Five Selling Techniques That Really Work, And Five That Don’t (Updated April 2019)

By Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer

April 25, 2019

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The Five Best Sales Techniques… And Five of The Least Effective

Who couldn’t use an arsenal of effective selling techniques? But there is a lot of “conventional wisdom” out there that, in reality, doesn’t help you make the sale. Here are five of the best sales techniques that really work, as well as five classic go-to selling techniques that may, in fact, be hurting your sales.

Selling Techniques that Work

1. Challenging Your Prospect’s Status Quo

Most salespeople see the sales process as a linear process. At some point, it has an end – the prospect will choose either you or your competitor. The truth is that those aren’t the only two endpoints. There’s another option – no decision – which is chosen all too often.

Studies show that 20 to 60 percent of deals in the pipeline are lost to “no decision” rather than to competitors. It’s only by challenging the status quo that you can get your prospects to see that change – i.e., adopting your solution – is necessary.

2. Finding Your Value Wedge

How much overlap is there between what you can provide to your prospects and what your competition can provide? Most B2B salespeople admit that overlap is 70 percent or higher. So rather than focusing on that “parity area,” you should focus on what you can do for the customer that is different from what the competition can do – this is your “value wedge.” Your value wedge must be unique to you, important to the customer, and defensible.

Learn more about how to define your value proposition.

3. Telling Stories with Contrast

Messaging is about telling your company’s story in a way that attracts prospects to your doors and turns them into customers. The challenge is that, if you’re like most companies, you tell your story in a way that doesn’t differentiate you much, if at all. But to create a powerful perception of value, you need to tell both the “before” story and the “after” story – you need to tell customer stories with contrast.

When you tell customer stories, don’t be afraid to link data with emotion. Often the best way to do that is to talk about the people who were affected by the challenging environment they were working in. Then talk about how their lives became better, easier, more fun, or less stressful after using your solution.

4. Making the Customer the Hero

Every story has a hero. Who is the hero of your story? Is it your company and/or a solution? If the answer is yes, then you need to rework your story – and make the customer the hero. The customer is the one who needs to save the day, not you. Your role is that of the mentor. You are there to help your customers see what has changed in their world and how they can adapt and better survive and thrive.

5. Using Sales Techniques that Involve 3D Props

There are many ways to tell a story. But one extremely effective – and underutilized – technique is to use 3D props. Props break the pattern of what’s expected – and can make the prospect sit up and pay attention. Props make a metaphor or analogy tangible. Props create a physical reminder and can continue selling even when you’ve left the room.

Five Sales Techniques that Don’t Work

1. Challenging Your Customer’s Status Quo

Disruption-minded messages are the lifeblood of the story you need to tell when you’re the outsider trying to acquire new customers.

But applying that same messaging approach to keeping customers and expanding profitability will backfire. In fact, according to Corporate Visions research, customers are 10 percent more likely to switch providers or shop for alternatives if challenged during a renewal conversation. The research also found that a provocative message reduces the intent to renew by 13 percent.

2. Sales Techniques Focused On Selling Benefits

Everyone knows you need to sell benefits not features, right? Well, no. If you start your customer conversation with benefits, you’re jumping the gun when it comes to how most prospects are looking at their first interactions with you and your company.

Remember that 20 to 60 percent of pipeline deals are lost to the status quo. That means that you need to establish a buying vision – the case for why the prospect needs to change – before your solution’s benefits will resonate. That means you need to effectively challenge the status quo and show how the prospect’s world can change for the better (see Selling Techniques that Work #1).

3. Competing in a Bake-Off

When you position yourself against your competitors, you’re competing in a vendor bake-off. It’s a “spec war” and you might gain the upper hand with one feature, but then the competition meets your feature and raises another.

In the process, you and your competition are often having a very similar dialogue with the prospect, leading to the dreaded “no decision.” Instead of talking to the prospect about “why us,” focus instead on challenging the status quo by getting the prospect to think about “why change” and “why now,” and demonstrate the truly unique value of your solution (see Selling Techniques That Work #2).

4. Marketing to Personas

Many marketers use personas to develop messaging. And, on the face of it, it seems to make sense: defining the profile of your prospect will enable you to develop messages targeted to that profile.

The problem is that personas are typically defined by who the prospect is – demographics and behaviors. But the need to change is not driven by a persona. The fact that a prospect shares similar characteristics with the persona isn’t what causes them to re-think their current approach and consider your solution as a new way to solve their problems.

Instead of developing messages based on personas, focus on how to convince prospects that the status quo they are standing on is “unsafe,” then show them how life is better with your solution (see Selling Techniques that Work #3).

5. Relying on the Standard Elevator Pitch

According to Wikipedia, an elevator pitch is “a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition.” And just about every sales organization under the sun spends a lot of time trying to perfect that pitch.

The problem is that the standard elevator pitch tells your story – not your prospect’s story. So instead of spending time refining your elevator pitch, focus on building the story that features your customer as the hero (see Selling Techniques That Work #4).

B2B sales organizations around the world use Corporate Visions’ portfolio of solutions to develop, refine, and use the sales skills and sales techniques that are proven to work. Contact our sales team to have a conversation about how we can help your business improve its results.