No matter how well you market your products or services, or how much attention your brand receives, you won't reap the benefits if you aren't generating sales. You might persuade consumers to check out your products or services, but how are you locking in the deal? Are they following through with transactions, or are your items just sitting in their cart for weeks on end?
In sales, there is a big difference between finishing first and second. First-place finishers make the sale and pocket the money, while second-place finishers leave empty-handed.
To understand the characteristics that distinguish sales winners from the rest of the pack, Mike Schultz and John Doerr, of the sales training and consulting firm RAIN Group, studied more than 700 business-to-business purchases made by buyers responsible for $3.1 billion in purchasing power for their recently published book, "Insight Selling: Surprising Research on What Sales Winners Do Differently" (Wiley, 2014).
"What we learned from these buyers is that winners sell radically differently than second-place finishers," Schultz told Business News Daily. "We also found that winners exhibit a specific combination of behaviors to achieve better outcomes than other sellers."
Schultz, co-president of the RAIN Group and sales expert, said in their research they discovered that the way winners sell can be characterized by specific behaviors at three different levels. The authors outlined each level and explained how sales professionals can incorporate these behaviors into their current strategies.
Level 1: Connect
According to Schultz and Doerr, winners connect the dots between customer needs and company solutions. Their products and services exist to fix consumer problems. Additionally, in the study, buyers revealed that winners both listened to them and connected with them personally more than the sales representatives of other companies.
Focusing on customers' needs and showing them that you care is critical to winning the sale. Don't just robotically secure a transaction and then move on to your next target; treat each person with respect and importance and assist them throughout the sales process if needed.
Level 2: Convince
Schultz and Doerr said that winners convince buyers of three ideas: They can achieve maximum return, the risks are acceptable, and the seller is the best option available. Many sellers struggle to convince buyers of such notions, and some won't even make the effort to do so. When they can and do, however, data shows they win more sales.
Level 3: Collaborate
The study found that buyers perceive winners to be responsive, proactive and easy to purchase from. Further, buyers feel that by purchasing goods and services through first-place finishers, both buyer and seller are collaborating to achieve mutual goals. This collaboration is integral and helps consumers feel supported and understood throughout the sales process.
Keep the three C's in mind to find the most success. Also, consider investing in customer relationship management (CRM) software to better manage and grow your business. [Need help choosing a CRM for your business? Here are our best picks.]
Editor's note: Looking for the right CRM for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.
"Those who apply these three levels as a systematic approach to selling – and apply it well – not only see themselves in the winner's circle more often but also maximize client loyalty and generate the most referrals," Schultz said.
Schultz and Doerr also discovered that, out of 42 factors, educating buyers with new ideas and perspectives was the one that separated winners from second-place finishers the most.
By doing so, Schultz said, winners share concepts and insights that have a major impact on the buyer's goals.
"We call this opportunity insight," Schultz said. "Buyers typically don't know alternative opportunities exist until sellers take the time to share them, but once they do, it influences the buyer's agenda for action."
Schultz said that doesn't mean sellers should just throw ideas out left and right and see if something sticks; they need to transfer their drive, passion, and energy for the possibilities to their buyers' minds.
"To win today, you must also focus on differentiation, ROI and collaboration," he said. "Do so while leveraging ideas and you'll win significantly more often."
Additional reporting by Chad Brooks. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.