Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sales: do's and dont's

It's been more than two years I've left tech and gotten into entrepreneurship. There have been thousands of people I have met since then, resulting in me creating hundreds of professional relationships with most of them. One major thing I have done as an entrepreneur is sales, it is an intrinsic part of running a company. Here are certain tips I've felt are important to be a successful salesperson (they're not exhaustive, just some things which are coming up in my head currently):

1) Be a happy person. Because nobody wants to talk to a stiff. Your energy level determines a lot about whether or not you will close a deal. If you're a depressing person, nobody will like to carry on a conversion with you, let alone trust you with their company dealing. Smile often. If you look unhappy with your job, the guy in front of you will never strike a deal with you as not only he will believe that the company is untrustworthy, but he'll also feel that you're here only for a short time and will leave the company soon, so there's no point in dealing with you anyway. I have seen countless examples of people who start bad-mouthing their job or pay or life just in their first meeting with me! I always mark them as red flags and probable to take flight anyday.

2) Be proud if your product. Genuinely believe that the product you're selling is the best in its domain, else you will not be able to sell it. I once met the regional Head of a huge chain and he started explaining what his company does before I could pitch. He actually thought I knew nothing about the market leader in his category! That was a super easy negotiation for me, as he was not proud of his product while I was of mine. No matter what your company size is, what your sales are, you yourself need to believe in the product you're selling and the person in front of you should feel that if they do not get in a deal with you, they will lose out on a big opportunity. Even after the deal is done, they will value the partnership and will find it very hard to end it, as your product's perspective value is really high.

3) Small talk. I cannot emphasize how important this is. People in sales mostly focus on the 'deal' part of the meeting, but don't focus on developing a personal relationship with the other person. Doesn't matter if the deal goes through or not, at the end of the meeting you should feel you've made a new friend. A lot of times the person I am dealing with is not able to get the partnership closed, but when they switch to another company, they always call me to ask if we can partner again. Being friendly and talking random shit really helps in the long run, plus sometimes it gains you a new friend! If you're socially awkward, first, you should not be in sales. If you still are, start small. Discuss the client's office, weather, any hot topic in the news, or simply ask them how long they've been working in the company. Those are great conversational starters. Typically your ultimate goal with a client should be to go out on drinks with them, but if that's too much, making them a Facebook friend is also a good enough goal to achieve. This doesn't mean creep them out on the first meeting itself by being over enthusiastic, but take it slow. It's very much like dating if you think about it, only a little harder!

4) Avoid lying. A lot of sales gurus will disagree with me here, as it's a general notion to never say no while doing a sale. Actually, it hurts later. Overcommitting is like karma, it always comes back to bite you in the ass. Be clear on what all you can provide and say no for the ones you cannot. If you are able to convert any of those No's to yes later it's a bonus, but the other way round is dangerous. If a client gets adamant that they want a certain feature, politely tell them that you will discuss it with the management and get back. And do discuss in-house later! You may never know, you get an important feature just through that demand which nobody thought about before. If it cannot be done, don't fret on it and inform the client. If you're still skeptical, watch Jim Carrey's movie 'the yes man'. You'll get a fair idea of what I'm talking about. :)

5) Negotiate hard. This is very very important. A lot of people are lousy at sales because they hesitate in negotiating, and clients end up walking all over them. But there's a very thin line between what can be done and what is unacceptable, it is important to understand that as well. It's not like if you know a client will pay 5℅ commission you ask for 30℅, they'll simply hang up on you, but asking 10 isn't too bad in that case. You might end up with 7 which is great. Also do not go back and forth while negotiating, if you ask for a number, stick on it and don't increase it. It will simply piss off your client.

6) Increase the number of leads. One common issue I have seen with newbies especially is that if they speak with ten people, they sit on it assuming that all ten will close. Always assume a 10℅ conversion rate. If you want to close ten, talk to a hundred. Leads will always back out and you will be left with last minute panic as you complete your targets. Lazy people are lousy salespeople.

7) Optimize for results, not efforts. Dont postpone your meeting with a client because you're going for another meeting near his office next week and you want to complete both together to save efforts. Remember, you're delaying your first one which might close quicker. If you have a general problem with travel, sales is not the right job for you. There might be 20℅ people who call you again and again to waste time but do not close anything. If you feel you're stuck with such a client, that is the point when you should do the opposite and defer meeting them, but that happens very rarely. Also, patience and persistence is the first rule of sales. If you're an impatient person and cannot handle rejection, this is the wrong role for you.

8) Aggressive follow ups are important. I often get complains from sales people that if we take aggressive follow ups, people get pissed off. I always ask back the number of such people, and that percentage usually is 5-10℅. Just because one guy says that don't call me doesn't mean you stop calling everyone. Instead, Everytime u Feel that you need to follow up with a client, ask them when you can follow up with them. Once you get a date from them, they will never complain for calling again since they asked for it. Remember, the person you're dealing with has thousands of other things to do, his chances of remembering your work will be minimal and you will have to constantly remind them till it's done.

9) Proposals. Super important. Dont wait for the person to ask for it. Send them on your own, it brings you one phone call ahead. Your proposal should be crisp and to the point, and filled with images and colors. Nobody wants to read a boring proposal. Your template should be clean, and it would be amazing if you can customize it for each customer. Takes five minutes extra per lead, but saves you fifty extra minutes in your sales cycle.

10) Know your audience. You cannot sell a scuba diving kit to a fish. Things need to be customized per client. In sales, you will meet all kinds of people and different things tick with each, find that out. Figure out schedules of people based on your conversations with them and call them when you know they will not be too busy to care. Their objective for the tieup will also differ, figure that out and pitch accordingly. I'm not saying change your product and offering, I'm just saying that there are two ways to hold your ear and whatever works more, go for it.

These tips sound so simple, yet 80℅ of the world doesn't follow it. These little things make huge differences between success and failure. If you're not following them, try them out. You'll see the difference. And for people asking how we have achieved 2200+ brand partnerships and 150+ corporate partnerships in just two years, this is also your answer. :)