The fine art of selling to others

Starting with the basics; Whether you’re selling face to face, on the phone or online, the basic principles of selling still apply.

Although there are specific ideas for selling in different markets, there are some simple rules that apply across sectors and for both products and services.

Figure out your ideal buyer

Defining a buyer profile for the product or service that you’re trying to sell will help you to focus in on those who are likely to benefit from (and therefore buy) what you’re offering. If your target is a poorly defined ‘anyone’ then you may be wasting time on leads that don’t need, or want, what your company provides.

Do your research

Find out more about your buyers (and the problems you could help them to solve) by researching them before making contact. Your research doesn’t have to be extensive – simply searching online for the potential buyer and their company, then looking at their LinkedIn page, Twitter account or their company website can give you an overview of the information you’ll need in just 5-10 minutes.

Some key things to look for:

 – staff names; identify a target and understand their background, their priorities

 – business performance information; news stories or press releases, recent job adverts

 – recent contract activity – take a look at platforms like NEPO to see if they’re listed in any winning bids.

Focus on your buyer

It’s easy to fall into the trap of talking non-stop about your product, service or your company without taking a breath. And while it’s great to be passionate, your buyer is busy, and they want to know straight away what’s in it for them.

So start that way – make your pitch about them and about how you can help them to solve a problem with your products and services.

Tailor your approach

Fantastic sales people have unique personalities, but also know how to adapt their style to suit the personalities of others when talking to them. It’s important to approach people at a level they feel comfortable at.

We all know the feeling when someone ‘rubs us the wrong way’, but there is a certain knack to getting it right.

There are four main personality types and they all respond to different triggers – the knack is in working out what someone’s personality type is and then working to adapt:

  • Assertive
    • How can I spot them? People with assertive personalities are often confident and animated in the body language they use, gesturing and leaning forward when they speak. They usually speak in declarative sentences rather than asking questions, and sometimes in a louder than average tone.
    • What do they respond well to? Results.
  • Amiable
    • How can I spot them? People with amiable personalities are often great listeners, asking more personal questions in an effort to get to know you outside of your professional role. Discussions and meetings tend to be more laid back and conversational.
    • What do they respond well to? Creative ideas and vision.
  • Expressive
    • How can I spot them? People with expressive personalities tend to be outgoing, enthusiastic and colourful. Expressives are a mix of amiable and assertive personality types – like amiables, they want to bond with you and feel connected on a personal level, but like assertives they have strong beliefs and tend to speak more in statements than in questions.
    • What do they respond well to? Personal relationships and how individuals are affected – they value mutual respect, loyalty and friendship.
  • Analytical
    • How can I spot them? People with analytical personalities tend to be less expressive than other personality types, and are concerned with facts rather than emotion. They can be direct, formal and serious in conversations, and although they may not make many expressive gestures during meetings, you can be sure that they’re listening to every word you say.
    • What do they respond well to? Facts, figures and data

Pay attention to the reactions and the body language of the people you’re talking to. They’ll often focus on you more fully, or start to nod or smile, when you give them data that chimes with their personality type, and this can help shape the rest of your pitch and your ongoing relationship.

Ask and then listen

Even if you’ve done your research, there’ll still be gaps in your knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your prospects, but then make sure you listen. Ask open-ended questions that will really be useful for you to know the answers to and don’t sound scripted.

It’s important for you to understand (and help them to better understand) the issues they face by asking them how a particular issue is affecting the company, what they’re doing to solve the problem and how important a solution is to how the business runs. Then listen – really listen – before you respond.

Remember, people sell to people

Tactics are great, but remember that the ‘leads’ that you’re chasing are all real people. Always ask yourself if you’d like to receive this email or that voicemail – if not, don’t send it.

It’s important to be professional, but don’t be afraid of straying occasionally into personal discussion in order to build real rapport with the people you’re dealing with. Everyone has a life outside of the business and it doesn’t need to be all work, all of the time.

Find out more about support with sales and marketing from our partner organisations