One key to Salesforce's smash success lies in the way it adopted and refined some classic old-school sales techniques, and made them their own. No matter what business you're in, there's something to learn from these selling strategies.

1. Speak Plain English

Salesforce likes to quote from an internal study to promise a roughly 30 percent increase in sales for companies that take full advantage of its software. "So take the numbers and make them into meaningful metrics," says Greg Gsell, a Salesforce senior marketing manager. "You get an extra day and a half a week if you increase your productivity by 30 percent! That's huge! It means I'm selling all day Saturday and halfway through Sunday--but I don't have to work on weekends."

2. Take the High Road

"Internally, we have these posters: Crush Microsoft and Obliterate Oracle," says Gsell. But, he adds, "when you go out to your customers, you have to be careful that you're guiding them and not just stepping on Microsoft. Even though we all want to."

3. Defuse, Deliver, and Tell a Good Story

An objection is an opportunity. Step One: Don't evade--empathize. Tell the customer that you've heard this one before and that you understand. Step Two: Ask probing questions, get the customer talking, learn as much as you can. Step Three: Offer a solution--ideally with a story that highlights another customer's success. "We're not the hero in our customers' stories," says Kardyhm Kelly, a Salesforce senior director with "customer stories" in her title. "It's how the customer succeeded, not how we saved them."

4. Be One of the Four Horsemen

No, no; not Conquest, War, Famine, and Death! When people at Salesforce talk about "the concept of the four horsemen," they're talking teamwork. Despite the posters on the walls and all the tough talk, "there are no sharp elbows here," insists Tony Rodoni, senior vice president of commercial and small-business sales. "We have high aspirations for ourselves, but not at each other's expense."

 

From the September 2014 issue of Inc. magazine