The Nuances of Sales Success

I love the nuances of baseball. Unfortunately, for many, baseball is perceived as a slow-moving game that lacks the excitement of sports like football, basketball or hockey. Personally, I believe it’s because they simply don’t understand the nuances of baseball.

Take, for example, all that could be going on during a single pitch during a baseball game. Here’s the scenario: With a runner on first and one out, the batter at the plate is facing a count of one ball and two strikes.

Here’s the nuance of the play: The infielders, knowing that the batter has a tendency to hit the ball to the right side of the field, cheat slightly to that side. The runner on first, looking for a chance to steal second, takes a slightly larger lead than normal testing whether the pitcher will throw over to the base or pitch the ball to the batter. The catcher, knowing that the man on first wants to steal, crouches down with his feet at an angle which would give him a faster release on his throw to second. Given that the batter has two strikes, the pitcher could throw a slider in an attempt to get the batter to chase it when it slides across the plate and potentially gain the strike out. Or the pitcher could throw a shin-high fastball or curve ball in an attempt to get the batter to swat a weak infield hit thereby inducing a possible double play.

Did you know that so much can be going on during a single pitch? That’s the wonderful nuance of baseball.

In a similar way, many salespeople and even some sales managers don’t realize that in sales, there are dozens of nuances or techniques that can be the difference between winning a sale or losing it.

Most sales organizations have a call flow that the sales staff have been trained to follow. It usually looks something like this: 1.) Establish rapport, 2.) Determine the prospect’s needs, 3.) Present your product or service, 4.) Introduce a trial close, 5.) Uncover and overcome objections, 6.) Go for the close, 7.) Close!

Sound familiar? Yours may not look exactly like this but chances are it’s pretty similar.

Having a call flow is good because it gives the sales meeting structure, direction, and is a good way for the salesperson to maintain control. However, going into a sales call only understanding the call flow misses the nuances that go into making an average sales meeting a successful sales meeting.

It’s a good general statement to say that 99.5% of all sales calls begin with a barrier between the sales person and the prospect. Some barriers may be higher and others lower based on the prospect’s eagerness to meet with you, but they’re there regardless. It’s the nuances of sales that bring down barriers and give your salespeople a better opportunity for success.

Here’s one such nuance: Do your salespeople understand the impact tone has on a prospect? By tone I mean what do your salespeople sound like during the meeting? If they’re good, their voice is relaxed and conversational. Or do you have salespeople who come across as hurried, monotone, and strictly business in their tone? The reason tone is an important nuance is because good tone can engage the prospect whereas a bad tone can maintain the barrier between them. Having an engaging tone helps lower the barrier.

How about listening? Do your salespeople have good listening skills? Do they write down what they hear and do they occasionally respond when the prospect is speaking with words such as, “I see,” “That’s interesting,” or “Tell me more about that?” Do they have good listening posture and does their face convey interest in what the prospect is saying? Practicing and using good listening skills are a valuable way to continue lowering the barrier.

How good are your salespeople at matching the features and benefits of your product or service to the needs of the customer? I’ve suffered through many sales calls where the salesperson performed the obligatory ‘needs analysis’ so they could get to their favorite part of the sales call talking about how great their product is. As someone who loves sales training, the agonizing part for me is the salesperson doesn’t even realize they aren’t selling!

A good salesperson listens intently to a prospect’s needs while taking notes. All the while, they’re circling or highlighting where the prospect’s needs match up especially well to the product or service they’re selling. When the salesperson begins talking about their product, they mention the features of their product, then make a point to highlight how the benefits of their product line up with the prospect’s needs. In this way, the prospect can more easily see themselves or their company using the product or service.

When a salesperson does a good job of matching the benefits of their product to the needs of the customer, do you know what they’re actually doing? Building value! Yes, building value! Strong sales leaders know that the key to more productive salespeople is their ability to help the prospect find a high level of value in their product or service. Building value is one of the biggest barrier busters in a salesperson’s arsenal and sadly, many salespeople don’t even know it.

I could go on and on about things such as creating a sense of urgency, communicating a value proposition, matching pace, clearly stating differences between features and benefits, the value of energy and excitement and so on but I think you get the point. It’s not the call flow that brings down sales barriers; it’s the nuances of sales that bring down barriers.

Try this: Role play with a few of your salespeople where you’re the prospect and they’re trying to sell you your company’s product or service. As they’re selling, make a mental note of the subtle or not-so-subtle nuances that would move you, the prospect, closer to the sale. If you don’t at least see some of the things mentioned here, you may have work to do with your staff. You may need to coach them on the finer skills or nuances that will bring them success.

Coaching the nuances of sales (or as some refer to it, the art of sales) is a great investment in your salespeople because it can be an instant shot in the arm to the performance of your sales team.

Good luck and happy selling!

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