Q&A – Tips for sales mastery
Sales mastery is arguably the most important business skill of all – this week’s Q&A is with Tara Turkington, CEO, FLOW Communications.Thursday, 13 Jan 2022
Making sales is tough. We all know that. Throw in a pandemic and rabid uncertainty… and even the most seasoned sales professionals are struggling, let alone entrepreneurs, who have to ‘sell’ themselves and their business ideas, constantly. Tara Turkington, the CEO of Flow Communications, has come up with a list of 22 tips for sales success. Flow is a respected South African independent marketing and communications agency, founded in true entrepreneurial style in her spare bedroom in 2005 – and is now a team of 60 professional staff with 700 years of collective experience!
As Turkington states, “Sales are the lifeblood of any business. Without a steady flow of sales, your business will dry up and die, no matter if you’re the CEO of a big business or a single freelancer, working on your own.” At the start of this new year, two years into a global pandemic, sales are tougher than ever, but critical to renewing business as we head into the year we all hope will mark the end of the pandemic. These are Turkington’s top tips:
1. Why did you come up with the 22 tips for sales mastery?
Making sales is tough: it takes courage, tenacity and creativity, and sales mastery is arguably the most important business skill of all. The 22 tips on sales are to help the magical process of ‘rain making’. At Flow Communications we have a team approach to sales. Anyone in the company who is interested can be on the sales team, and we regularly have more than half of all employees closing a sale in a quarter. Different people are good at different things, and sales is multifaceted, so it makes sense to approach sales as a team. There are accomplished presenters, for example, who can communicate well; people who are excellent at spreadsheets and costing; and good designers who can make a sales pitch visually compelling. People work to quarterly sales targets and help one another to get there – it’s harnessing the power of collaboration, rather than competition.
2. Where do you start?
Get the right people to sell. Hire them, build them up, do whatever you have to, to get the right people selling for you. There are two types of people in the world: those who can sell and those who can’t. Without good salespeople, you will not have customers or a business. If you’re the rainmaker in your organisation, you need to become the best salesperson you possibly can, even if it’s not your natural environment. Ignore sales at your peril. You’re always going to hear people say no (or not even bother to reply); it’s just part of the selling process. You’ll need to pick yourself up over and over, and don’t give up. Don’t let rejections debilitate you; learn from them by gaining as much information you can about why the answer was no – and let rejections make you stronger.
3. What about networking and building relationships?
Good relationships are a key sales tool, so treat every interaction with a client or potential client (i.e., everybody) positively, as any interaction can lead to a sale. Be responsive to people and, ideally, position yourself as their partner. Never take relationships with clients for granted, and always treat clients as people, not just buyers. Get to know them, including who their families are, and what their hobbies and dislikes are. Practise empathy with your clients. Schedule catch-ups with them with no agenda to sell them anything, just to actively listen to them and to get to know them. The bottom line is people do business with people they know, trust and like. Start small, but be enthusiastic about all sales. Even if a sale is very small, it can lead to bigger things. Very few large sales are made off the bat – usually, it takes time to build up to larger sales, as sales connections are largely built on relationships of trust. Always do your best and always do your best work for a client. Never cut corners. Even if you lose money on some jobs, think about the lifetime value of a contract.
4. What can you do to be visible to potential sales leads?
Recency is the tendency to remember what you’ve seen recently much better than what you’ve seen in the past. Relevancy is how important the information is to you. Harnessing both are crucial to sales. People who are the most top of mind with the most useful solutions win the most sales. So be present, and find ways to engage with your customers often. Call, send messages (though don’t nag or bug, which is a sales turn-off), consider a regular newsletter that reminds them of who you are and what you can offer. Proactivity sells. When we do customer surveys at Flow, one of the main pieces of feedback we usually get is that our clients wish we were more proactive. Share industry insights and trends with your clients, and come up with new ideas for their brands regularly. It is not always easy to be proactive, and to be meaningful, it is inevitably time-consuming, so build it into your business processes to ensure it isn’t sidelined. Identify and connect with decision-makers – it’s important to get in front of the decision-makers. You can have the best relationships in the world with junior people (and you should, because they, too, can be influential), but unless you are dealing with decision-makers, your sales efforts will be limited.
5. What do you mean by ‘show, don’t tell’ ?
Instead of telling prospective customers how your services or products would benefit them, put yourself in their shoes and look at it from their perspective. What problems can you solve for them? Use case studies and tell stories about others who have benefited in a similar way. Respond quickly – respond to enquiries as quickly as possible, ideally within an hour or two. People want to deal with well-organised, responsive people. Remember, if you’re dealing with the person for the first time, you can only make a good first impression once. Know your stuff – believe in what you are selling; have information about what you are selling; do your research; know your stuff; show that you understand the sector; have background info and insights; collaborate with colleagues for relevant case studies. Follow up without nagging and always keep your promises. And lastly, but most importantly: integrity sells. Define and communicate your sales process clearly, and automate the parts that don’t require humans (for example, you can record sales and generate quote numbers digitally). Have defined methods of capturing leads, producing quotes, and measuring successes versus rejections and project progress, all the way to invoicing and collection. Sales can be a chaotic environment – your processes should be clear, resilient, and supportive rather than a contributor of chaos.
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