The best piece of sales advice I’ve ever received

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Too often we associate good salesmanship with having the “gift of the gab” – as if being a good salesman is about beating the customer into submission through charm and fancy words that bamboozle them into handing over their hard-earned cash.
 
I beg to differ.
 
In my view, sales is a trained skill. Through over 20 years of working in both sales and marketing, I’ve noticed the top-performing salespeople are often those that say the least. They listen. They find out the customer’s problem. And then they solve it.
 
So that leads me to the reason you’re probably reading this article. What is the best piece of advice I’ve ever received? Here ‘tis…

“Customers will show you how they want to buy from you. You just need to let them.”

I’ll let that sit with you for a minute. Go on, read it again.
 
Now think about it. What is it actually telling you?
 
Firstly, it’s telling you to listen. Secondly, it’s telling you to ask questions. Thirdly, it’s telling you to find out what the pain point is that led them to your door. And finally, it’s telling you to let them tell you how they would like you to fix the problem.
 
So when I heard this advice, you’re probably wondering: how did it change my own sales approach?
 
Well, I stopped pitching and started listening.
 
From that day, I implemented several changes to our sales process. These are:
 
1.      Never present an overview of MarketingHQ at an initial client interview, even if the client asks you to.

2.      Only present a proposal once you fully understand the client’s pain points.

3.      Try and ask at the first meeting, “Tell me why I’m here.”
 
I have to say, being firm and committing to these new ‘sales philosophies’ was tough. My resolve was tested quite a few times. But I had immediate success in bringing on two new clients in my first two meetings. I achieved a 100% conversion rate even though I knew I was up against some tough opposition – these new clients told me that upfront.
 
So how did these two interactions play out?
 
My first attempt with an accounting services firm
 
For the first opportunity, I was contacted by an accounting services firm who asked me to come in and pitch to them. Those were their exact words.
 
I was told I was one of three marketing firms they had researched and we had made the short list.
 
While being polite on the phone, I told the potential client I wouldn’t be presenting a pitch document at our meeting. I got some pushback as that is what they were expecting.
 
I pushed back again and said, “How can I present anything when I know nothing about your business?” They reluctantly agreed. We set a time and I went in without a proposal. Just me and a lot of questions.
 
During the meeting, I was able to verbalise clearly how I could help fix their pain points. They wanted to rebrand, develop a clearer brand position in the market, and receive ongoing marketing assistance. I was able to talk them through how we had helped other businesses in the same boat. What I didn’t do was speak about things that were not relevant to what they needed. I didn’t waste time talking about services they would never use. They told me how they wanted to buy, and I let them. And I won the business. This was four years ago and they are still a client to this day.
 
The large managed IT services firm
 
My second meeting was with an IT services firm. They found us online and asked to meet at a coffee shop in the Sydney CBD. I thought I was meeting with one person, but in reality, five business partners turned up.
 
After some pleasantries, they got down to business – and said the inevitable: “So, tell us about MarketingHQ”
 
My response was this: “I tell you what, you guys obviously got in touch with me as you’re having some marketing challenges. I’d love you to tell me why I’m here.”
 
Well, the floodgates opened. Each and every one of the partners expressed their frustrations and what they felt they were missing in their marketing. They were a successful business and had around 40 or so staff. But their marketing was letting them down. At the same time, they had started another business that wasn’t performing as well as they had expected due to poor marketing.
 
Once again, this potential client told me what they needed. I told them directly in words how we have helped others in the same boat. And I won the client.
 
You’d have to say then that the changes were a success.
 
This philosophy is now ingrained in our sales process and we’re more successful because of it. Great advice indeed!
 
So, what’s the best piece of sales advice you’ve ever had? I’d love to hear it.

About the author

Chris Dale Chris Dale is the founder and Managing Director of MarketingHQ. He is a Certified Practising Marketer with over 15 years senior marketing experience. He helps small and medium sized businesses create great marketing strategies and systems that grow their businesses. You can connect with him on or on LinkedIn.

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