Be a (sales)force to reckon with

In my job, I sell to people in all walks of life and have learned that the basics of selling have not changed much over the years. Here are some fundamental principles that should hold any staffing sales person in good stead — veteran or new:

Networking. When they were out of work, my father and his friends would visit the local pub, grab a beer and chat with a contact who could get them a day’s work. Networking (as it’s now called) opportunities have expanded with the advent of the Internet, to conferences, online events and social sites — all great ways of meeting prospective customers.

Referrals. Ask for referrals from existing clients or customers. They are often the easiest to sell to. After all, you come highly recommended from someone they trust and often are in business with.

Meet in person. People will always buy from people they like and trust. So, get in front of the decision makers. Video conferencing can definitely open the door when distances are involved, but it is always better to meet in person when possible.

Communicate. Lack of communication is generally the cause of any breakdown in a relationship whether business or personal. Communication involves listening to the prospect, and taking their thoughts, needs or concerns into account. It’s about relaying the good or bad news. Make sure to find out your customer’s preferred method of communication along with the best time to connect.

Build rapport. Related to communicating is building a relationship. Don’t try to present your product or service before you have built a relationship with your prospects. Get to know them and their business by doing your research and listening, so you can congratulate them on recent business wins, or send any pertinent information relevant to their business in order to open the door.

Never give up. I have found salespeople in the U.S. to be more persistent than those in Europe. They often don’t give up until a prospect gives them an opportunity to show what they can do. That said, cultural nuances must be observed. For example, when in France, don’t expect to do business in English. Language notwithstanding, approaching prospective clients with a quick text or email to indicate interest can go a long way.

Do unto others. Do you return to a business that has treated you poorly or do you never do business there again? It is important to remember this when dealing with your own customers, so be sure to treat them well.

In-house expertise. Whilst we may know what particular part of our business makes us unique, we may not be a specialist in that area. But others within your business surely are, so take them along with you to client meetings, even if they are not part of the sales team. Doing so will serve two purposes: it will make your organisation seem more professional when these experts field difficult questions and it will bring your staff closer together.

Give someone else a chance. You cannot please everyone all of the time. People may not like you for any number of reasons. After losing a deal once, I learned it was because the prospect didn’t trust people with beards and a member on our team had one. The lesson was when we fail, turn the account over to another person to give the company another shot at the opportunity. In that particular situation, we closed the deal after a simple call set things straight.

It’s OK to walk away. We often encounter unrealistic and demanding people who want it all but are not willing to pay for it. In these circumstances, let the deal go. You are better off in the long run. Clients with champagne tastes on a light-ale budget are often best left alone.

Follow up. Don’t rest on your laurels once you have the deal; keep in contact with the customer. Continue to find out what markets they are considering moving into, and how you can best assist them going forward.

Despite the advances in technology, the basic tenets of selling remain the same — under promise and over deliver. It may sound clichéd but it works.