One of my favorite things about sales is that you don’t need to go to school to learn how to stand out from your competitors. Don’t get me wrong–business school has lots of uses and advantages. But some of the most memorable approaches to sales I’ve seen have come from people who rely on creativity, rather than degrees, to make a strong connection with prospective customers.
1. Help your customers, don’t sell to them
Truly great salespeople know the end goal for a sales job is not closing deals. Rather, these people understand their real mission is to help other human beings solve problems and pain points.
2. Quit asking why
One of the best sales lessons I learned last year was to take the word “why” out of my sales vocabulary. “Why did you choose that platform for your sales data?” is like asking a teenager why they snuck out of the house–it reeks of accusation. Once that happens, it doesn’t matter how good a negotiator you are–people will get defensive or shut down, and neither your meeting or your relationship with that would-be customer will get far.
3. Turn your sales strategy into a social strategy
Last year, LinkedIn released survey data with a surprising stat: 62 percent of respondents said they look for a solid online profile when deciding to talk with a salesperson. Meanwhile, 69 percent of Millennial buyers are more likely to connect with salespeople who have a professional online presence.
4. Devote yourself to kindness, ruthlessly
When I spoke to Comedy Cellar founder Bill Grundfest last year, he pointed out that most companies today–whether they’re selling software or jokes–motivate by intimidation. He rejects this notion of running a business, and I’m inclined to agree with him. Rather than treating your customers and potential customers like you’re doing them a favor by talking to them, show them how much you value the time spent with them.
5. Understand the difference between fear and terror
Fear has its time and place in the world of business, and it can be a useful selling tool if you learn how to do it right. That means understanding the difference between sparking a sense of urgency and terrifying someone.
6. Be weirder
We’re often taught to be slick and sophisticated when dealing with prospective customers. But I’ve found that your quirks and eccentricities can be just as effective for starting sales conversations, whether over the phone or in a cold email. Maybe you’re an exceptional comedian, or you have an around-the-clock obsession with fly-fishing.
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