GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 24, 2009

Great salespeople put customers first

By Bruce Freeman

Dear Professor Bruce: I'm a small business owner and have never had any formal training in selling. What can I do to be better at the sales process and grow my business?

Answer: Here are a few ideas:

According to Barry Farber, author of "The 12 Cliches of Selling" (Workman) and "Superstar Sales Secrets" (Career Press), "There are many key attributes that are needed for success in selling."

Here are five strategies that can make a huge difference in how you sell and how much you sell:

1. Great salespeople learn how to listen and listen to learn. Get out of your mind what you're selling and start thinking about what your customers are selling and what their goals are.

2. The real key is to get beneath the surface and understand your customer's key buying criteria, goals and challenges. Once you start doing that you begin to build trust because you're focused on their needs, not your own.

3. Build long-term relationships. If you want to build your business, start thinking about ways to build your prospects and customers' business. How can you introduce them to people and organizations that would help them? People buy from people they like, trust and respect. When you're seen as someone who constantly adds value, the relationship goes to a whole new level and business seems much easier to close.

4. Develop unshakable confidence. A positive attitude is one of the most important characteristics of top sales producers, but it's also more than that. Great sales people have a strong belief in what they sell. They are constantly learning and know their product inside out. What really makes the difference is their confidence. A customer can sense a sales person's confidence and belief. Once you lose your confidence in what you do, so will the customer.

5. Follow up and follow through. What really shows the customer your value is how you follow up after a sale or after you've promised them some information. Every time you follow up, make sure you have a new idea or new information to share so you're always looked upon as positive. Go back to every one of your customers and thank them for their business and ask if there is anything you're not doing that you could be doing to serve them better.

Bruce Freeman is president of ProLine Communications, a marketing and public relations firm in Livingston, N.J.