8 essential sales techniques to unlock business growth

Sales are the lifeblood of every business and finding out which sales techniques work best for your startup is the key to unlocking success and growth.

Sales techniques have changed significantly in recent years. Teams of salesmen pedalling a hard sell are long-gone, replaced by a more sophisticated approach that put the customer at the heart of the sales process. Today’s customers have more opportunity to shop around, so your firm must deploy a range of sales closing techniques to secure their business.

1. Know your customers

Securing a sale means really understanding your potential customers. Research your target market to discover your customers’ needs, what motivates them and – crucially – how they like to be sold to. Some customers prefer a more hands-off approach while making a decision. Others appreciate a more attentive sales technique.

2. Ask questions and listen to boost sales closing techniques

The modern salesperson listens first and talks second. Asking questions when talking with customers will help you understand their needs. Ask questions as if they had already purchased your product or service. For example, ask how they will use your product or service rather than are they interested in buying. Use open-end questions – what, who, where, when and how – to get prospective customers talking, and actively listen to what they say. That way, you can unearth compelling reasons why a customer might want to buy from you, and demonstrate how you can help meet those needs.

3. Concentrate on your loyal customers

Don’t be tempted to focus entirely on new sales. The thrill of chasing down and winning new customers can trip up small businesses if it means they take existing customers for granted. It’s far easier and more cost effective to nurture relationships with existing customers.

According to research by analytics business Forrester, it costs five times as much to acquire and make a sale to a new customer than it does to sell to an existing customer. Yet businesses often neglect loyal customers according to a study by Forbes, which found that less than a third of business leaders consider customer retention a priority.

4. Make customers part of your sales team

Happy customers are great for your business. Asking for referrals to other potential customers is a useful sales technique that can help build your customer base. Always ask customers if they would be happy to refer your business to others who might also benefit from your services. A handy tip is to offer an incentive, such as a discount or cash reward if they refer a friend who then becomes a customer. It transforms customers into an extension of your sales team.

It’s also worth asking satisfied customers for a testimonial, which you can use on your website or in promotional material. Encourage customers to write positive reviews on business finder sites such as Checkatrade and Which? Trusted Traders.

5. Online sales techniques

It’s important to develop online sales techniques. Many customers are easier to reach online compared to on the phone or in person, so make good use of blogs, social media, webinars, podcasts and video to win customers for your business. Use social media to establish your credibility as an industry expert, providing tips and responding directly to customer questions. Video and posts that take customers behind-the-scenes show your business’s personal side and helps build customer trust in your brand. Start Up Loan’s Social Media Toolkit can help you develop a social media plan for your business.

6. Always add value when selling

Good sales techniques focus on delivering value to the customer rather than pressuring them to buy from you. Shift thinking from short-term sales into long-term customer relationships, delivering consistently great customer service. Listen to customers during the sales process to find ways you can add more value that benefits them and solves their problems. Surprise and delight customers by sending small, unexpected gifts or delivering products more quickly than they expected, for example.

7. Tell stories as part of your sales closing techniques

Telling stories is a powerful sales technique. Stories about your brand, what your business stands for, how your products and services benefit customers along with customer stories bring your business to life. Great brand stories are engaging and give customers a reason to believe in your business, which in turn makes selling easier.

Experienced sales teams are experts at using real-life anecdotes to help sell products, illustrating how your business has helped previous customers. The point is to create stories that potential customers want to be part of, making the customer a hero for choosing your business and products. It helps prospective customers visualise how their life will benefit from buying from your business. Back up stories with data and facts that are interesting and relevant to each customer.

8. Don’t leave money on the table

Closing is the hardest part of sales. It’s vital to always follow up when customers are mulling over buying, otherwise you’re leaving money on the table. If meeting with potential clients directly, make sure you leave with a firm plan of action both sides have signed up to, such as a follow-up meeting in the diary. When selling to the public, stay in touch with potential customers and be available for questions, helping sway undecided customers to buy from you.

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