Not long ago, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to ask my connections on LinkedIn a question: “What’s the best sales advice you’ve received that you still follow to this day?”
This question clearly struck a chord, with 80 responses in the first week after I posted it! It was fascinating to dive into the things my fellow sales comrades have learned over the years as they’ve tried to improve their work, deliver better results, and be the best version of themselves in the trenches.
Thinking about all of the responses to my question inspired me to reflect on my own personal journey to genuinely contemplate the best advice I’ve received through the years that has served me well. After all, I know I’ve collected countless pieces of advice through the course of time in the dynamic world of sales. Some of it has stuck with me, some of it has taken my career to a new level and others have revealed what one should never do.
The more I thought about it, the more I was able to realize that of all the sales advice I’ve taken, there are three philosophies in particular that have stuck with me to this day — and they’ve all made a tremendous difference in my career and personal life.
Without further ado, here are the three best pieces of sales advice I’ve ever received:
1) No Matter What, Follow ‘The Golden Rule’
If you’re reading my postings, you’ll see I reference this point often. Almost everyone has heard of “The Golden Rule” at some point in their lives: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of us tend to abandon this core principle as time goes on. We might think that this was a good idea for when we were trying to make friends as kids, in our day to day personal lives, but somehow in the business world, it’s a dog eat dog, every man for himself kind of scenario.
During my career, I’ve learned that following the “Golden Rule” in sales is more than just a fluffy, feel-good sentiment. It’s the way we should sincerely guide our work and the way we approach our colleagues, prospects, network and customers.
Think about how you would like to be approached. If someone contacted you in an effort to sell a product or service, would you want to deal with a pushy salesperson who couldn’t care less about your interests, wants or needs? Um, yeah not so much…
Most of us don’t want to be “sold to.” When someone tries to sell us something, we hope to deal with someone that is honest and understanding; someone who wants to help us solve our problems or address our true business needs rather than simply pad their quarterly sales numbers.
The thing is, people can absolutely see through your BS to tell when you’re treating them properly and more importantly when you’re not. They can also realize when you’re doing nothing more than trying to achieve your own selfish goals — and they’ll respond in kind. As you follow the Golden Rule and treat people properly, you’ll ultimately end up forming better relationships that will unquestionably pay off in the long run.
2) Get Over Yourself: Less YOU More THEM
This second piece of advice is one of the most significant, in part because it is so hard for so many in sales to follow (sales leaders included)! When trying to make a sale, it’s only natural that we want to talk about how great our product or service is — highlighting amazing features, benefits, case studies, statistics and more — in an effort to persuade a prospect or current customer to make a purchase.
This is so not the right way to do it.
I hate to break it to you, but nothing about the buyer journey is about you. It’s all about the person who is going through their own unique process as they try to resolve a problem or make an improvement to their current state of affairs. Your role is to guide them, be helpful, and solve problems.
Sure, the features your product or service offers are great, perhaps even game-changing. The statistics that back up your effectiveness are great. But if this information doesn’t have a meaningful connection to the customer’s interests and needs, it won’t have much of an impact.
Your most frequently touted bells and whistles might not be what matters most to a potential customer — in some cases, a seemingly minor add-on might be what makes the difference between a sale and a lost lead. But if you don’t take the time to genuinely understand what they really need instead of your pre-programmed sales message or mind-numbing “demo”, chances are you’ll never discover this in the first place and that my friends will have a dramatic negative effect on your results.
The sooner you realize this, the less time you’ll waste focusing on yourself, and the more time you’ll spend focusing on what really matters…THEM.
3) Ask Meaningful Questions, Then Shut Up & Listen
Of course, if everything is about the customer, how do you decide when and how to speak? This naturally leads into the third fundamental piece of sales and let’s face it, life advice I’ve embraced (thanks to one of my mentors Daron Robertson): no matter what, ask meaningful questions, and then actually listen to what someone has to say (insert active listening).
It sounds simple, yet I’ve seen far too many sales leaders, salespeople, colleagues, and the list goes on ask superficial questions to make it seem like they’re interested, never really absorb the answer, interrupt as their question is being addressed, and then continue on with their agenda/god awful script/snoozefest canned presentation.
Newsflash, this doesn’t make your customer the center of the conversation. Most of all, it won’t help you understand the actual needs, wants and pain points of your potential sale.
When you ask the right questions and truly listen, you put yourself in a far better position to adjust your messaging to help them understand how your product or service provides a workable solution to their unique situation.
I don’t think any piece of sales advice I’ve had has been more powerful than being told to shut up and listen — it’s also had a major impact on my personal relationships as well. By asking important questions, you can gain an essential insight into your customer’s needs that tie directly into one of your service’s lesser-known benefits. Or you might realize that what you have to offer doesn’t match an individual’s problem, and you can both stop wasting your time.
In short, by truly listening, you can become a vastly more effective salesperson and human being; someone who categorically helps the individuals on the other end of your “table” by using the insights learned through these significant conversations to hone in on what matters most. As you use this to successfully guide people through their buyer’s journey, you’ll form stronger relationships and see your sales numbers soar.
As I’ve continued my voyage through the sales world, I’ve found that these three essential pieces of advice and let’s face it overall life lessons are crucial for lasting success. It’s one thing to get into sales and go through the “motions”, it’s a whole other story to stay in the game to genuinely grow and thrive.
So now let’s bring things full circle. I know the pieces of advice that I’ve mentioned in this article have made a huge difference in my career, but what advice have you received that you still follow? Even more importantly, how has this advice made a difference in your sales career?
I can’t wait to see what you have to say!
Note: These pieces of advice were originally featured on the Avenue Talent Partners blog