Selling is an inevitable part of running any business. Without sales, you don’t have customers, which means you don’t have a business. But if common sales techniques aren’t working for you, we get it.
Salespeople get a bad reputation for being pushy, or having to convince people to make a purchase. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s nothing wrong with traditional sales techniques, and some salespeople are more comfortable closing the sale than others—but as buyers become more savvy and do more research on their own, it just doesn’t pay to push them into a sale.
We’ve seen it play out among our thousands of customers that use RingCentral as part of their outbound sales strategy: modern selling is all about empowering buyers to solve their own problem—with your product, of course. It’s called customer-centric selling.
When you think about making your business customer-centric, you might think that’s a job for your support team. But by placing your prospect at the center of your sales process, you can ease friction for sales, establish your reputation for great service early on, and create superfan customers that love your product or service.
Best of all, it keeps your prospects’ success and your company’s success in alignment, meaning you can feel good about the entire sales process too.
Today, we’re sharing 12 sales tactics that put your prospect first. Want to skip ahead? Here’s our roadmap:
- What exactly is a “sales technique?”
- 6 foundational sales techniques
- 6 advanced sales techniques
What exactly is a sales technique?
Before we dive into the methods themselves, it’s important to be clear on what exactly we’re talking about when we refer to a “sales technique.” It’s just what it sounds like: a technique, tip, or tool that helps facilitate the sale of your product or service.
Some of the best sales techniques are pretty straightforward and practical, while others require a certain mindset or way of thinking about the sale. The key is to combine these tactics to create your own unique sales strategy.
There are a lot of sales techniques out there, but today we’re going to look at reframing some of the more popular ones in the context of a customer-centric strategy.
So, why focus on customer-centric sales techniques? Because putting customers at the center of your sales process is the first step to easing the tension of a hard sell.
When you have a small team that balances multiple roles, it can mean that some of your employees aren’t as comfortable with selling as you’d like them to be (and if that’s you, no shame).
Instead of feeling the need to convince a prospect to buy, customer-centric sales is all about empowering the prospect to solve a problem, achieve a goal, or combat their status quo using your solution.
It’s an ideal approach if you want to mix up your sales techniques, avoid feeling pushy, or want to begin the customer-centric experience before they ever call support.
6 foundational sales techniques
Before you dive into advanced sales techniques, you’ll need to build a solid foundation. As basic as it might sound, simple things like planning the number you call from, your attitude, and your social media presence can have a huge impact on your sales numbers.
1. Track interactions with your brand
If you’re trying to make your prospects feel heard, engaged, and trustful of your brand, it’s helpful to be able to see how they’ve engaged with your brand previously. The blog posts they read, the questions they ask, or the emails they’ve opened can all provide helpful insight for the sales process.
Plus, it’s downright embarrassing to hop on a call with what you think is a cold lead—only to learn that they’ve already spoken to someone from your company.
That’s why tracking KPIs (both sales and non-sales related) like engagement with your brand is crucial. When you finally do hop on a sales call with someone, you’ll have a head start knowing what they’re looking for.
With RingCentral, you can keep all your communications organized in one place so you can see how a lead has interacted with your brand previously—via phone, email, chat, and even on social media.
If you want to truly empower your team (or be more efficient yourself), look into integrations that hook up the tools and sales apps you’re already using with each other. For instance, you could integrate your CRM with whatever you’re already using to keep track of each touch someone has had with your brand, take notes on what was discussed, and create a seamless sales experience for every prospect.
2. Call as soon as possible
If someone signs up for a demo, requests more information, or otherwise indicates that they’re interested in a sales call, it’s crucial to call them as soon as you can.
You might think that the next day or a few hours is soon enough, but research shows that if you call a lead within 5 minutes, you’re 100 times more likely to successfully make contact and 21 times more likely to qualify that lead.1
Not only is calling right away more likely to get you a sale, but it’s also considerate of your prospect’s time. If they just indicated that they want to hear from you, they probably have some free time right now, while they’re still shopping around.
Instead of calling later, when they’ve forgotten about your brand, calling as soon as you can ensures the best use of both your time (and your prospect’s and time).
Again, you could just use any old phone for this, but with the right tool, even a small sales team can pitch and close like an army. Like an outbound contact center solution, for instance:
3. Call from a local number
Generally, people are more likely to pick up the phone if it’s a local phone number making the call.
In fact, research has shown that only 7% of people said they’re likely to answer a call from an unknown number with a toll-free area code, compared with 27.5% who would answer an unknown call from a local number.2
Calling from a local number is one of those small things that instantly puts your prospect at ease—it makes it feel like they’re chatting with a friend or a local business, even if you’re not actually local at all.
Whether you have a small local business or a national presence, calling from a local number doesn’t have to be a balancing act of numbers. With RingCentral, it’s easy to have as many local phone numbers as you need to run your business—no matter where you or your sales reps are based. (Plus, that phone number will not only forward calls to your desired team members, you can use it to send and receive SMS text messages and faxes as well.)
4. Be a resource
To really build a customer-centric mindset, it’s important to reimagine what a salesperson (and really, your whole company) can be to a prospect. Instead of being someone who sells something, focus on being a resource and an advisor.
That way you can educate your buyer, build trust, and teach them about your solution. You probably won’t close a deal in just one go, so always follow up. When it comes time to convert, there’s no convincing necessary—they already know and trust you.
You’re already an expert in your field just from working with other customers, so positioning yourself as a resource should be straightforward. If you don’t already have one, create a content strategy that allows your sales and marketing departments to answer frequent questions, provide helpful tips, and educate your leads.
You don’t necessarily need your sales team to write the company blog, but you can allow them to contribute ideas. Then, sales staff should share relevant blog posts and case studies throughout the sales process to drive home that they’re willing to serve as a trusted resource for prospects.
5. Use social media (strategically)
Social media has become so much more than a place to share baby photos and engagement announcements—and if you’re not using it as a part of your selling strategy, you’re missing out. The key to fitting social media into your sales techniques is to know (and center) your prospect.
First, keep your strategy customer-centric by thinking about which platforms your ideal customers are actually using—and how they’re using them.
For instance, if you’re a business that sells to businesses, your ideal clients might use Facebook personally, but they might not be interested in hearing sales messages on that platform. Instead, you might find LinkedIn more effective for connecting with buyers.
For local businesses looking to engage their community, Facebook will probably work a lot better than Instagram, where people build a worldwide community.
Once you’ve found your platform, build your reputation as a thought leader by continuing to be a resource for prospects and positioning yourself as an industry expert. Share your company’s blog posts, answer questions in forums, and comment on industry news.
6. Stay positive
It’s a cliché for a reason: attitude is everything. And the last thing you want is to be a dark spot in your prospect’s day.
It may seem like Sales 101 to remind you to keep it upbeat, but consider that even mentioning a bad weather forecast can start your conversation off on the wrong foot. Keep things positive from the beginning to avoid putting a damper on the conversation and stay focused on your prospect.
Even if the call doesn’t go the way you want it to, keeping an upbeat attitude will go a long way toward making your buyer feel comfortable with you, which will lead to better results in the long run.
Another important factor when it comes to staying positive? Never speak poorly about your competition.
Thanks to a phenomenon known as trait transference, calling out negative qualities about your competition will actually lead your prospect to associate them with you.
It works in reverse, too—obviously, you don’t want to sell them on the competition, but if it comes up and you can muster a sincere compliment about your competitor, those positive traits will actually be associated with you.3 Ah, psychology.
6 advanced sales techniques
Ready to step up your game? These advanced selling techniques go beyond the basic steps and are more about how you can frame the sale in your conversations with the prospect.
By centering the sales conversation around your prospect, you can avoid having to forcefully convince them to buy—and instead let them come to the natural conclusion that your solution is the best one.
1. Put your prospect first
This might sound obvious, but honestly, it’s not very helpful because it’s so vague. How exactly should businesses “put prospects first?”
Here are a few tangible examples of how to center a sales conversation around the prospect:
- Start with small talk, and actually listen to their answers. Take notes in your CRM about what they’re doing this weekend, their favorite sports team, or their home renovation, so you can ask about it on a future call.For example, if you integrate Agile CRM with a calling platform (or whatever sales software you use to communicate with prospects), you can dial that prospect and take notes on the call, all on the same screen:
- Ask about their goals, challenges, and what they’re doing now before telling them anything about your product. Make sure you include this as a note in your agenda so you don’t forget about it.
- Provide resources (or offer to email some) that can actually help with some of their challenges—no purchase necessary. Try to send blog posts and case studies relevant to their industry. If you want to boost your open rates, make sure you’re using subject lines strategically.
- Propose your solution in terms of their challenge—don’t mention features that aren’t relevant to them.
- Be honest about what your product or service can do. If it truly can’t help them, admit it and move on.
2. Use “you” phrasing
Some salespeople have a habit of using “we” phrasing when discussing their prospect’s challenges and their proposed solution.
While it sounds like a good idea to position both of you on the same team, research has shown that it actually decreases your buyer’s motivation to find a solution.4 It makes sense—if there’s someone else on the team, it takes some of the pressure off of you as an individual.
Instead, use “you” phrasing to reiterate their challenges back to them and paint the picture of your proposed solution.
3. Listen for a problem with the status quo
We’ve talked a bit about the problem your buyer is facing. These days, savvy buyers are generally pretty aware of their challenges and the solutions available to them while they research potential solutions.
But even for those who have begun the process of researching solutions, beware of the enemy of your successful sale—it’s not your competitor; it’s the status quo. That’s because many sales conversations end with no decision at all—the buyer just proceeds with things the way they are.
Think of real estate—even if a realtor shows you a bunch of great homes, if you’re pretty satisfied with where you already live, they aren’t going to close the sale.
So, when you’re speaking with your prospect, it’s crucial to identify the problem with the way things are right now. What isn’t working currently, and how will it impact them in the future if they keep going this way?
4. Magnify the pain or problem
Once you’ve identified the pain or problem you can help solve, it’s time to get more information. Dig deeper to ask more in-depth questions that help your buyer see the magnitude of the problem for themselves. Key phrases include:
“Why are you looking for a solution now?”
The key with this step is that you aren’t the one magnifying the pain for your buyer—you’re just asking questions. If you try to put words in their mouth, you risk coming off as pushy, and risk exaggerating or just plain getting it wrong.
Instead, let your buyer talk through the issue so that they can hear for themselves what the real pain or problem is, and understand the gravity of it.
5. Make it timely
Once your buyer hears themself outlining their pain point or problem, you don’t have a lot more work to do. This one is a little different from just reaching out quickly, which we touched on in the last section.
Your prospect sees the path they’re going down, they understand what the future will look like without a solution, and they want to avoid it. So, naturally, you can outline your solution and how it would solve the problem they’re facing.
But, to help them understand the importance of taking action now—and to help you close the deal—you might want to make it timely.
One of the most popular ways to make a purchase timely is to create a limited-time offer, like a special deal or gift with purchase that is expiring now.
That’s definitely an option, but don’t fall into the trap of getting stuck offering these specials on repeat in order to close deals. It can lead to a cycle in which your buyer will only convert if they feel like they’re getting a deal, and that can cost you.
See if you can get creative and make the deal timely in another way. For instance, if you only have the bandwidth to take on a certain number of clients or customers per year, you can let them know how many spots are remaining.
Alternatively, tie the deal back to their problem or goal—if they’re looking to save money on insurance, how much will it cost them to wait until a later date to switch?
Remember, always put your prospect’s needs and interests first. If there’s truly a reason why now isn’t a good time—they’re in the middle of a major life event, their business is rebranding right now, etc.—don’t push for closing now. Just come back to them when the timing is better.
6. Anticipate sales objections
As painful as it is to do all that work to facilitate a sale, just to encounter a sales objection, it is an inevitable part of the sales process. From financial concerns to competitor concerns, to just plain indecisiveness, your prospect will likely come back with a question or two before you can close the deal.
The best way to deal with these objections is to know they’re coming, so you can be prepared to deal with them. Start by thinking through your most recent sales and asking yourself what questions, concerns, and objections you had to deal with.
No need to trust your memory, though—dig into your notes in your CRM to find out what commonly delays conversions or keeps them from happening at all. Then, prepare to address the most common ones in your sales conversations.
For instance, if you offer a premium product and pricing is a common concern, you can do a little extra work explaining the reason for your premium price point, the level of service you offer, or your financing options.
As David Finkel explains, you can also use a sales objection to close the deal.5 By saying something like “Assuming we can get the pricing you need to stay on budget, is there anything else that would keep you from making a purchase?,” you can use that objection to create movement toward closing the sale.
The best sales techniques for customer-centric selling
Modern selling isn’t about pushing the sale, using slimy techniques, or having to convince the prospect to make a purchase. And, while that makes selling easier in some ways, it also means your sales techniques need to shift to accommodate modern buyers and their purchasing process.
By focusing on your prospect’s needs, you can create a well-rounded sales strategy composed of techniques that really work. Best of all, it keeps your prospect’s success and your company’s success in alignment, making the sales process natural and comfortable for everyone involved.
Originally published Jul 01, 2020, updated Nov 23, 2020