed to do. Remember that sale is a process, it is not a destination.I have seen my dad, a MBA from IISWBM, Kolkata and an executive officer of Union Carbide for more than thirty five years; expect direct returns after paying off taxes. But the tragedy of life is that there cannot be any direct returns from taxes. A tax is defined as that amount paid to the government without any expectation of direct returns. When we do something we always expect a return from it. This is a basic psychology of any human being. There is no problem in expecting something as a return. The problem arises when that return does not come or the quantum of the return is not proportional to your expectations. This is the point from where the question of frustration management comes.

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

Jimmy Dean.

7. Customer Relationship Management (CRM): 

Maintain a database of your clients, their likings and disliking. Interact with them even after the sales process is over. If possible, please talk to them on a periodical basis. This will help you to develop a bond with your customers. Even when you leave your current organization and switch on to another one, you will always be surrounded with a pool of loyal customers. In other words remain involved with your customer.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Benjamin Frankli

8. Develop Pride:

This is perhaps the most important fundamental fact about sales that will enable you to excel in this field. Tell yourself that you are in the oldest profession of the world and there cannot be any profession better than this. Tell yourself that whichever profession you are; ultimately it is linked to sales. An accountant sells his accounting knowledge and skills. A medical surgeon sells his surgical skills. A physician sells his knowledge on physiology. A politician sells his dreams of making the nation. Excavators, a goldsmith, a gem cutter, a professor, a teacher … all of them are selling something. So you are in the most important profession of the world. In this profession you just do not need to be an expert on your profession. You have to be an expert on psychology so that you can understand your customer. You have to be physically fit so that you can carry on with your strenuous job. You have to be patient, perseverant, mentally strong, and charming, a good communicator, an actor, a teacher, a preacher. With so many qualities in one packet how can you be an ordinary man? You are a miracle. You are the next big thing to happen where you are. Develop pride for yourself and your profession. Start thinking that you are a champion, a winner of life.

Trust me, if you develop pride for yourself and your profession of sales, you will never have to work in your life … not for a single day. You will be gifted with the longest vacation in the world. You will enjoy your profession so much that you will never feel that you are working. You will always feel like you are holidaying. You will feel motivated. You will feel contented. You will feel happy. You will feel safe and secured. What more do you want in your life …

“Take pride in how far you have come. Have faith in how far you can go.”

Unknown

I have personally seen in my life that there is a tremendous joy that you can feel when you have sold the product to a customer and reached a step closer to your sales target. Tell yourself that this joy exists and it is your right to feel it, enjoy it after every sales deal that you close. It is this joy that you need to feel in order to be a successful sales person. I had seen the excitements in sales people around me when they have been able to close a deal. Why don’t you try to do it? Get a deal closed. Advance towards your magic figure … I mean the target. Feel safe and then the enjoyment is all yours. You are in the oldest and best profession of the world. You are a miracle. The whole world is watching you. When you close a sales deal you do not do everything for yourself. You also contribute towards the art and science of sales. You know why? Because you are a miracle. That’s why; the world of sales has embraced you.

“Best way to sell something: don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect and trust of those who might buy.”

Rand Fishkin

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