For every salesperson out there, there are just as many sales techniques — though not all of them are as effective as you need them to be. While sales is the art of getting a potential customer to say yes to buy whatever you’re selling, there are plenty of strategies to maximize the likelihood of getting there.

Whether you are trying to build a team of sales professionals or brush up on your skills, here are a few points to consider that are indispensable in the art of selling.

Focus of Building Relationships with Clients

It is no secret that getting a potential customer to buy from you relies on great first impressions. After all, people like working with people they like — and are disinclined to work with those they dislike. Your sales team ought to keep this truth in mind as they formulate their pitches and proposals. 

For instance, if you come on too strong, you risk intimidating or annoying your prospect. This is especially true if it is obvious that the only thing you care about is making the sale. Unsurprisingly, people do not like being used nor do they care about your quota or commission. Those random connection requests on LinkedIn followed by an irrelevant pitch to buy the culprit’s latest ebook come to mind.

What customers care about is finding valuable people to collaborate with on common goals and, when it comes to buying, finding a solution within their budget. With that in mind, if you and your sales team take the time to get to know the prospect and what they need and earnestly want to help them, getting to “yes” becomes a lot easier. As you build your relationship, you will better understand the client’s motivations, their values, and a much clearer overview of the problems they are facing.

Even if the relationship you built fails to net a sale at that moment, a great first impression could mean business referrals down the line. In effect, their network starts slowly merging with yours, opening up many more opportunities than if you had just focused on that sole prospect. But in order to get there, you need to care about the people you are interacting with and take the time to cultivate those relationships.

Make Your Pitches Solution-Centered

When you make your first pitch (and all the way up to the final draft of your sales proposal), always explain it in language your prospect values. Again, people are looking to buy from those with solutions they want. Once you understand your prospect’s values and motivations, explain how your product or service will help them solve their problem or push their goal forward.

For example, if you belong to a software company that specializes in machine learning and efficiency, you can help clients that are experiencing growing pains and need solutions that allow them to scale better. More specifically, at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, entrepreneurs recognized the need for products like reusable and disposable face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. Some resold goods that already existed while others innovated, coming up with new ways to make these products more effective, cheaper, or both.

In other words, good business is finding a popular need and filling it with a good solution. Good sales, by extension, is convincing others that your solution is the best one for the job.

Today’s No Can Be Tomorrow’s Yes

In the same vein as our first point, shoving products down people’s throats and coming on too strong are not useful sales techniques, especially in today’s world of abundant choices. Sales today can be broken into two main camps: sales by persuasion and sales by recommendation.

Sales by persuasion is best illustrated as the door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman of yesteryear. You could already have five vacuum cleaners, but the salesman is not going to relent until you buy the sixth from him. While persuasion is intrinsic to good sales and negotiation, getting a person to say yes by any means necessary is not helpful to either party. 

Though the short-term benefit of getting someone to buy something they do not need might be nice when you are working on commission, that sale came at a cost, potentially affecting your reputation beyond this single customer. After all, how many horror stories have you heard of people leaving bad customer service reviews after failed interactions? That is not something you want living on the Internet.

Sales by recommendation, however, is taking on the role of a consultant. Ideally you want to be able to sell your product or service but maybe the prospect has no use for it right now. In fact, you might know of a better solution someone else is offering and point them in their direction. This might seem counterintuitive, but this interaction yields a few positive outcomes to offset a missed sale:

  • The prospect will be grateful that you were more interested in helping them rather than relentlessly pushing a sale.
  • When there comes a time that the prospect does need your service or product, you will most likely be one of the first people they reach out to.
  • If you represent a B2B company, you have a natural way to ask if the prospect knows of anyone who does need the services you offer, giving you a foot in the door with any of these new leads.
  • You have valuable insight on how to better improve your products and services to fit the needs of customers — which is especially true if you find a pattern of no’s for a specific reason.

While all sales meetings come to an end, strive to have the door close quietly behind you rather than slammed. It is more likely to reopen if your prospect has not locked you out because you tried to sell them one too many vacuum cleaners.

Embrace the Idea of Self-Starting

Sales positions are most often compensated by commission. In other words, you only get paid when you successfully make sales. The potential for how much you can earn can vary drastically from nothing to a couple thousand dollars a month (or even a week, depending on what you’re selling and to what scale). But commissioned sales positions require the kind of person that is not afraid to self-start.

Even if you have never worked in sales before, the best way to learn is to just dive in and do it. Naturally, there are a few fundamental rules to consider like not underselling to the point where the company loses money or being too aggressive or outright rude to prospects. But getting used to the idea of rejection takes the sting out of it. Once you realize that 99% of the time the worst thing that can happen is being told no, the fear of getting to yes dissipates.

Regardless if you are clueless or already have your feet wet in the sales world, having a mentor within the company you are working with is invaluable. Since everyone has their own techniques, you can still pick up a trick or two from someone else to add to your toolbelt — or come up with completely new techniques by mixing what you know with the new things you have learned.

But all of this has to happen when you and your salespeople are internally motivated. While commission is nice, if you let money be your sole motivation, you will struggle; the long slogs of having no sales everyone experiences at some point will be unbearable. Instead, enjoy the times where you get yes after yes and use the downtime to reflect on your techniques as well as the products and services you offer.

Always Keep Learning

Just because something has worked for years — or even decades — does not mean it is working at optimal capacity. A good salesperson knows that while they have their core set of strategies, they always need to be willing to adapt to the current market. For instance, if you own a bar, trying to get people to come in during a pandemic lockdown with margarita shooters is not going to be as effective (or legal) as it was during Spring Break in 2018. Processing leftover alcohol into hand sanitizer you can sell at the drugstore across the street, however, fulfills a need while adapting to current events.

With any aspect of business, sales requires you to keep learning new strategies, whether to hone your existing skills or replacing outdated ones. Instead of cold calling, you could try leveraging your connections on LinkedIn to make sales. Rather than actively searching for clients, learning how to build a great website backed with strong search engine optimization can create sales funnels that capture search traffic and bring prospects directly to you. Maybe you have been doing this all on your own and have managed to save up enough to delegate sales to one or two interns so you can focus on improving the products or services you sell.

Whatever you are doing, always keep moving forward and improve your skills along the way. By doing so, you are bound to find plenty of opportunities for growth for not only you, but your business and those it helps too.