In a long and varied career, I have spent a couple of decades in sales, sales training, sales management, and running my own businesses.
Simple Rules for Selling
Selling products or services can be a complicated business, especially if you are selling complex products or services. So here are 10 simple, but golden rules to keep in mind when you are selling either face to face, over the phone or even via the internet.
Golden Rule #1: Keep Moving Towards Your Goals
If it isn’t moving you towards your goal, why are you doing it?
In sales, you need to be clear on what your goals are and ensure that the work you do always moves you towards them. If you find yourself doing work that seems important, but on further analysis, doesn’t actually seem to be moving you toward your goals, then why are you doing it? Taking the time for a little self-analysis and checking your progress towards your goals on a regular basis will keep you on track.
Golden Rule #2: Never Tell a Customer “That Isn’t My Job”
The last thing your customer will want to hear from you, when a problem pops up is: “That isn’t my job.”
As far as the customer is concerned, you are your company—whether you are employed or self-employed. Saying something isn’t your job or blaming someone else (even if someone else was actually to blame) for something going wrong will not put you in the customers 'good books'—saying you will try to sort it out, and doing exactly that, will.
Golden Rule #3: Never Undermine a Person’s Position
Never undermine a person’s position (job), whether it be a customer or colleague.
Whether it’s a colleague or a customer, people like to feel their occupation is important (and it will be to them, even if it only pays the bills), so in undermining someone's job, you will be undermining them. No one likes to feel put down. Even if it is a job you would never do in a million years, respect their chosen occupation and you will make a friend, do the opposite and you are sure to make an enemy. Having enemies is always bad for business.
Golden Rule #4: Focus on the Important Tasks
The more you focus your time, energy and overall planning on the important tasks, the less time you will need to spend on urgent tasks.
If you spend the majority of your time planning ahead and focusing on the important things you need to do to build your sales and business, then by default, you will have to do less fire-fighting (urgent tasks) in the future. As the old military adage goes: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
Golden Rule #5: Control the Controllable
Don't try to control things you have little or no influence over.
If you want stress, try to do everything yourself! This will be difficult for the control freaks out there, but if you are in sales, things will go wrong. Orders don’t get signed off, emails get lost in the system, the wrong products get picked in the warehouse, there are manufacturing issues in China, Bob’s dog died on Tuesday so he’s taking the week off work and the flyers won’t get sent out…the list goes on and on. Do what you can to help the situation without getting distracted from your overall goals, then let the people who can control these situations sort them out.
Golden Rule #6: Never Criticise the Competition
Never criticise the competition or their products
Never, never ever, criticise the competition. Focus instead about what is so great about your products. Having a go at the competition just makes you look mean-spirited and desperate—don’t do it. Instead, focus of the benefits of your own products and how they can solve your customers needs and requirements. A dirty tricks campaign always backfires in the end, so don’t do it.
Golden Rule #7: Access Information, Don't Try to Remember it
If you can easily look it up, don’t bother trying to memorise it
This, again, is all about focus. Figures, prices, telephone numbers—trying to keep all these things in your head all of the time is tiring. There’s a zillion ‘tools’ or apps to help you keep these things ‘at hand’ for when you need them—use them. Don’t clutter your brain with information that you can easily access; use it instead for thinking and planning.
Golden Rule #8: Focus on Benefits
Say the feature, and play the benefit.
All products have features and benefits—the important bit is what a product can do for a customer (typically solve a problem or fulfil a need) and that is called a benefit (to the customer). So, when you are on sales call, by all means, mention the feature, but you must explain what that feature does for the customer—how it benefits them, how it solves their problem or meets their need. I have never seen a successful call that talked about features only – benefits are everything.
“If you let your head get too big, it'll break your neck.”
— Elvis Presley
Golden Rule #9: No Bragging
Never boast about your sales achievements to a customer, even unintentionally.
Everyone makes judgements, including your customers. And one of the judgements they make is about you. As a salesperson you’ll be judged by the way you dress, they way you speak, the words you use or even the car you drive. Make sure they think the ‘right’ way about you - in other words that you are trustworthy, reliable and have their best interests at heart. If you boast about your sales achievements or how much you made in bonus last month then they might judge that you are only in it for the money and maybe you’re ripping them off just to make your sales quota. Always be aware that you are being judged, and ensure that the impression you give is always a good one.
Golden Rule #10: Have Fun!
The final rule is to have fun. Yes, have fun.
The world of work can sometimes be tedious both for you and your customers, but if you inject a little bit of fun into your interactions with your customers, then you both end up feeling a bit better no matter what the day has in store. We all know that person who sucks the energy out of a room when they enter it—don’t be that person! If you inject life and fun into your sales calls, your customers will enjoy your visits and you’ll end up building rapport and strong relationships on the back of it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Jerry Cornelius
Jerry Cornelius (author) on April 18, 2019:
Thanks, Liz. Happy you like it.
Liz Westwood from UK on April 18, 2019:
This is a useful commonsense guide to selling.
Jerry Cornelius (author) on April 17, 2019:
Thanks, Larry, glad you enjoyed the article.
Larry Slawson from North Carolina on April 17, 2019:
As someone who was formerly in sales, these are very helpful tips!