A colleague of mine, Ryan Kubaki of Holden International recently sent me a list of “10 Worst Habits of Salespeople” (he’s teaching a webinar on that subject.)

His list inspired me to describe the techniques I’ve seen great salespeople use to both avoid those bad habits and close more sales:

1. Focus on the customer, not on the deal.

When you’re trying to sell something, it’s really easy to focus on what you want (the deal) because that’s what’s important to you, personally. Thinking that way, however, alienates your customers who want you to put their interests first. Putting the customer first increases the likelihood the customer will buy.

2. Know your product but sell its relevance.

People with an engineering background often wrongly assume that selling consists of telling the customer about your wonderful product. Unfortunately, customers often can’t translate features and functions into something that’s relevant to them. Selling consists of exposing that relevance.

3. Research a customer before each conversation.

It’s difficult to put the customer’s interests first and expose the relevance your product may have to that customer if you don’t know much about that customer. Use LinkedIn to better know the individuals and the customer website (especially press releases and job listings) to understand the company.

4. Find more ways to help the customer.

The holy grail of customer loyalty is to become a “trusted advisor” who’s seen as a valuable resource beyond the specific area where you’re selling. Use your connections or specialized knowledge to make the customer’s job easier. Think of it as an investment in your own future.

5. Adapt your emphasis to thwart your competitors.

When you’re speaking with a customer, don't be afraid to ask if they’re talking with somebody else. If they are, give your competitor a kind word (“they’re a good company”) and move on. Then gradually adapt your message to emphasize what your product has and their product lacks.

6. Let the buying process trump your sales process.

A sales process tells you what step you should be taking next to develop an opportunity into a sale. However, once you know how the customer buys the kind of product you’re selling, throw your sales process out the window and adapt your activities to match their buying process.

7. Develop multiple contacts so you’re not blindsided.

If you’re selling to an organization that consists of more than 50 people, purchasing decisions are likely made through consensus and not by a single decision-maker. The more people you know in the customer organization, the more likely they’ll reach consensus in your favor.

8. Don’t obsess about “closing.”

Forget that A.B.C. (Always Be Closing) stuff. It’s easier to sell if you think about selling as getting the customer to make series of small commitments each of which follows in logical order. That way, when it’s time to “close the deal,” it’s usually just a matter of saying “so, we’re going forward on this, right?”