Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
As a former professional runner and a British Army veteran, my business background is in sales. I was with a global recruitment firm prior to founding SOS Hydration. As a recruitment professional, I was selling people’s skills to businesses, and to do my job well, I had to learn sales and learn the art of communication and listening.
To achieve success, sales teams need to approach the process from the buyer’s perspective. Sales are made when the salesperson has learned what makes the buyer tick, what makes them like the product and what the buyer is truly seeking. Only then can they earn the buyer’s trust. Once you know these, you can make your product stand out, create a targeted offering and facilitate a sale. And if you have done your job well, that happy customer could turn into a repeat customer. After all, one sale is good, but to turn that one customer into a repeat purchaser is the holy grail of sales.
The point is: Sales is much like coaching. You must build a rapport, prove yourself and make an impression for success.
Most importantly, sales is an innate skill. Some people are just not cut out for it and others are born for it. Nurture your talent. In any organization, even the accountant or warehouse packer needs to know about the brand. Everyone should be placed in a sales environment at some point, so each member of the team knows what other team members do.
Now, let’s look at how to become a successful salesperson, based on my many years of experience.
Make the Call
What I’ve learned is that the hardest part of making a sales call is actually making the sales call. You have more to gain by making the call than not. When making your call, I recommend choosing a time when a buyer is most likely to pick up their phone and listen to your pitch. Based on my experience, consider the following:
• Before 8 a.m., your call is more likely to ring through to their line and not have to go through reception or a secretary.
• During morning coffee time (10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.), the same is true as most people have finished their work and are looking for excuses before lunch.
• Around the food coma hour (3 p.m. in the afternoon). People are also likely to be more open to a chat if anything to keep themselves awake.
If you get through to the wrong person, politely ask who you should speak to. You may get some unanticipated guidance on making the call. If you get the right person, but they are unable to speak with you at the moment, set up a time to call them back.
With my sales team, we work on practicing the pitch, and then throw them into the “deep end” with retailers who aren’t SOS core priorities. It gives the sales team practice and keeps our company strategy intact. They can research the buyer, using LinkedIn to discover likes, dislikes, and passions, which, in turn, allows the sales team to put the “human” into their pitch.
Get the Meeting
If your call goes well, be sure to follow through with any promises you made, such as sending along samples and following up for the in-person meeting. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of listening to your potential buyer. During your conversation, figure out how to turn it into a partnership, asking the buyer how you could be better. Don’t show weakness, but rather be humble enough to learn. If you are nervous, count it as a bonus, because nervousness will help you do better.
When on the call, be sure to connect your comments to the person or the company as well as how your product aligns with them. The goal is to keep control of the conversation. It shouldn’t be about convincing them to buy your product, but rather the details about your product and your distinct USPs (unique selling propositions). Everything you say should be adapted to the person you are speaking with, based on your earlier research. Lay down a solid foundation, always listening first and then speaking in short succinct bursts.
Train Your Team
It is critical for your sales team to understand that kindness matters. Most people are rude to the support staff of decision-makers. It is imperative to realize, in sales, everyone is important. In fact, the most important person your team will meet is the gatekeeper of the person they are hoping to contact. They should be kind to the support staff: Say hello, find out their name, maybe even send them a birthday card.
Choose your sales team wisely. They need to be in love with the product and ensure they know it inside and out, as well as know everything about the competition. The old saying “know thy enemy, know thyself” comes to mind. I’d recommend against hiring anyone who doesn’t love your product no matter how good at sales they may be.
SOS is an active brand, so we tend to hire young, active people as well as sports people and veterans because they are competitive. Every member of our sales team enjoys healthy competition and works together as a cohesive team, which means team success. Your sales team must know your product, as ours does, because the more believable and likable your sales team is, the greater your success potential.
Over the years, what I’ve learned is that sales is more about listening, adapting and guiding, than talking. We all hate those ever-pushy salespeople who don’t listen. Sales is also fun. You get to speak to people, sell a brand you love and build lasting relationships. In the second installation in this series, we’ll talk more about knowing your audience and asking the right questions.