Be a Better Salesperson

Regardless of who you are, what you do, where you live, or what kind of product or service you offer, selling is the single most important day-to-day activity in your business. Very few products sell themselves so somebody has to get your product or service into the public eye.

Some people are natural salespeople. They fall into all of those sales clichés like, “She’s such a good salesperson that she could sell beef to a cow.” Other people hate selling. They went into business to fix cars or build homes—they’re not looking to take people out to lunch or talk to thousands of perspective customers at a convention.

The bottom line is this: If you want a successful business, get out there and sell. Don’t know how or want to improve? Keep reading.

Embrace the “No”

It’s really nothing personal. They probably don’t know you, never met you, and will never talk to you again. Don’t shy away from cold calling or emailing. Sending a “Dear Homeowner” email mass marketing message to 100 people who don’t know you is unlikely to bring any responses.  It could also get you marked as a spammer, causing all email you send to go into people’s spam folder.

Instead, contact people individually by name. Let them know why you are contacting them and how you got their name. (“Dear Joe, When I met you last week, you mentioned… Here is some information you’ll find useful.”)  Don’t discouraged or stopped by hearing “no.” Remember, if you persist, some of the responses will be “yes.” (And some of the “no’s” just mean not now.)

RELATED: How to Get Sales Appointments

Understand Your Personality

People love to label themselves as an introvert or extrovert. Of course, some sort of judgment comes along with the label. “I wish I was an extrovert so I was a more outgoing person.” The truth is that neither true introverts or extrovert close more sales than the other. Most people fall in the middle. Ambiverts are able to take on either role when it suits them.

You’re probably an ambivert. You have the ability to read the person you’re talking to and become the outgoing or reserved salesperson. Don’t limit yourself with labels.

Be Passionate for Your Product

Every sales article mentions this but few talk about what it means. Passion doesn’t just mean you believe in the product and would use it yourself; it also means that you know everything there is to know about it. There’s no question you couldn’t answer. You know how it’s made, the science behind it, ongoing research, people who write about it, complimentary products, and if asked, you could get on your phone and find a dozen people who swear by it.

Passion doesn’t just mean you love what you sell. Passion means that you’re the expert people seek out. You’re the one people write about in trade magazines, and you’re the one other people who like the product dream of working for.

There’s no “If”

Successful people don’t hope. They don’t wonder “if” something will work. They do the research first to determine the need for what they are selling. Then, they operate with the mentality that success is there for the taking if they’ll work hard and smart. If you opened your business with an “if” mentality, it’s time to change it. If you’re not confident in what you sell, your prospects won’t be confident that buying from you is a good decision.

Follow Up

Now that we have the right attitude, it’s time to talk specifics. Just because a prospect isn’t interested today doesn’t mean they won’t be interested in the future. Form a relationship before asking for a sale. If they say no to the initial ask you can circle back to them later or continue sending them valuable content until they are ready. Don’t give up on the no-people.

Know the Customer

Again, this sales 101 but what does that mean? It means that you’ve spent time researching them and their business. You know their career history and if you sell to businesses, you know what they do, who their customers are, and you’re armed with questions to ask the prospect to fill in the gaps. You even know some top-level information about their family because you looked them up on social media. Don’t get creepy with personal knowledge but you never know how it could be helpful as you form the relationship.

Find the Right Audience

If you sell a product for women, should you market to men? If you sell something geared to senior citizens should you advertise to 45-year-olds? The answers aren’t as cut and dry as you might think but don’t waste time selling to the wrong people. Today’s marketing technology gives you the opportunity to target exactly who you want to target. If you want to show an ad to parents between the ages of 40-50 who live in a 10 mile radius of your business who have a child going into college, you can do it. Your prospect list should be tightly targeted. Becoming a high-performing salesperson becomes a lot easier when you’re selling to the right audience.

And by the way, don’t count out certain people. Make sure you test the different demographics before deciding that they won’t buy.

Set Goals

If you don’t set a goal, you’ll hit it every time. How much of your next month’s revenue will be from new sales? How much product will you move this month? Professional salespeople have quotas set for them by the companies they work for. You need to set quotas for yourself and your business. Don’t stop until you meet the quota. Make it realistic but not easy

Keep Tabs on Your Competitors

Have you ever wished you could keep tabs on your competitors? That you could legally spy on the leading businesses in your field or area to find out how they are getting customers or why they are outselling you?

The good news is that you can learn a lot about what your competitors are up to without doing anything illegal. Today’s technology gives small business owners plenty of ways to learn how competing businesses drive business and sales.

Set Google Email Alerts

Find out when there is new information on the web about competing businesses, their employees or their products with Google Alerts. The alerts will make you aware of press releases, mentions, and new websites that have been found related to the alert terms you set up. Tip: To keep your email box from overflowing with alerts, be sure to read and follow the instructions and the tips in the links on the right side of the Google Alerts page.

Follow Competitors on Social Media

Find out about new products your competitor has in the works and when they’ll release them by keeping track of their Twitter feed, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram pages. If you know who some of the employees are,  see if those employees have profiles and pages on any of the social networks and follow those, too.

In addition to learning what the companies you compete with are doing, pay attention to who follows them and mentions them in social media posts. Then see if you can make connections with some of their followers.

Search for the Company Name Online

Use Google, YouTube, Facebook, Bing, and Yahoo to search for the names of companies you want to keep tabs on and for the types of products or services they sell. Look at where those companies show up in the search listings and the descriptions that show up in the search results. Those descriptions may give you an indication of who their target market is or what the search engines think is important about their pages. Tip: Search as an anonymous user (or turn personal results off in Google). This will help prevent the search engines from guessing at what they think you want to see based on previous searches you’ve done.

If you are keeping watch on local competitors, be sure to include a couple of location words in your searches.  Do some searches that include your city name, county or other geographical information followed by the product or service you sell.  If your competitors show up in search results for those terms, but your company doesn’t, take a close look at the pages the search engines link to on your competitor’s websites. (Hint: it may not be their home page.)  Look at what the focus of the page is, and what words are used on the page, whether their name, phone number and address are on the page, and what the percentage of text to images is. Then compare the results to your own website. If the company is using YouTube, look at their videos to see what they are promoting and who their target market appears to be.

Search for Their Key Employees Online

If you know the names of the company principle or their key employees, plug those into your online searches. Doing so will help you find events they are speaking at, or have spoken at in the past, affiliations they havewith other companies, places they’ve posted or gotten publicity, and other details that will help you understand what your competitor is doing to get publicity, attention for their products and traffic to their stores and web pages. Your search may also turn up an employee leaking information about an upcoming product, or talking about the next area the company hopes to move into.

Talk to Vendors and Customers

A little networking with vendors and customers can bring you a gold mine of information if you’re tactful and have established a good rapport with them. The key is to be a little chatty and to ask questions. When you’re talking with vendors, see if they can give you suggestions about how other companies who buy from them are promoting products. If a customer calls and mentions a competitor, ask what they think about the competitor. Have they ever bought from them? Were they satisfied?  How does the customer think the competitors compare to you?

Attend Trade Shows and Local Seminars

Listening to presentations made by your competitors and talking to other attendees and vendors at trade shows can help you pick up information you wouldn’t get elsewhere. This can be a hit or miss strategy, so save it for trade shows that are local and inexpensive to attend, or that you plan to attend anyway.

Rely on Automation and Web Scraping Tools

SpyFu is a fee-based tool commonly used in conjunction with Google Adwords, but it’s useful to uncover more information about your competitors’ focus. The tool reveals which keywords companies purchase and what organic (ie, not paid) search terms place well on in search. Knowing that information will give you a better understanding of what terms and products are important to competing businesses. Then, you can make decisions as to whether changes are needed in your website, ads, or product literature to make your business more competitive