Are you a sales amateur or a sales professional?

Written by: James White

When I am out and about doing sales training, I often think about the differences I see between salespeople who are hitting or exceeding their targets month-on-month, and those who are inconsistent.

If you like, it’s the difference between sales professionals and sales amateurs.

In many sports, amateurs have that status because they are unable to commit to the time and effort that it takes to become a professional. It’s not always that pro sportspeople have remarkable talent, it’s most often that they are prepared to make the sacrifices to do what they need to do to make it big.

Now in sales it is a little bit different, but I can always spot an amateur when I watch them at work. Often, they have all the knowledge they need about prospecting tools, questioning techniques, and other technical aspects, and the difference between amateurs and professional comes down to how they apply them and their mindset.

Let’s look at some comparisons of the actions of sales amateurs versus sales professionals.

Patience is a virtue, right? In sales, particularly if you have got strict deadlines and targets, it can be tempting to just go for it all the time. Amateurs will use phrases like “strike while the iron’s hot!” A sales pro will say strike when the time is right!

The best salespeople are closing wizards who can sell anything to anyone- They are people who wait until the perfect time to close which maximises their chances of winning the deal.

Be patient and make the right moves at the right time if you want to improve your results.

This is linked to the point above. Many salespeople I observe are too quick to identify what they think the problem is that the prospect has, then try and sell a solution for it. Successful salespeople will get their shovels out and start digging.

You need to make sure that you have fully understood the nature of the prospect’s problem and their pain points. Good salespeople can be heard asking questions that start with phrases like

  • What makes you say that?
  • Tell me about what that means to you?
  • How is that impacting you?

 

This will bring up all the potential blockers and objections early enough that the sales pro can either qualify this prospect out now, saving a lot of time, or start to build a solution that will overcome them all.

This is the downfall of a lot of otherwise technically good salespeople. Yes, it’s an ancient cliche that you’ve heard time and time again, but that doesn’t make it any less true: People buy people. And if you’re in front of someone who isn’t getting your pain and needs, then it’s difficult to warm to them and see them as someone who can help.

Sales pros use a toolbox of techniques to make sure that they don’t get the wrong end of the stick. They will read body language and use mirroring techniques. They will use probing questions to ensure they get the full picture. They won’t jump in with a sales pitch before they’ve made sure that they understand the prospect and their circumstances.

If you think you or your sales team might need help to read your prospects, reach out to us and we can support you to sharpen those skills.

This hits most amateurs where it hurts – at the closing meeting. Everything was going great, so you go in for what appears to be an “easy” sale, and suddenly it’s rejection city!

If this has ever happened to you, I bet it was because the prospect brought something up at the last moment that you weren’t aware of. I also bet on the way back home to back to the office you were cursing them for hiding something fundamental from you – usually along the lines of “we don’t have the budget for it this year”. Sound familiar?

Well, this is an amateur mistake. Don’t make assumptions! It’s easy to do when you come across a situation that you know you can help with. Often, that excitement leads amateurs to forget to go deeper and flesh out issues like making sure the budget is in place to buy your solution, or the final decision not being one the prospect in front of you can take.

I’ve spoken about this before, but I still see it all the time. Salespeople who are frightened of silence, so they fill it with their own voice!

This isn’t just amateur behaviour it’s junior league under-7’s stuff! Despite this, talking too much is still the number one sales fault I identify when I work with businesses to increase their sales.

The real professionals know that they need to ask a question, then shut up. But more than that, they need to really listen. Active listening is hard to do without really focusing on it. Let the prospect talk, and don’t rush to fill silences.

Using this approach, you can reflect back on what you’ve heard, building an understanding of the prospect’s needs and building trust and rapport. You can then take the prospect on a journey of how you will be able to deliver what it is they need in a way that works brilliantly for them.

This is a tough one to learn, but sales professionals know when to stop flogging a dead horse. Pros know how to spot the dead horse in the first place and avoid it!

Always analyse how things are going with any sales process. Professionals value their time, and they don’t hesitate to stop wasting it on a prospect that isn’t going to buy. They are also honest enough to know when they’ve made a mistake and “lost” the customer.

Amateurs think qualifying is only something you do at the prospecting stage. This attitude can lead to a lot of drawn-out encounters that end with frustration rather than sales.

This is a trap that sales amateurs fall into quite frequently – often because of frustration at not getting the results they want.

I hate to say this, but it’s not all about you. It’s about your prospects and clients. If you focus too much on what you want, you will be neglecting to concentrate on what the prospect wants and needs – a solution to their problem.

There’s a bit of an irony to that fact that the best salespeople are those who are least worried about their performance. The more you focus on your targets, the less likely you are to do the things you need to in order to win the sales that will hit them.

Focus on building the ideal solution for each prospect, and the results will come.

Ouch. If you’re getting a lot of prospects fobbing you off, not returning calls and ignoring emails, then chances are you’re a sales amateur. If you have shown that you have something of value that can solve problems, then you’re never going to be ignored!

Professionals know how to build a solution that’s tailored perfectly to the prospect’s needs, addresses their pain points, and allows them to achieve their personal goals. Sales professionals have the opposite problem – they have prospects calling them all the time!

By operating in the right way, the best salespeople identify prospects that they can help the most and give them what they need. I’ve actually received cases of wine, bottles of whisky, and invitations to sporting events from clients who have bought from me and absolutely loved the benefits that they’ve seen (and in one case, pretty much saved their job).

So there you go, just a few differences that mark out the sales “pros” from the “amateurs”. Do you think you meet all of the “pro” criteria? If not, where do you think your weak points are? Let me know where you need to improve your game.

Publish date: 8 June 2022

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