Love this article by Jacqueline Smith on “How the Best Salespeople Make the Sale”. Reinforces many of the lessons we reinforce in our training on “Communicating to Influence for Sales Professionals”.

Lesson # 1 – Qualify your Prospects

“Focus on finding the appropriate client for the product or service you’re selling. If you’re not talking to a qualified prospect, the chances of anyone turning into a customer in the end are very minimal.”


“Don’t be scared to ask tough questions. Salespeople are afraid to uncover something that might tell them that the prospect isn’t as qualified as they thought. You need to find that out, and you need to let them go if they aren’t an ideal fit.”

Remember the basics – a sales transaction takes place when there is an exchange of value between two parties – one party values what you’ve got and is willing to give you what you value in return. Qualifying your prospect is about making sure he or she can derive or perceive value from your proposed solution.

The best salespeople have an ability to walk away from a prospective client who they know they can’t help.

With each of your prospects, ask the following questions to “qualify” the client:

  • Who has the greatest pain that your solution can help with?
  • Who is it that through your skills in rapport building and listening will be open-minded enough to give your solution time and space?

Be courageous about focusing on those clients who can and are open to seeing if your solutions present them with the value they’re seeking and who to your organisation will present the greatest value as well. And for those who after much persistence are simply not open to new ideas, appreciate that the timing may not be right, move on and revisit at another time in the future.

Lesson #2 – Understand their needs first and communicate using their communication preferences

“You have to understand your audience prior to getting on the phone and continue learning about them as you go along,” Castain says. “Once you make the first call, find out their preferred way to communicate, and use that throughout the rest of the process.”

Before you “tell” your prospect about your solution, spend time understanding their needs and how they prefer to receive communication. Some want the quick bullet point summary that shows them how your solution helps them with their bottom line, others want to feel or sense how your solution will make their clients lives better, yet others will want to take away a detailed, well-researched report they can analyse before speaking with you again.

Once you have identified that your solution is a good fit for their issues, and you feel that rapport has been established, communicate to them using their preferred style of communication.

Lesson #3 – Meet up face-to-face to build that relationship upfront

Call and ask for a face-to-face meeting. If that’s not possible, schedule a phone conversation to have an in-depth discussion about how your product or service can help the prospect.

“This is where most sales people make the mistake of focusing on making the sale,” Weiss says. “You can’t go from ‘hello’ to closing the deal. There needs to be a discussion.”

Bear in mind that in relationship building, face-to-face is most powerful for building that rapport. As much as 93% of communication is non-verbal. Keep in mind that time up-front building that relationship is important. For some, that time should be brief, for others longer. No matter who it is, bear in mind you want to invest time addressing the human emotional/spiritual connection up front before getting down to business.

Lesson #4 – Control the process

If you can offer them something they want or need, inquire about the next step. “At the end of the meeting, get some agreement from the prospect about what will happen next,” Weiss says. “A lot of salespeople leave things very open.” Get a sense of whether or not they are interested in moving forward. Ask if they would like to meet again. Find out when they plan to have a decision for you, and setup a follow-up call.

The prospective client might ask for a formal proposal. “Don’t e-mail it and sit by the phone with your fingers crossed. Set up a time to review it together,” Weiss says. “This puts you in a position where you have more control.”

You must “control” the process. Don’t be tempted to leave discussions “open-ended” without an agreement about what the next steps are. Even if there needs to be time for both parties to take time out to think things through, control the process by closing with “let’s take time out to think things through with a view of getting back together to review things within a week to see if it’s worth moving to the next step. I’d be happy to give you a call next week to follow through with this”.

Lesson #5 – Get better with every call

The best salespeople turn rejection into a learning experience. “The really good ones don’t regard ‘no’ as a door slammed shut for eternity. They view it as a ‘not now,’ and they find out why now isn’t a good time. When you ask, don’t make them feel like they are being put on trial. You don’t want them to shut down and get defensive. Be gentle.”

“There is no failure; only feedback”. You never lose as long as you learn from every opportunity. So make sure you ask, gently and with curiosity to that you learn how to make each and every visit even better. With this attitude, you’re always a winner.

Lesson #6 – Be persistent without being a pest

“If you’ve reached out in numerous ways and they aren’t responding, leave a message thanking them for their time and let them know you’ll call again next quarter.”

Persistence is key to success, but don’t turn that into “annoyance” for the prospect. It takes an average of 5 calls to close a sale. “No” often means “not right now”. Stay positive, be empathetic and keep the communication lines open.