As the Adage Goes, Knowledge is Power
From adapting on the fly to posing thoughtful challenges, key sales skills are easier when you know what you’re talking about inside and out, and Balto Director of Sales Tim Claudin has some tips for leveraging knowledge into more wins.
Start by Building Trust
Most sales conversations share one common trait: they’re quick.
Despite the speed of the interaction, the foundation of any successful sales conversation is trust; Tim says building that trust quickly is vital.
“First, you have to get the person to trust you within a few seconds. You have to have a warm, understanding tone. You have to have a disarming opener, to make sure that they know that you’re not going to be overly salesy. You’re going to be respectful of their time.”
Fine-tuning those first few moments of a call can help create solid rapport and allow you to move forward with fewer barriers.
Keep Conversations Agile
A static approach to sales is appealing to some because it requires no expertise, but it leads to rigid conversations. Tim suggests drawing on a deep understanding of the industry in order to ask insightful questions that build credibility.
“The questions should evolve … It should never be a one size fits all, depending on the title, depending on their response. You have to be able to adapt in that way. That’s where I see a lot of [people] struggle, is in that key discovery piece, where you want to make it repeatable, you want to make it scalable, but you have to have the human element where you’re using your intelligence on the fly.”
With more tailored discovery questions and an understanding of common challenges, you’ll better handle turns in the conversation.
“I think that is the most fundamental basic when you’re talking about a quick cold call, a quick interaction. You need to get down (and obviously be ready to overcome) those objections, and also insightfully understand the true objection.”
By understanding a prospect’s unique situation and merging that understanding with broader industry knowledge, you’ll be better equipped to solve their problems.
Avoid Gotcha Sales Tactics
To demonstrate value, some salespeople resort to questions that back potential customers into a corner.
For example, a salesperson might ask, “what do you like about your current real-time solution?” despite knowing that the prospect doesn’t have a real-time solution in place. As a result, the customer predictably answers, “we don’t have one.” For some sales pros, this feels like a way to unlock wins, but that might not be the case.
Tim says this “gotcha” tactic — where prospects have no choice but to admit their apparent need for a product or service in the context of the conversation — is bound to do more harm than good.
“No one wants to ‘get got,’ where you put them in a box, whether it’s a yes or no answer. I see that happening a lot too, and it hurts credibility. It hurts trust. Regardless of how much you think it can help or not, no one wants to feel like they’ve been taken. I think that happens a lot because people feel the need to oversell.”
Even with the best of intentions, avoid forcing the conversation down a path that leaves customers feeling trapped.
Look Beyond Metrics
Every business tracks key performance indicators, so metrics are a common talking point during sales conversations. But according to Tim, looking beyond these surface-level touchstones can prove a powerful sales tool.
For example, some companies say they want to lower average handle time (AHT), but Tim attributes improvements in AHT and similar metrics to other shifts within the organization — they’re a byproduct of deeper change, not the cause of it.
“Push back on these deeply held metrics that are really vanity metrics, that don’t tell you the actual truth. You’re measuring average handle time because it’s the only thing you have to measure, but that doesn’t tell you what is actually changing from a behavioral level. Depending on what you’re selling, have that deep thought in mind. It sounds altruistic, but what is our stance as a company when it comes to these industry challenges?”
With expansive industry insights, you can think critically about common metrics and consider the deeper factors that impact them.
Don’t Be Afraid to Push Back
It may feel like sales is precisely the sort of profession where “the customer is always right,” but Tim advises bringing your own perspective to the table, though he acknowledges that challenging a potential customer on their beliefs is tricky.
“If you’re challenging as a salesperson, you’re putting yourself on the line. It requires some risk.”
But that risk gives you the opportunity to flex your knowledge, and helps you stand apart from the barrage of other salespeople. As long as you’re well-versed in the topic at hand, Tim feels creating some respectful tension can lead to a better conversation.
“If you do it, then it gets their attention … If you’ve armed yourself with enough knowledge, you’d be surprised how much expertise you have in that certain area. If you put yourself out there and you do it respectfully, and they call you out, and you can insightfully navigate that, I still think that’s a win.”
Even if a potential customer ultimately disagrees with your stance, a well-reasoned basis for your challenge cements credibility.
Just as you wouldn’t expect to ace a test without studying, you can’t expect to win in sales without learning all there is to know about your organization and your industry at large. Stay on top of trends, become familiar with industry pain points, and don’t be afraid to push back. When you’ve armed yourself with knowledge, success will come more naturally.