No matter how much we wish it were so, deals don’t just close themselves.
That’s because a prospect’s default position is not to buy.
If your sales reps can’t find a way to move them out of that default position, their close rate is never going to be very good.
This is ultimately why sales conversations are so damn important. Each one offers reps an opportunity to:
- Show the product
- Clearly communicate your value prop
- Actively listen to prospects
- Disarm objections, especially around pricing
- Push the prospect toward a decision
As a sales manager, if you want to improve your sales reps’ close rates, you need to find ways to improve their sales conversations at the individual level. With the right coaching intelligence tools, it’s entirely possible to do this at scale, even if you manage 100 reps or more.
Here are five top sales conversation tips you and your team can discuss during your next few coaching calls.
1. Show more, tell less.
One of the first rules of communication is “Show, don’t tell.”
If your sales rep can show a prospect your product and how it works, it’ll stand out in their mind.
But they can’t just show off the features and functionality of the product — they have to demonstrate how it will be valuable to the prospect in their day-to-day life.
Consider this analogy. When you go to buy a car, the salesperson will probably tell you all about the engine’s horsepower, the all-wheel drive and even the free Wi-Fi. And that’s probably all good information to know.
But when it comes to deciding whether that car is right for you, nothing beats sitting in the driver’s seat and taking the car for a test drive.
The “test drive is where a lot of sales reps go wrong. They may start by discussing the features and functionality, but never explain how the prospect will get value out of it.
If you want to help your reps get better at sales conversations, then help them do a better job of putting the prospect “in the driver’s seat” during the conversation. Teach them to show prospects the product and help them envision how they would use it.
Once your reps start doing this, they’ll start to see more success on their calls.
2. Actively listen to the prospect.
During any sales conversation, prospects constantly give off a ton of buying signals.
If your reps don’t see those signals, it’s not because they’re not there — t’s because they aren’t actively listening.
What’s the big difference between passive and active listening?
Passive listening is when you inwardly digest what the person on the other end of the conversation is saying. Active listening is when the next thing you say actually corresponds to what you just heard the other person say.
Passive listening happens when you listen to the prospect and internalize what they’re saying. Active listening is when you listen to the prospect, internalize what they’re saying and base your next statement off of that information.
Active listeners are adaptive, changing their approach based on the signals that the prospect is giving off. They:
- Change the specific product they pitch based on the prospect’s value expectations
- Adjust their expectations for the length of the sales cycle depending on how much decision-making power the prospect has
- Know when to jump off the call because they realize there’s an extremely low chance that the prospect will ever end up purchasing anything
Without actively listening, your reps can miss signals and potentially kill deals. On the other hand, actively listening can help them turn a prospect’s “no” into a solid “yes.”
3. Drink your own Kool-Aid.
Let’s say your company sells CRM systems. If your sales reps use a competitive system and your prospects get wind of that, what’s the likelihood they’ll end up buying yours?
By “drinking your own Kool-Aid,” you’re projecting confidence to the prospect. You’re telling them: This thing is so great that I’m willing to stake my job performance on it.
Even the most eloquent sales pitch will have a hard time topping that.
There’s an added bonus as well. If your reps use your own product, they can work it into the selling experience.
This won’t necessarily work for all prospects, since it completely depends on what you’re selling. But let’s say you sell an email scheduling tool: Use that tool to schedule a follow-up meeting. If you sell billing software, let the prospect know that you’re going to use that software to accept their payments.
Using your own product adds an extra layer to the “Show, don’t tell” rule. If your reps show prospects they’re confident in their own product, then the prospect’s confidence in your product will likely go up.
4. Handle pricing questions deftly.
Pricing questions. They’re the bane of every salesperson’s existence.
If you bring up pricing too early and the prospect gets sticker shock, they’ll likely shut down before you have a chance to demonstrate the full value of what you have to offer.
On the other hand, if you avoid the pricing question too long, you come off as having something to hide.
Following are a few tips to help your reps effectively handle the question of pricing. They should:
- Never dodge the question if asked. Period. They’ll immediately lose the trust of their prospects, and nothing is more harmful than that.
- Always demonstrate their value prop before they reveal the price. This is the best way to avoid sticker shock.
- Never reveal the price before they’’ve demonstrated enough value. If a prospect asks for the price too early in the conversation, the rep should explain that they’ll go through pricing later but that they want the prospect to understand the full business case before they reveal the price. It’s all about remaining transparent and doing your best to put them at ease.
Most importantly, your reps should be confident and sound competent during any pricing discussion. If they aren’t able to answer the pricing question deftly, it’s incumbent on you, the leader, to work with them on this skill.
With enough coaching and practice, your reps should be able to master this skill, which will dramatically improve their conversation quality.
5. Always push the call forward.
A salesperson’s biggest enemy is time. The more time a prospect has to come up with a reason to say no, the more likely it is that they’ll say no.
So, your rep should always be pushing their conversations forward. They should try to get the prospect to make a decision, whether that’s the ultimate decision to purchase, or an intermediary decision like jumping on a follow-up call.
When a rep struggles with this conversational skill, it’s usually for one of two reasons.
Some reps are too timid, usually because they’re uncomfortable with rejection. Others are bulldozers, who push ahead even if the prospect isn’t ready for it; usually, these reps need to do a better job asking for permission to continue on.
Either way, you need to help your reps become more effective at pushing conversations forward. And, ideally, they’ll get better at pushing them toward a positive purchasing decision.
In sales, a lot of people say that practice makes perfect.
But that’s just not true. A rep can do 100 calls and do all 100 of them badly. That means they’ll get really good at having bad sales conversations.
Instead, perfect practice makes perfect.
And if your reps start to get better at the individual level, eventually this will trickle up through your entire organization. You’ll start to see better close rates and, most importantly, more revenue.
For more information on our coaching intelligence software and how it can help you actionably improve rep performance, click here.