Over the years, I’ve heard and read lots of sales advice, both good and bad. But there are a handful of axioms I keep close by, like a trusted friend.
An axiom is defined as “a self-evident truth that requires no proof.” And while you may not be so inclined to take what I’m about to say at face value, I’ve found that applying these in my sales efforts have never let me down. So here are Six Sales Axioms to Help You Win More Business.
1. If you’re going to lose, lose early
Even the most experienced sales people only close about one in five prospects. No matter how good you are, not everyone will become a client. The best sales people know how to lose early.
Losing early allows you to move on. One way to do this is by attempting to disqualify every prospect before you agree to meet, by looking for obvious show-stoppers. Suppose $2,000 is your bare minimum for a basic site and you discover the client expects to spend much less. You might say something like:
“Working with me may not be a fit, in that case. My base price starts at $2,000. The clients I work with …” Then go on to describe your typical client, why they value you, and the results you produce for them. Let the prospect decide if he matches that description and wants to do business with you or not.
Keep in mind that “no” is not the worse answer you can hear—“maybe” is. “Maybe” keeps you chasing prospects that will most likely never become clients and prevents you from concentrating on those who will.
2. He who asks the questions controls the conversation
It sounds counter-intuitive, but asking questions rather than doing all the talking is what puts you in control. You can steer the conversation wherever you like, simply by asking follow-up questions to the answers you get.
Of course, you do want the prospect to ask questions. But a good rule-of-thumb is never make a statement without asking a follow-up question, even if it’s as simple as, “Does that make sense?” or “Did I explain that clearly?” This accomplishes two things:
- It keeps you in control of the conversation
- It keeps the prospect engaged (especially important when discussing technical details)
3. Don’t answer questions the prospect isn’t asking
As consultants, we want our clients to make informed decisions and demonstrate our expertise. But there’s a danger of overloading the other person with too much information.
Suppose the project you’re proposing includes a mobile version of the website. You could say something like, “Since your target audience are heavy smartphone users, the price I’ve quoted includes creating a mobile-ready version of the site.”
If you’re like me, and you like facts and statistics, you might be tempted to include those in your statement. But if your prospect doesn’t challenge or question you on it, there’s no reason to provide additional details, is there? So don’t … until he asks. Which leads me to my next point.
4. Facts tell, but they don’t sell
When I sold Internet Yellow Page advertising, I once told a prospect that there were over 1500 visits a month to his business heading on YP.com … and was stunned when he said he “wasn’t interested.”
I was stunned was because, when I first started my web business, I struggled finding new clients. Had I know a place where potential clients were searching for me, I wouldn’t have thought twice about signing up.
What I should had done is relay that story, instead of just spouting raw facts.
5. Nothing happens until a sale is made
I’ve yet to meet a web designer, developer, or programmer that decided to freelance because he or she likes to sell. Some of us may have a natural sales ability, but most do this because we like to design or program. But you don’t get to do what you love unless you sell. So get out there and sell something already!
6. When sales sucks, everything sucks. Sales fixes everything
Former Apple Evangelist Guy Kawasaki describes the environment during the company’s dark days in 1997 before Steve Jobs returned:
When you have great sales, everybody gets along, life is good everybody’s a visionary. When sales sucks, everything sucks.
From that experience, he developed a Guy Kawasaki Law: Sales fixes everything. There are a host of problems that can derail a company, but when you’re struggling with poor cash flow—or no cash flow—sales fixes everything.
There you have it—my Greatest Hits. How about yours? Post them below.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.