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50 Sales Principles

        posted by , April 19, 2013

Sales is a state of mind.

You may feel that you're too busy selling to take time out for abstract nonsense such as principles.

The fact is that principles help you sell. Principles are short, memorable slogans that your sales team are expected to sell by.

Definition: Sales Principles

Sales Principles are ground rules that a sales team or salesperson adopt to improve their results. They may include sales techniques, strategies, ethics and skills.

Principles are timeless approaches designed to last 5-10 years without changing. They don't include specific targets.

Sales Principles are typically included as part of a sales manual or internal sales training program.

Sales principles are the foundation of your sales culture. No two organizations will have the same principles. They are unique to your products, customers and objectives.

The following examples of common sales principles will get you started.


1. Be aggressive
Aggressiveness is usually expected in sales, why not make the expectation explicit with a principle?

2. Make aggressive proposals
First proposals should include a mix of aggressive and less-aggressive options.

3. Aggressively upsell and cross-sell
Again, this is usually expected of any salesperson. It helps to make the expectation a principle.

4. Aggressively nibble
The moment just before a deal closes is your golden opportunity to upsell.

5. Be enthusiastic
An energetic and optimistic approach to customer interactions.

6. Be persistent
Never let the customer forget you, become part of your customer's weekly or monthly routine.

7. Be interesting
Employ a variety of strategies to be interesting. This might include techniques such as storytelling.

8. Be interested in what the customer has to say
If the customer is interested in obscure topics, show an interest too. Ask questions.

9. Be honest
Basic ethics such as honesty should be part of every organization's sales principles. Sales gained under false pretenses can cause damage to your reputation and bottom line.

10. Be organized
Maintain a proper schedule and contact list.

11. Be flexible to customer demands
Make appointments that are most convenient for your customer, even if this means after-hour calls and meetings.

12. Be prepared for sales calls
Show up on time looking professional with everything you need ready to go.

13. Be polite
Be polite but charismatic (think classic James Bond).

14. Set customer expectations early on
If you're selling pineapples and your customer thinks your selling coconuts you're not going to get very far. Setting expectations about your product upfront saves you grief later.

15. Avoid talking down to the customer
Customers never ask a dumb question. Respect the customer's intelligence. Avoid jargon that the customer might not understand. Avoid being too showy with your knowledge.

16. Avoid oneupmanship versus a customer
Avoid intense debate and argument with a customer on irrelevant facts (e.g. not actionable). If the customer insists the world is flat say "well, that's an interesting idea" and move on.

17. Listen to the customer
Listening is just as important to making a sale as talking. Develop and use strong listening skills.

18. Look at things from the customer's point of view
What are your customer's motivations? Objections? How does he/she view your product?

19. Keep your commitments
Keeping your commitments with robot-like accuracy establishes trust with your customer. If you say you'll research a question and get back to them on Tuesday — do it.

20. Respect the customer's time
Treat the customer's time with utmost respect or they may stop giving it to you. Never be late. Never bore the customer with long-winded stories about your vacation or children.

21. Respect the customer's inbox
Keep in touch with great frequency. However, avoid spamming the customer with newsletters and offers. Marketing teams measure the positive results of newsletters and offers (e.g. %1 of customers read the message!). They often fail to account for the damage to your reputation. Customers intensely dislike spam. You'd be surprised what a customer may consider spam.

22. Avoid directly criticizing the competition
When you sling mud it makes you look petty. It generates a tense, negative tone. You can't win.

23. Sell with both emotion and logic
Customers buy with emotion and they validate with logic.

24. Influence everyone in the decision-making chain
Sell to the line-manager with as much vigor as you would a CEO. Influence everyone who might have any say in the purchase decision. It's difficult for an outsider to tell who might influence a purchase. A C-level executive may rest the decision with a director, who may rest the decision with a manager, who may rest the decision with an engineer.

25. Don't BS the customer
It's important to represent your brand, your organization, your products and yourself in an optimistic light. However, stop short of BS.

26. Avoid making excuses
If you're product doesn't have a particular feature, you can state this fact plainly. Excuses can make your product sound weak.

27. Promptly follow up after each sales call
It's helpful to send a brief summary of each sales call to the customer. This helps you both remember where you left off.

28. Maintain a professional image at all times
A little charisma closes deals. Storytelling and humor are an essential part of sales. However, keep your humor professional (e.g. clean and respectful).

29. Treat every customer as unique
Customize your sales pitch to each customer's motivations, objectives, industry, etc.

30. Monitor customer service issues for your accounts
From the customer's perspective, the salesperson who sold them a product or service is responsible for customer service. Salespeople who say "that's not my department" fail to establish lasting relationships.

31. Take a genuine interest in solving your customer's problems
Become a partner in your customer's success. Don't just pretend to care ... actually care.

32. Spend as much time in front of customers as possible
The oldest maxim of sales.

33. Become your customer's trusted advisor
When your customer depends on your industry insight you'll upsell like mad.

34. Consistently network to find new leads
Talk to everyone. You'll find leads in unexpected places.

35. Prepare for negotiations
Never walk into negotiations unprepared. It's a good idea to think out strategy and your customer's other options.

36. Never accuse the customer of a bogey
If your customer is full of bogey objections, don't call them on it.

37. Anticipate and plan for objections
If you've been selling the same product for a while, you've probably heard the same objections over and over again. It's important not to become too robotic in your defenses to objections — tailor them to your customer.

38. Stay on the attack
Avoid spending too long defending against objections. You want to spend most of your time on a positive attack.

39. Adapt your sales talk to the motivations and personality of the customer
It's tempting to perfect one sales proposal and deliver it again and again the same way. This is a mistake. When you're a robot, it shows.

40. Where possible, adapt a win-win style of negotiation
Negotiation strategies get extremely adversarial. Ideally, you're as interested in your customer's success as they are. It's better for both sides that negotiations remain friendly.

41. Set up your customer's victory speech
When a deal closes, the customer needs to go back to their boss to tell him/her that they beat you in negotiations. Help the customer write their victory speak (e.g. door-in-the-face).

42. Give your customer options
Your customer has a brain. They want to use it. Give your customers options, people like choice.

43. Disagree with positive language
No isn't in your vocabulary.

44. Don't be discouraged by no
When no isn't in your vocabulary, it doesn't discourage you. When a customer flat out rejects you, retain your pride and enthusiasm. Take whatever positive actions you can to identify next steps with the customer.

45. Close deals
This can be shortened to — close!

46. Know your product
Hang out with the good people in marketing, engineering, logistics and customer service. Ask them challenging and creative questions.

47. Know your customer
Develop a genuine curiosity about your customer.

48. Know your competition
Not only does knowledge of the competition sharpen your proposals — it can stoke your competitive spirit.

49. Know your industry
Many salespeople face customers in multiple industries. You might feel you're speaking their language but unless you really know the industry inside-out — you're not.

50. Enjoy your job
Your enthusiasm for your job and life in general will translate to closed deals. It's as simple as that.

This is an installment in the ongoing series of posts called how to win at sales.

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