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What's Really Working in Sales Today

Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa Sanfilippo

Most salespeople follow their gut instinct to guide what they should do to close a sale, but thanks to recent data, we now know the strategies successful sales reps use.

Marc Wayshak, sales strategist and bestselling author of "Game Plan Selling" (Breakthrough Success Publishing, 2012) and "Breaking All Barriers" (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012), spoke with Business News Daily and broke down the five keys to successful selling in today's world based on his recent survey findings.

The phone is STILL your best sales tool.

Pick up the phone – surprisingly, it's still one of the most important keys to succeeding in sales. You may think that email or social media are more effective, but Wayshak's survey proves otherwise. 

Forty-one percent of respondents said that the phone is the most effective sales tool at their disposal. It's easy to get caught up in all the latest and greatest technology like GoToMeeting and chatbots, but at the end of the day, the phone is the tool that works best.

One of the biggest challenges salespeople face when trying to reach prospects by phone is getting past the gatekeeper. To reach decision-makers by phone, Wayshak suggests varying your calling times and specifically calling these individuals when gatekeepers are typically not in the office, specifically between 7 and 8:30 a.m.

Wayshak also recommended not getting caught up with the numbers but simply focusing on calling prospects and making a connection with them. "Setting two appointments from 100 calls is a good ratio. Most salespeople are not making calls in the first place. When calling, be different. Start with stating your name and asking prospects how they have been. Follow up with the reason for your call and don't dive right into your pitch. In addition, don't run with enthusiasm – prospects are repelled by it."

You should track those calls and follow up accordingly. One of the best ways to do that is to use a customer relationship management (CRM) software, such as Salesforce. Today's CRM software can do so much more than just tracking leads. They can handle your marketing, analytics, communications and project management.

Editor's note: Looking for CRM software for your business? If you need help choosing the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free.

Most salespeople today rarely ask for referrals.

Referrals are a must. Top performers are twice as likely to ask for referrals compared to non-top performers. According to the survey, 57.9 percent of respondents said they ask for less than one referral per month, while 40.4 percent report rarely asking for a referral. Only 18.6 percent ask every person they speak to if they might have a referral.

Wayshak believes this is one of the most upsetting statistics.

"To be successful in sales, you have to ask for referrals. People don't ask for them because they are scared. But consider this: Have you ever lost business as a result of asking for a referral? Referrals are free business. When you get referrals, be sure to thank the people who give them to you and keep them in the loop."

Wayshak went on to note that the word "referral" can be an uncomfortable word and to use the term "introduction" in its place.

"Asking for an introduction is much more straightforward. People are never entirely sure what the word referral means in the first place. Ask for an introduction to someone who could benefit from your services. If you want to make money, ask for one every single day from the people who are you in front of." [Interested in CRM software? Check out our best picks.]

Salespeople who spend three hours or less on sales-related activities have an overall average job satisfaction level of 3.45 (out of 5), while people who spend four or more hours a day on sales-related activities have a job satisfaction level of 3.8.

According to Wayshak, those four hours need to be intentional and focused on true sales-related activities, such as setting up meetings and giving presentations. When salespeople are successful, they feel better about their job.

Top performers don't pitch prospects.

Stop pitching: Top performers do far less pitching compared to average-performing reps. While only 7 percent of top performers report pitching prospects, 19 percent of non-top performers say they pitch their offering to potential customers.

Instead, top performers engage prospects in conversations. Rather than starting off with the hard sell, get to know your prospects via a two-way dialogue. Some questions you may ask (which you'll want to customize for your particular industry) include:

  • What is one of the biggest challenges you have with X, Y or Z?
  • What have you done to try to fix these challenges?
  • Learn what challenges your customers face and then list those challenges. Ask prospects which of those issues ring true to them.

"Sales reps need to be asking big-picture questions as part of the discovery process," says Wayshak.

Top performers know they're experts.

Finally, be the expert. Successful sales reps are nearly twice as likely to see themselves as experts rather than a salesperson. Wayshak's survey found that 51 percent of top performers report seeing themselves as 'an expert in their field,' whereas 37 percent of non-top performers see themselves as experts. Furthermore, top performers were less likely to viewed by prospects as vendors (8 percent of top performers vs. 24 percent of non-top performers) or even as salespeople (7 percent of top performers versus 20 percent of non-top performers).

Perception is everything. If you see yourself as an expert, others will too. "When you feel like you're an expert, you believe you're an expert and you become it," said Wayshak.

While we've used the term "salesperson" throughout this article, you have to change your mindset to truly succeed in sales. Repeat this out loud: "I am more than a salesperson. I am an expert."

To master your craft, take advantage of all the resources that are available, such as books, videos, and experts. Learn as much as you can and be confident in speaking about what you're selling.


Image Credit: ASDF_Media/Shutterstock
Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa Sanfilippo
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Marisa is an award-winning marketing professional and contributing writer. She has worked with businesses large and small to help them drive revenue through integrated marketing campaigns and enjoys sharing her expertise with our audience.