Improve Sales Techniques

Sales is where the rubber meets the road!


  1. Segue to proactive mode
  2. Identify prospects
  3. Lean on loyals for referrals
  4. Create a strong pitch
  5. Cross-sell and up-sell existing customers
  6. Get partners to sell for you
  7. Follow up (with thanks) after the sale

Segue to Proactive Mode

The first and most important thing you can do to upgrade your sales results is very simple: Make your sales effort a priority.

It seems obvious, but sometimes with all the minutiae of running a business, you get caught up in other activities that don’t put you directly on the path to growth. Over time, this can become a rhythm that sticks you in the status quo, stagnating. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s time to change your mindset.

To knock the dust off your current sales effort, here are some easy but helpful tips to move you into proactive selling mode.

  • Create a daily sales checklist. For example, identify the number of accounts you’ll approach today.
  • Set aside a specific amount of time each day when you’re focused strictly on selling activity (or at least, someone at your business is).
  • Treat your selling time as sacred. Don’t let inbound e-mails or piles of snail mail distract you or break your focus.
  • To sell effectively, you have to be in selling mode. Know your product or service in and out, rehearse your script, get upbeat, heck — listen to a favorite inspiring song if that’s what it takes! Just be sure you get in the zone, because this kind of energy brings out the best in you. Plus, it’s wildly contagious.
  • Look at sales as a numbers game. Rejection is an opportunity to learn, streamline your pitch and try again. Be sure you crank up the pipeline of potential sales so you have good odds of closing on enough business to meet your goals.
  • Set performance goals. For example, you will achieve $X in sales during Y period of time. If you don’t reach the goals, you need to analyze why. It could be that you need to, a) make changes in what you’re offering, b) change the way you’re offering it, or perhaps, C) reset your goals at more reasonable levels.
  • Unify everyone’s effort at the company by sharing the goals team-wide. There’s nothing like keeping everyone informed and aligned to create an environment where people are armed to be proactive.

Identify Prospects

Carefully narrow your list of potential targets. It may make it easier to closely define your target market so you can get in their heads and make some key assumptions about which prospects are low-hanging fruit for what you are offering.

Be sure to ask lots of questions as you interact with potential customers — what you glean from those conversations could have sweeping impact on what you sell and how you offer it. Who knows? By probing persistently you may identify a whole new opportunity you hadn’t previously seen. And this may lead to all sorts of new prospects for you to go after.

Ways to identify prospects include using useful services like Hoovers, buying lists (mail or e-mail), asking for referrals and recommendations from contacts and existing accounts (see below), scanning the media, etc.

Lean on Loyals for Referrals

Don’t be shy about asking your current clients for names and numbers of their contacts who may buy what you’re selling. It’s a lot easier to reach out to prospects provided by someone whose name you can drop than to cold-call complete strangers.

To get past the awkwardness of asking your current customers for referrals, start by asking about their satisfaction level with your service and product. If you get a good response, tell them you’d appreciate any names of people who might also like to know about the benefits of your business.

Another great way to tap your loyal customers for referrals is to ask them to rate your business in the StartupNation Marketplace. Create a free StartupNation Marketplace listing to promote your business, and then ask your happy customers to put their satisfaction in writing by rating your listing. A high rating could go a long way towards attracting new customers browsing for your type of product or service in the Marketplace.

Create a Strong Pitch

Your pitch should be something you have in your every fiber of your sales being. It’s the first, and potentially last, impression; the goal is to make it the beginning of an opportunity. But remember, there’s a fine line between crafting a memorized pitch and delivering what sounds like a canned speech.

To avoid that, know your product’s benefits up, down and sideways; express your passion freely; know when to mention special offers that might trigger emotions or “pain points” (also called “solution selling”) that lead to more intense interest. Also, understand how your product differs from the competition’s and be prepared to address those attributes. Generally, it’s important not to cast your competitors in a negative light, but to cast your business in a positive one.

As you can see, you do have to drill the information into your head, but you also have to tailor each pitch to fit the individual at the plate. In the case of selling to a consumer, you can easily see how an 80-year-old will be interested in different features than a 21-year-old, and an affluent middle-aged man will want to know different things than a struggling single mom. A similar spread of profiles may exist in your business-to-business selling efforts, so tailor there as well. Just treat each customer as an individual and be able to show them how the product fits their individual needs.

One very important pitching tip: If you’re asked a question and don’t have the answer, it’s much smarter to admit it, and promise to find out and circle back at a later time. This does two things. First, it builds trust that you have integrity, and second, it gives you a great excuse to make a follow-up call and keep the dialogue going.

Cross-sell and Up-sell Existing Customers

Your current customer is your best customer. If you’ve worked hard to ensure that each has a positive experience doing business with you, then winning repeat business is easy.

But to take that concept a step farther – what about trying to sell them more, and possibly something different, on top of their normal reorder?

There are two strategies to consider: up-selling and cross-selling.


Up-selling is providing a better product (or a higher priced version) than the customer is already using. Your cable company may provide 100 channels for $30.95 per month. But they might be able to up-sell you to $34.95 per month for their upgrade: digital service.


Cross-selling is when that same cable company tries to sell you related services, like a digital phone connection or high-speed Internet. Getting the customer interested in complementary items is a proven selling technique, especially when your customer has an affinity to you, your business and what you offer.

Think of it this way — in any given selling opportunity, you might be ripe to make a bigger deal by up-selling a higher profit-margin product or service contract. And you might be positioned to generate brand-new revenue by cross-selling related items. You should always try to identify and explore these options with customers you think would be open.

An up-selling/cross-selling tip: provide a financial incentive, a “bundled price,” if a customer commits to a much larger order.

Get Partners to Sell for You

Consider forming alliances with other companies that are willing to sell what you offer along with what they offer.

There’s a new term afoot, “stream of commerce,” that refers to the point in a transaction – let’s say on your Web site – when you can immediately refer customers to another site offering their own products. It’s like cross-selling, except the selling is done by the other business and you get paid a commission. You might, for example, have a retail Web site and offer people a deal on magazine subscriptions immediately after finishing a transaction with you. At that point, they click over to the magazine subscription site and you get a cut of any business they do there.

This is different from ordinary “affiliate” programs, because you’re highlighting it as a service to your customer rather than placing a banner ad on your site to fish for click-through revenue.

Beyond stream-of-commerce opportunities, explore basic incentives with complementary businesses or entrepreneurs. Let them know you’re excited about your business and how it can enhance their offerings. Look how the Geek Squad aligned with Best Buy — the rest is history!

And to get the most of this opportunity, make it a two-way street. Be willing to promote and sell what your partnering company offers as well.

Follow Up (with Thanks) After the Sale

It’s a lot easier to keep a current customer than to find a new one.

So why wouldn’t you thank them for their business?

Keep in touch with your current cadre of clients. A thank-you card is a simple, but high impact, gesture. Give special gifts to people who send you referrals — a $20 tin of gourmet popcorn is cheap, but fun.

Salespeople can get so caught up in the next deal that they forget those who just put money in their pocket. Keep your face and name in front of them so, when they’re ready to spend more, you’re the first one they call.


Dell small business

Be accountable, maintain integrity, win business

The best way I have found to get new business is to passively take it away from my competitors by simply doing what I say I will do for my customers. I don’t even have to do any thing extra because a lot of my competitors degrade themselves by telling customers anything to make a sale, telling them what they think they want to hear.

I am in the home healthcare business and a lot of my competitors think that, because their company has the “contract” the customer has to do business with them. I hope they never find out that it doesn’t work that way because it’s great for my business. It is so simple… treat everyone with respect at all times. Don’t lie, and if you don’t know the answer to something, don’t make the answer up – admit that you don’t know. If you do these three simple things you will probably be head and shoulders above your competition in your prospective customers’ eyes. The truth will set you free (and bring you a lot of business). – Tip submitted by seeker

StartupNation’s View: Simple but effective, seeker. This advice is very consistent with the phrase we use a lot, “Under promise and over deliver.” Always avoid over promoting. Make sure there’s substance behind all of your marketing. Also, your advice touches on where to focus – on the competition or on the customer. You’ve clearly been successful not fretting about what the competition is up to. It’s good to know that if you just concentrate all your energy on the customer, you can win business.

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