Every seller dreams of crushing quota quarter over quarter. But like most dreams, this is easier said than done.
Mastering new skills in sales is challenging, even for top sellers — to say nothing of the core selling techniques that reps need to be successful. With so much to learn and little time to learn it, how can salespeople ensure they are always at the top of their game?
Our guide to sales techniques breaks down the most common sales techniques reps should know and how to master them easily and effectively, including:
- What are the different approaches to sales?
- How to improve sales skills and techniques
- Ten sales techniques for top sellers
Let’s dive in.
There are many ways to approach sales, but the most common methods can be summarized as transactional selling, solution selling, consultative selling, and provocative selling. Each approach has unique benefits that suit specific types of businesses and products.
The most popular of these approaches to sales have been expanded upon to create formal sales methodologies, which ensure that your salespeople know how to engage with customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey. We break down both the four common approaches above as well as each methodology in our Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Winning Sales Methodology.
To ensure that reps master new skills and techniques, it’s critical that sales leaders invest in robust training and coaching programs. An effective program should take reps down the Path to Mastery, a comprehensive set of steps that allow reps to absorb, retain, and apply new skills for successful deployment in customer interactions.
To learn how to arm your reps for any customer conversation with exceptional training and coaching, explore our definitive guide to training and coaching.
Master these modern sales techniques to effectively create and land value with your customers and drive revenue.
Sell the Problem, Not the Solution
If someone tried to sell you a product you did not need, it’s unlikely that you would buy it. Yet many sellers still approach deals under the assumption that buyers are primed and ready to purchase. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Buyers need a reason to buy. Thus, reps need to focus on the problem buyers are trying to solve before they ever mention the solution. This approach requires an acute understanding of who your buyer is and what issues are inhibiting growth at their organization. Some questions you can ask to uncover the problem are:
- What are your business goals in the next six months?
- What objectives or steps are you taking to meet these goals?
- What might stop these objectives from happening?
- What could make these objectives more attainable?
Once you have an idea of the problems your buyer is facing, your next move is to help them understand how addressing those challenges via your product can deliver unique benefits.
Create Urgency Against the Status Quo
The status quo is the Death Star of sales, able to destroy deals at a moment’s notice. But like the Death Star, it’s not unbeatable — you just have to know its weak spots.
The strongest weapon you have against the status quo is urgency. If you have successfully uncovered your buyer’s problem via the technique above, you should be able to attach your solution — and the value it provides — to a business objective your buyer is looking to achieve. You can then use the timeline of that objective to drive urgency behind purchasing your solution.
For example, if you were selling a marketing automation software to a company whose user conference was six months away, you can create urgency by showing how much more customer data they access, how many more registrations they could drive, how much more engagement they could generate with your platform. With a conference around the corner and clear benefits conveyed, a buyer would have little wiggle room to say “now is not a good time.”
Quantify the Value of Change
As you’re landing your pitch for change, it’s important to validate the value of your solution with data. Here, customer stories are your most powerful tool: they prove to the buyer that your solution does what you say it will.
To make the most of your customer stories, present them as a transformation. Focus on:
- The before: What was the customer’s status quo?
- The transformation: Why did your customers choose you over a competitor? What features, services, or values drew them in?
- The after: What does the company look like today? What business goal did they achieve?
As you tell this story, weave data in. If you can find a customer who overcame similar problems, this approach can create a compelling vision of why change is necessary and how it can benefit your buyers.
Know What Makes You Special
You’re only as strong as your weakest link — and the same is true in sales. Your competitors will naturally seek to extort those weaknesses to gain an advantage, planting seeds of doubt in your buyer’s mind about your product, company, or even your approach to sales.
It’s therefore critical that you are as versed on the competition as you are your own product. For most businesses, there will be significant overlap in competitive offerings, especially in mature markets where certain features or services are table stakes. That means sellers must know not only how their product is unique, but also what unique value that provides to their buyers.
Let’s apply this technique to the marketing automation example from earlier. The ability to change the background color of your software may be a unique value to your platform, but it’s not necessarily valuable to customers. A unique, value-driven differentiator could instead be a marketing best-practices dashboard derived from anonymized, aggregated customer data — something for which most buyers could easily sign on the dotted line.
Overcome Objections with Value Messaging
A good buyer will try to poke holes in your sales pitch, searching for reasons not to buy. If you have truly mastered the value-selling techniques above, then overcoming objections is simple. All you have to do is tie your solution back to the buyer’s state business objectives.
To do this:
- Remind buyers of objectives and goals they shared at the beginning of the sales cycle
- Raise the problems they are currently facing
- Reaffirm how your product will allow buyers to solve this problem, thus enabling them to achieve a specific goal
As you have this discussion, be sure to speak directly to your customer — use their language and embrace their perspective. This technique ensures that your sale never dissolves into a discussion of price or commoditized features – things that the competition can easily win on.
Build and Leverage Champions
As you move a deal forward, additional stakeholders are likely to join the purchasing party. When the ranks of your crew swell, it becomes ever more critical to build and leverage buyer champions. Champions are the buyers within the purchasing group that are passionate about your solution and willing to bat for it on your behalf.
Often, champions are not the final decision maker, but someone who is personally impacted by the purchase — for instance, a primary user. That said, your champion can’t just love your solution; they must also have influence over the deal. In stakeholder meetings, look for someone who is well-regarded by their peers and who is active in the conversation.
Once identified, invest in your champions’ success. Empower them with the tools, data, content, and customer references they need to build a business case for your solution internally. Additionally, don’t shy away from coaching them on how to sell your product on your behalf: ask them outright how other stakeholders are responding to your sale and help them navigate internal objections accordingly.
Keep Virtual Interactions Interesting
Virtual selling is nothing new. Sitting on web conferencing calls for eight straight hours, however, is. With the risk of Zoom fatigue higher than ever, reps must ensure that calls aren’t just informational but engaging.
There are a few techniques you can use to ensure you capture and keep buyers’ attention during virtual interactions. First, turn your camera on – this naturally encourages buyers to do the same. Second, throughout your call, ask buyers for their feedback. Questions like, “Does that sound correct?” or “Do you see this feature meeting your needs?” creates space for dynamic conversation.
Finally, as you react to buyer comments, mirror their responses. This trick, attributed to Chris Voss in his book Never Split the Difference, triggers buyers to elaborate by having you repeat their statement with an upward tone of voice, as if asking a question. If a buyer says “I’m concerned about the integrations,” the mirrored response would be “Concerned about the integrations?” This creates space for the buyer to provide additional detail, ensuring they are active participants in the conversation.
Deals can be won or lost through negotiation. Seasoned buyers are skilled at lowballing sellers, actively voicing uncertainties, and generally keeping their cards close to their chest. But buyers can avoid excessive discounts by tackling negotiations live.
When you bring negotiations over email, you lose the ability to read the buyer’s body language (are they actually concerned about the price or are they trying to get a deal?). Asynchronous negotiations also make it difficult to keep the conversation tied to value, as buyers have more power to derail the conversation, or in the worst cases, completely ghost you.
If buyers are adamant about discussing price over email, respond with a, “Happy to chat about pricing on a call” — and then share times you are available. A strong stance conveys confidence and allows you to maintain control over the deal.
Use a Modern Close
In the old world of sales, a hard close could help you win a deal. But today’s modern market rewards sellers who create relationships with buyers — rendering a “now or never” approach outdated.
Modern sellers are better off using soft closes. Some prominent ones include:
- The assumptive close: where a salesperson encourages a buyer to say yes with language that assumes they are on the same page, such as, “It sounds like we are aligned, so I will send the contract over after this call.”
- The summary close: where a salesperson summarizes the benefits of a solution to help the buyer visualize what they are purchasing, such as, “So we have premium services, superior integrations with your key platforms, and just eight weeks to launch in advance of your user conference.”
- The question close: where a salesperson asks a simple question to prompt the buyer to say yes, such as, “In your opinion, will this solution solve your problem?”
- The take away close: where a salesperson removes a key feature or offering to show what a reduced price would look like, causing the buyer to refocus on that feature and its value. For example, “Without the analytics dashboard, you would lose our data engine but that drops the price to $10,000.”
Create a Partnership
Sales is a marathon, not a sprint. Once you’ve closed a deal, it’s tempting to ease off the gas and focus on new opportunities. However, it’s in your best interests as a seller to maintain a strong relationship with existing customers, especially if you’ll be pitching renewals or up- and cross-sells in the future.
One technique critical to creating a lasting partnership is to nail the handoff between account executives and customer success or account managers. This approach reaffirms your commitment to delivering the value that you initially sold the buyer on.
To ensure you land the transition, prepare your internal team members for success: ensure notes are up-to-date in your CRM and sync with AMs and customer success teams prior to hand offs as necessary. Additionally, plan on not just being present for transition calls but to take the reins. Don’t force the customer to re-explain their company or solution; be a vocal spokesperson of the account and their needs.
Close Deals, Crush Quota
With these techniques, you’ll be well on your way to crushing not just this month’s quota, but every month after that.
Take your journey to sales mastery one step further with our guide to sales training and coaching — where you’ll find all the tips you need to master every sales skill that comes your way. Get your copy today.