You should study your product extremely hard and know by heart every benefit it offers your customers and every problem it can solve. If you sell a complicated product like me (highly configurable software for biotech/science) then it should take several months of study for you to fully understand your product well enough to consider yourself competent. On top of that, you should always be learning more.
By the time you are truly competent in your product, you should instantly be able to relate a customer need to a solution in your product. If your prospective customer needs X, you know how your product delivers X. He also needs Y, you know how it can do Y too. Your knowledge has to be so deep it is automatic.
Knowing your product also requires knowing your competitor products as well. You don't need to know their products in as much detail, but you should know them from the view point of a prospect that is evaluating their product against yours. What are the advantages/disadvantages the other products have, and how can you leverage the benefits of your product (that you understand extremely well) to stand out?
Your market is all of your customers and potential customers. You need to know their world as well as you possibly can. I sell to the biotech, pharmaceutical, and scientific research industries. I have never worked in a lab but my software is designed to help manage work in a lab. I constantly have studying to do to understand how to relate to my customers better.
If a customer mentions something scientific like CRISPR, RNA, or plasmid libraries and I have no clue what they are talking about, it doesn't make me look good. Google is extremely helpful for this when I don't know and I am always learning. I will always admit that I am not a scientist, which makes my understanding of these topics more impressive.
Beyond understanding the industry and the fancy words of your market, you should also be paying attention to trends. Trends will show where your prospects needs are heading and where you can expect their needs to be. If you understand the trends and can anticipate needs you make yourself and your product look good. You are on the cutting edge and have solutions for the modern world.
The best way to understand your market is not internet research, but to simply talk to the people in your market. For me, that means asking customers and prospects about their work and their pain points. It means asking about where they think things are heading. Trade Shows are great places to have conversations with your market or just when your on the phone with customers and prospects.
This is working on you. This is your game and how you play it. The secret in sales strategy is that there is no one single strategy that works for everybody. Everyone will have a different style that works best for them.
For me, it is to get highly involved with customer needs so that every single problem is already solved before the sale is made. This requires a lot of technical details and complex work, which is my strength. You have to strategize to your strength.
You also have to compensate for weaknesses. I learned that I was speaking too quickly when I first started doing software demonstrations. Recording myself and listening and feedback from colleagues helped me realize this and I fixed it. Figure out your weak points and focus on improving them. This is just as important to playing to your strengths.
Self improvement is also a big part of this. There are courses you can take, books you can read, and websites/email lists that you can sign up for. Most are good, but make sure you take in all advice in a way that works for you personally. Everyone sales strategy is different and you must find what works for you.
It takes time, dedication, and work, but if you focus on these three things you will become an amazing salesperson.
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