SALES

Are You Selling or Serving?

Sales strategies come and go, but serving the customer should always be your top priority.
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If you're like most business owners, you probably re-evaluate your sales strategy on a regular basis. There are many factors to consider when switching up your sales approach, including your customers' changing needs and your latest product offerings. But one thing should never change: You should always focus on serving first and selling second. Here are a few tips that will help you do just that:

1. Stay True to Yourself
Focus on what makes you unique and differentiates you from the competition. When you're clear about your core values and the strengths you bring to the table, you'll have an easier time figuring out how you can address the needs of your prospective clients.

2. Ask the Right Questions
We all have a tendency to talk about our offerings during sales meetings. But don't let your enthusiasm get in the way of learning about your prospects' needs. Ask open-ended questions (what, when, where, why, and how) that encourage them to elaborate on the issues they are facing and how you can support them. One question that has worked well for me over the years is, "What are the top three criteria you consider when investing in a new vendor?" Most prospects end up talking about a lot more than price, including flexibility, response time, and other criteria. Follow-up questions are also key. For instance, if a prospect says that one criteria is "great customer service," ask them to define great customer service and give you an example. You can then position your company appropriately.

3. Arm Yourself with Information
Of course, you should research any sales prospect before meeting with them. In addition to the obvious sources of information--the company website, news stories, and industry information--I also scour my contacts for people who might be connected to the business. Then, I reach out to them for insights. You might be afraid to ask your contacts for help, but I'm always amazed by what people are willing to do when I ask them for their expert advice.

4. Go Above and Beyond
What are you doing in the sales process to stand out? I know a salesperson who recently spent weekends and late nights working one-on-one with a prospective client--a sports stadium--during trials of the product he was pitching. He worked with the stadium's employees to make sure they were comfortable with the equipment and even helped them clean up after a big event. The facilities manager noticed the extra effort, which built a huge amount of trust. That's one reason why the salesperson eventually landed the account. At the end of the day, how much you serve determines how much you sell.

Last updated: Nov 15, 2013

BARRY FARBER | Columnist

Barry Farber consults with corporations, professional athletes and entertainers, helping them market their products and generate more business. He is the author of 12 books and a featured guest on CNN, Fox and CNBC. Visit BarryFarber.com or email him at barry@barryfarber.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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