If you’ve read my work before, you know that one of my common statements is that our profession of selling has changed more in the last ten years than in the hundred years previous. That’s 100% true. And it’s also true that 2020 has put the pace of change on fast forward. We’ve talked about that in this space before (and if you haven’t seen those articles, visit my blog here; there are a lot of them).
Some things haven’t changed about selling. It’s funny – in many of my speaking and training programs, I refer to my “Number one rule of selling,” which we’ll discuss below. I’m often asked what my OTHER big rules of selling are, so for the first time, here are my Top Five Rules of Successful Selling.
- If it works for you, and it’s not illegal, immoral, unethical, or against the best interest of your customers or company, do it. This is the one I refer to all the time in my speeches. Not everyone sells exactly the same way, which means that some people are going to do things that I (or you) might not do and might not work for us. BUT – I always say that if you are having success with a technique that doesn’t match my teachings, with the above caveats, keep doing it – but consider at least trying a different approach. Great salespeople are constantly learning, and you’d be amazed at how many people have a technique that works for them, finally try something new, and then have a new technique that’s working better for them. In this case, the rules of successful selling are very personal.
- They can’t buy from you if they don’t know you exist. This is probably the greatest reason to keep prospecting. Social media is great – but it’s still a “crank and hope” strategy for most B2B salespeople. You should always be working to make sure that every potential customer in your territory or market sphere knows you exist and has an opportunity to buy from you. I’ve always used what I call the “blanket” philosophy of prospecting – I throw a virtual blanket over my market and then work to touch every prospect under it. You should too.
- The only real market research happens when you ask someone to buy. Sure, focus groups, surveys, and other hypothetical approaches are great – but if you really want to know if a particular product or service has legs, try to actually SELL it to someone. I’ll never forget working for a company about twenty-five years ago that rolled out a new product. It was well researched; in fact, some of my own customers were very positive about it – right up until I asked them to write a check for it. It wasn’t just me, either; the entire product flopped because, in the hypothetical sense, it looked great. In the actual sense, nobody was all that excited about paying for it. Your salespeople are always the best market researchers.
- Comfortable Customers Buy. This simple three-word statement forms the basis of my sales training and approach, and it’s one of the biggest rules of successful selling. Think about all the manipulative and phony techniques that are designed to maneuver a customer into a corner – and throw them away forever. Customers that are comfortable with you and your sales process (which respects their buying process) buy, buy more happily, buy more often, and pay more. When you make a customer uncomfortable in their dealings with you, they’ll find someone else – or just buy it (whatever “it” is) online and not have to deal with a salesperson.
- You must love the ACT of selling, not just the result. Sales is a hard job. What makes it harder is that, for even the best salespeople, the majority of their activity does not result in a sale – that’s why we have sales funnels. We recognize that not every call results in an appointment, not every appointment results in a proposal, and not every proposal results in a sale. Salespeople who only love the sale (the result) tend to burn out quickly; salespeople who love the calls, the appointments, the proposals, and the rest of the work not only have longer careers, they have more successful ones.
Now you know my top five rules of selling. There are definitely more guidelines – but most of them fall under one of those top five rules. Which one is most important? I’m not sure there really is a hierarchy, despite my numbering them. Follow them all and you’ll have a great career – even in the weird selling world of 2020 and beyond.