Sales needs an overhaul.
It’s no secret that buying and selling is the same now as 5,000 years ago. We’re addicted to hollow phrases and people-less selling. We will talk to anybody — whether they’re interested or not. A sale is a sale is a sale.
To get better results, you need to rethink your system. Here are 11 unconventional ways to bring your selling strategy into the 21st century.
1) Prospect part-time
Sure, you should let your friends know what you do. Some may care. Some may even be interested, but there is a time and a place for everything. It’s a misconception that you always need to be prospecting. Your friends would much rather hear about your venture while sitting at a coffee shop than at their wedding reception. It’s great that you are excited about the value you are offering, but don’t shove it down people’s throats. Quality over quantity is a good rule of thumb when scouting for prospective buyers.
2) Speak like a 10th-grader
Every industry has their own set of coy, unintelligible acronyms that are bantered around with linguistic deft — as if the words themselves give us authority.
This doesn’t work. New customers are intimidated because they don’t know what the heck we are talking about, and we seem like every other salesperson out there force feeding them confusion.
Most U.S. newspapers have a 9th to 11th- grade reading level. That’s so everyone can understand. So ditch the jargon, and use terms your buyers are already familiar with. They shouldn’t need their dictionary to keep up.
3) Throw away your business cards
OK, maybe don’t throw them all away, but definitely use them as a secondary source of connection. It’s very rare that people even pick up the phone and make a call these days. Everything is email and messaging. Facebook and LinkedIn. In the days of the Rolodex, the business card was your own personal Yellow Pages. In an era where an executive worked thirty years for the same company, keeping phone numbers on pieces of paper made sense. That’s out of place in today’s social landscape.
Ten years from now, people won’t even know the word “business card.” It will be as obsolete as recording your favorite song on a cassette tape.
4) Stop talking about yourself
In our emails, voicemails, and sales presentations, all we talk about is “us”: Our product, our process, our unique differentiation. It’s how we start our correspondence and end our sales pitch.
We’ve forgotten the power of the buyer’s pain and passion. And that’s just sad, because that’s the one thing that really matters. Without buyers, there are no salespeople. To be successful, adopt a caring, nurturing, and friendly attitude. Build your business around this helpfulness.
5) Write shorter emails
Emails are a great way to touch base with current and prospective clients. The problem? We all want to say too much too soon. If Twitter has taught us nothing else, we know people have incredibly short attention spans.
So shorten your emails to four to five sentences. Those don’t have to be short sentences, but you definitely want them to be interesting, digestible pieces of information. Keeping your emails mobile-friendly and focused is key to getting the action you want from buyers.
6) Go off-script
In our quest to be more productive, we built sales processes. And with the best of intentions, we created a well-thought series of qualification questions and buyer agreements. We started to demand “upfront commitments” from interested prospects in order to share more of our insights.
Unfortunately, these strategies have made us less effective, less impressive performers. It’s hard to care when you’re following a script. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to adapt your strategy to the prospect.
7) Cancel your networking event
As towns sprang up across the prairie, merchants caravanned a wide assortment of goods from the East to their local area. The shop owner would network with the local buyers. Shaking hands and buying prospects drinks became ways to build rapport and trust. That hasn’t evolved much in the last few hundred years. We find ourselves still slapping backs, buying beers, and feigning intimacy. And that’s OK. You can still do that.
You don’t really need to cancel your networking event, but you will get more out of your event if you create unconventional ideas and give away valuable industry knowledge. It will make your event way more attractive than the other company’s.
8) Make friendly phone calls
Calling new prospects with new ideas is nothing to be ashamed of. We use terms like “warm calling” and create passionate line-in-the-sand sales training about what is right and what is wrong. There is nothing wrong with selling your dream product. Being a jerk or bully to get it sold is something else.
Make the phone call. Be upfront about why you’re calling. Be honest about what you want. Listen to the objections. Answer the questions. And don’t get hurt feelings when someone tells you “no.” Thank them and move on to the next potential sale.
9) Check your check-in
Somehow we missed the memo that our clients really don’t care about our personal schedules. The idea that we place a call or send an email to a customer with the opening line “I just wanted to check in with you” is silly. More than that, it indicates a sloppy sales process. Somewhere upstream in the process, the opportunity wasn’t qualified properly, or you didn’t get key information. The “check-in” reveals you need to review your sales process and build new skills. Try starting every conversation with the word “you” and don’t reach out unless you are delivering additional value.
Somehow being fallible seems to vanish when we emerge each morning from our “bat cave” and head out to sell. When we refuse to apologize, we hurt our reputation, put off the customer, and miss a chance to connect. Emotion is like a pendulum.
Crying can turn into laughter with the right comment. Anger and frustration can turn into relief and appreciation with the right touch. And instead of using this to our advantage (and frankly, just doing the right thing) we stand with our chests pushed out, defiantly reminding our customer that “we don’t make mistakes like that.” Admit when you screwed up, and make amends so the buyer knows you’re truly sorry.
11) Send a “Box of Awesome”
Before people are ready to work with you, they have to know you are serious about doing business with them. The “Box of Awesome” does just that. It’s a gift — something that shows you’re invested in the partnership and are willing to go the extra mile. The contents don’t need to be too fancy or expensive, but they shouldn’t be some Post-Its and a glow-in-the-dark slinky that’ll break in two seconds.
Breaking away from selling norms will help you stand out from the other salespeople badgering your prospects, and more importantly, form genuine relationships.