Old-school sales techniques don’t cut it anymore in today’s business. Customers are more educated than ever and have many options available to them. But most of all, they hate being sold to.
Before anything else, modern sales revolve around the art of communication and finding mutual benefit. The followingtop selling sales techniques are built on those principles. Try them out to see which one fits your business.
What is a sales technique?
A sales technique or selling method is used by a salesperson or sales team to create revenue and help sell more effectively. The technique typically isn’t a one-size-fits all and is often refined through trial and error based on past experiences.
The terms ‘sales process’ and ‘sales method’ are sometimes mistakenly used as synonyms.
A sales process covers all the steps to get from a fresh, unqualified prospect to a customer. It’s all about opportunities, deals and win rates.
A sales method or technique can be applied to virtually any sales process, but it often only covers a piece of that process. Rather than just outlining steps to take, it’s all about skills, focus and communication.
You could put it like this: a sales process gets you from A to Z, a sales technique is the philosophy you apply to enhance your sales process.
There are many sales techniques to close deals faster and sell more effectively, thought out by incredibly clever consultants and experienced sales gurus. You don’t necessarily need to choose: experiment with some of them or even apply multiple methodologies to different parts of your sales process.
Which sales methods should I use?
1. SPIN selling
SPIN selling is about asking the right questions. The wrong questions can decline your entire sales process or even bring it to an unfortunate standstill. With SPIN, you let the buyer do the talking.
SPIN is an acronym for 4 different types of sales questions designed to spark a prospect’s interest and push him or her closer to a sale: Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-Payoff.
1. SITUATION questions lay the very foundation of a sales cycle. The goal is to understand the prospect and their situation and check whether your offering can serve their needs. This information plays a vital part in the rest of your sales cycle. The more legwork you put in determining which questions you should ask, the more useful the information.
So don’t ask “Who’s responsible at your office for new purchases?”. Instead, ask: “What’s your decision-making process for new purchases?” to identify a decision-maker.
Another simple example:
“How do you currently organise your business printing?”
2. PROBLEM questions help make your prospect aware of a problem that needs to be solved and identify problems that are often overlooked. These pain-points will be used to accelerate a deal.
“What’s the biggest problem you have when managing all your office printing?”
3. IMPLICATION questions focus on the negative impact of issues and highlight the urgency.
“If you don’t implement a new printing solution soon, how will this impact your business?”
4. Once a prospect realises how the situation might deteriorate, NEED-PAYOFF questions help them grasp the value of a real solution. The secret to success is to help the buyer to specify the benefits themselves. Get these questions right, and a prospect will tell you how your product helps them.
"If you cut the amount of time spent on printing, how would that impact your business?”
These 4 questions will help you discover what your buyer needs and what the best way is for you to help him. If you use SPIN as a sales tactic, asking the right questions will prospect to the right answers.
2. SNAP selling
Before modern buyers make a purchase decision, they’re overloaded with information urging them to buy solution X or Y. This makes it hard to get buyers’ attention, since they are wary of salespeople and their tactics. SNAP selling focuses on the way customers make decisions: influence them positively, so in the end they feel they made the decision on their own.
Customers make 3 decisions before they decide to work with you:
1st decision - allow access: Understand that customers are bombarded with interruptions and distractions, and might think of salespeople as a pure waste of time. In order to earn access to their time, convey relevant information in every touchpoint -- via phone, email, etc.
Examples: Instead of using buzzwords in your communication, use more honest low-key wording:
Bad: “As an industry-prospecting company, we deliver world-class printing technology.”
Good: “We’re dedicated to help you save money with efficient printing.”
Moreover, quit sending generic “just checking in” follow-up emails, instead send an email with useful resources to educate and influence such as a customer testimonial with tangible results. To respect a prospect’s limited time, only ask for 5-minute mini-meetings. The less time you ask for, the more likely they’ll want to chat.
2nd decision - initiate change: Once customers want to speak with you, salespeople need to demonstrate the value of your offering to the bone. What’s the ROI? How much time does it cost to implement your solution?
Examples: Crazy-busy people are always interested in new insights to achieve their business objectives. Share resourceful and bite-size research to provoke your prospects’ thinking. Guide them through the complexity of a decision with a straightforward overview of the steps to take (i.e. a step-by-step guide on how to digitise office documents).
Also, keep your ears open for words like “dissatisfaction, bottleneck, challenges, issues, frustration, trouble, concern” so you can dive further into the problems and solve them with your business solution.
3rd decision - select resources: At this stage, prospects decide which products to choose; they’re looking for ways to justify their choice and try to minimise the risk. According to this principle, one of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is being too nice, so focus on helping the prospect make the decision: be flexible and willing to collaborate, but clearly draw the line about what they can or cannot expect from your offering.
Examples: Sketch out the competitive landscape, make an overview of the pros and cons of you and your competitors’ offering and prepare yourself to combat objections. If a customer wants something you can’t offer, walk away. But if you have something different to offer, highlight this added value.
Create a decision map for yourself from a buyer’s perspective that maps out the different roads that lead to a closed deal. In addition, provide them with a roadmap with an overview of characteristics and benefits that helps buyers summarise what you have to offer.
Throughout these decision phases, there are four basic components to bear in mind:
- keep it Simple: respect your buyers’ time and make it incredibly easy to adopt what you’re selling. Pack information into snackable thirty-second phone messages, ninety-word emails, or one-page letters.
- be iNvaluable: rapidly build trust and showcase the value of your offering. Demonstrate that you truly understand their business, objectives, and priorities - and you’ll set yourself apart. If a business is really concerned about their team’s welfare, highlight how your solution will help them improve in this area.
- always Align: align with your customers’ needs, issues, and objectives. Make people want to work with you and you’ll quickly gain access to the decision-maker.
- raise Priorities: A buyer always has certain priorities. Selling successfully means understanding them and tapping into them. Tie the organisation's priorities into your messaging. For example, if saving costs is a top priority, highlight this aspect throughout the entire sales process.
SNAP selling helps you to focus on the way a consumer thinks. Respond to their thoughts, priorities and objectives to win their trust and truly show them the value of your offer.
3. Challenger Sale
The Challenger Sale steers away from the idea that a good sales approach starts with building a relationship with a prospect. The reason: customers are too busy, too well informed, and have too many options to invest in a relationship.
The model splits B2B salespeople into 5 personas: relationship builders, hard workers, lone wolves, reactive problem solvers, and challengers. After an in-depth assessment, challengers are by far the most successful. Salespeople can adopt this by using a three-part sales model: teach-tailor-take control.
- Teach: For well-informed potential customers, you need to bring unique, educational information or a new approach to their problem to the table. The Challenger Sale method educates prospects on how they can overcome their challenge differently and uncovers needs they don’t know they have. They have a competitive mindset and are careful observers to deliver insights that make customers re-think their business and their needs. Prospects are brought to an “A-ha” moment: the new or innovative approach is eye-opening.
- Tailor: Throughout the sales cycle, you might talk with different people. Each person requires a tailored approach. To make your message stick, personalise conversations: make sure your communication is in tune with both the organisation and your contact person’s individual goals, motivations, needs, and concerns. Take a look at the company’s website: what’s their look and feel, do you get a sense of what their company culture is like? Try to mimic this as much as possible.
- Take control: The key to ultimately close a deal is to pursue a goal in a direct, yet nonaggressive, two-sided way. To take control, you need to talk to the right people; decision-makers or people than can influence decisions. When a prospect pushes back, the Challenger Sale method shifts the conversation from price to value and challenges a prospect’s thinking.
Concrete tips to put the Challenger Sale technique into action:
Some people hold onto a certain way of thinking. In an assertive yet non-aggressive way, this method strives to challenge that. Change a potential buyer’s viewpoint, and prospect them to an “A-ha” moment.
4. Sandler Sale method
The Sandler Sales method encourages salespeople to act as a reliable, trustworthy source: the buyer actually convinces the seller to sell. To get to this point, Sandler-trained salespeople facilitate an in-depth, heart-to-heart discussion moving beyond technical issues, and focusing on the impact of a challenge on a business.
Next to discussing the technical side of an issue, the buyer emphasizes the high-priority needs, not just for the company, but for themselves. In order to get this point, a seller should focus on 3 levels of pain:
- Technical: the seller explores the very details of a technical issue and encourages the buyer to outline the problem on a business and personal level. This way, the buyer actually convinces the seller they should invest in your offering. First meetings with prospects are about discovering their needs, so jumping right into a demo is out of the question.
- The business-financial impact: buyers usually aren’t convinced to buy something just because it helps solve their technical issues. However, if a solution actually brings business value like saving time and money you can spend on other, more relevant projects, this is when you can really get your buyer’s attention. Go beyond cost-saving arguments, and quantify the impact of a solution such as being able to focus on priorities. E.g. by being able to print x times faster, you’ll save x amount of time and x amount of money.
- Personal interest: next, try to put these problems in a personal context. People sometimes make decisions for their own personal reasons, not just for the company. “How is this issue making your life more difficult?”. A potential buyer who can personally gain something from your solution (e.g. like being able to work less after hours or reducing work frustration) will be much more committed to the deal. The only way to get to this point is if a buyer convinces you, and more importantly themselves, that a solution is a very high personal priority.
Identifying these 3 levels is the most important part of qualifying to move beyond a technical issue and magnify the importance as well increase the sense of urgency.
In short, the Sandler Sales technique not only focuses on the technical aspects, but helps you outline the financial and personal impact a sale can have on your prospect.
5. Consultative or solution selling
With this technique, a salesperson acts as an expert consultant and asks questions to determine what the prospect needs. The focus is on how the prospect feels when he or she’s talking to you. The goal: forming a long-term bond by putting the customer first.
The consultative selling process focuses on 6 principles:
- Research: In the first step, you gather all the information you can get about a prospect before you start a conversation to help you stack up on ammunition for your prospect qualifying process. In addition, you need to look for information about your competitors: how do you rank up against a competitor? Before you establish a connection with a customer, you need to become an expert in the buyer’s business as well as anticipate any questions they might ask.
- Ask: the key lies in asking the right questions about their needs and pain-points. Start with more basic and general questions and move onto more specific ones. Go from “How do you currently manage your office printing?” to “How much time do you spend on it daily?”. This will help you frame the situation and get an idea of what your solution does differently.
- Listen: be genuinely interested in your prospect and absorb as much information as possible. Identify what’s said, and more importantly, what not. Nonverbal cues like tone of voice are just as important too. Let the buyer do most of the talking. Ask clarifying questions like, “Can you expand on this?”, as well as summarise key takeaways from what your buyer said to avoid misunderstanding. Keep your ears open for what’s important to their business and its people: productivity, cost-efficiency, team welfare, etc.
- Teach: Don’t teach about your product or service, but help them overcome a business challenge and build a plan to reach their goals. Make sure your ‘why’ is clear throughout your conversations: clearly stress that you’re here to help someone improve.
- Qualify: if you have a chance to help, dedicate your time and attention to those that are a fit. Next, it’s important to follow through: don’t come across as too pushy in the run up to closing a deal, but you want to stay top-of-mind too. If you’ve carefully listened and clearly jotted everything down, you can use this “juice” to send them relevant information in case you haven’t heard back from them in a while. Think about what will interest or help them and make sure you stand your ground.
- Close: sealing the deal should be fairly easy to qualified prospects as they typically have the budget and power to decide in place. If there’s a push back, you can decide to dive right in and point out the consequences of leaving the situation as is. “What will happen if you can’t reach your goal?”
According to this technique sale should result in one of these three things, at all times:
- a customer achieves their goal (i.e. printing more efficiently)
- you solve their problem (i.e. printing no longer lags behind)
- you satisfy their need (i.e. save money)
Solution selling has the intention to create a long-term relationship between a business and a customer. The solution salesman lets buyers feel successful throughout the entire buying process. The only way to do that, is to listen to them.
Discover more tips in this customer-centric selling blog which explores the principles of international sales experts Winning By Design.
These 5 techniques all stretch the importance of qualifying potential customers. Don’t sell to everyone you encounter, but talk to prospects to figure out if you can offer them what they really need.
- SPIN will help you ask the right questions to uncover their needs.
- SNAP focuses on the way a customer thinks and how you can react to that.
- The Challenger Sales tactic also zooms in on a specific way of thinking, in order to challenge and create a new perspective.
- The Sandler Sale creates that new perspective by showing potential customers the technical, financial and personal impact their choice can have.
- If you want to invest in a long-term relationship, Consultative or solution selling is the way to go. It’s not about asking or showing anymore, but about listening.
Is your sales stuck in a rut? Selling effectively and closing a deal faster is about applying the right sales method that works for you.