Expert Opinion Piece – The Art of Sales
Admittedly not a career suited to everyone, ‘the art of a sale’ can be a difficult task to master. Midshire’s top sales performer in 2016, Technology Sales Manager, Stuart Carruthers believes that with some tips and training, anything is possible.
Stuart started his career for the company as a Sales Executive then moved into an IT role, becoming a Networking and Training Specialist. This experience cemented Stuart’s product knowledge and has been a key factor in developing back into a sales role. The lessons learned during this period gave him hands-on practical experience to predict any potential issues and to identify better solutions for customers.
A consistent achiever and key sales executive, in recent years Stuart has been integral in launching new products for the company, including it’s in-house hosted desktop solution – Desktop Monster®. Also being involved in several big business wins, these include the installation and maintenance of 500 screens for a student flat complex built by X1 Developments, numerous substantial IT support contract wins, and an exciting installation at Manchester Airport, that will completely innovate their control tower.
As an fundamental part of the Midshire® sales team, having worked for the company for over fourteen years, Stuart gives his advice on how to conquer selling, see his top 6 tips below:
1. Make no assumptions whatsoever.
It’s all too easy to assume lots of things during a sales cycle. A few notable assumptions to avoid, include assuming your prospect or customer has no product knowledge. There is a very good chance that no matter what the product is they are looking at purchasing, they will have done their homework and some kind of investigation prior to getting in touch.
Don’t assume that your contact is either the decision maker or not. A senior manager may let a subordinate gather the information they want and make the decision themselves. Similarly, they may let their subordinate gather the information and make the decision.
Don’t assume that the customer won’t buy from you or your company. I know this sounds obvious, but I’ve seen competitors fall away from an opportunity because they’ve assumed that they are more expensive, or can’t offer a more attractive lead time. You’ve not lost a sale until the prospect or customer tells you explicitly that they are not going to purchase from you.
It’s an obvious tip, however you should communicate clearly at all times. Don’t use fifty words when ten will do. Always remember that listening is far more important than talking; this is why we have 2 ears and only one mouth. Think of reasons to speak to your contact other than to ask if a decision has been made, no one likes being asked the same question again and again.
3. Front of Mind.
One of my first sales managers always used to say to me – keep Stuart Carruthers in the front of their mind. At first I thought he was just weird, however he was correct. You need your prospect or customer to think of your name when they think about buying the product you sell. Basically, be synonymous with the product you offer. If I want a burger, I think McDonalds. If I want a vacuum cleaner, I think Dyson. I want IT support or hardware, I think Stuart Carruthers.
Social Media is a great way to promote yourself within your area of expertise. Using platforms such as LinkedIn, you can reach out to people with problems relating to the service you provide, offering advise and support in a ‘non-sales way’. This kind of self promotion can help you establishing yourself as an authority figure in your sector. Our marketing team promote the company and individuals on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and numerous other sites. Being present across all channels helps to set yourself apart.
4. Suit and Boot.
Forrest Gump’s Momma said: “there’s an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes”, and I completely agree. Always have clean smart shoes. Someone who can’t be bothered to look after their shoes isn’t going to do a particularly good job at looking after a customer. Dress smart, again this sounds obvious, however I’ve seen some randomly dressed people in my time. Anything less than a shirt and suit says “I couldn’t be bothered to make an effort for you today Mr. Customer!” Personally, I don’t wear a tie because in my opinion a tie makes me less approachable for most situations. However, if the occasion warranted a tie, for example if I’ve been invited into a prospect/customer’s board meeting, then of course I will wear one.
5. Be Interesting and Interested.
Selling is a lot like dating. At the start of a relationship you only use your best material, your funniest stories and you steer attention to the best bits about you. You are in full-on impress mode with your features and benefits. You listen intently to that other person and you commit every worthwhile fact to your memory so that it’s readily available in the right situation. This is the same as identifying a need. Eventually you make them an offer they can’t refuse, you shut up and wait for an answer. The Close.
6. Working Hard
Lastly, work hard. Activity is everything, you can be the most talented salesperson in the world with the most amazing product but if you don’t have the right work ethic you will never reach your potential.
Midshire’s mantra is ‘Activity, Activity, Activity. When you think you’ve done enough go back and do some more.’
How Sales have changed. Challenges.
In my humble opinion, I don’t believe sales have changed that much at all. People are more price aware these days, and everyone thinks the next great depression is just around the corner. People still have needs and wants, and as long you can tap into these, people will continue to buy products and services.
The internet has changed the way a lot of people purchase. There are a lot of people who will still go price matching on the internet and just base every purchase they make on price. Fortunately, there are still a lot of people who want added value when they buy – that only comes when dealing face to face.
The Future of Sales.
Ecommerce Sales for UK retail grew by 14.9% in 2016 and I’m sure it will continue to grow at the same rate or higher. That said, despite more people buying online, Midshire have continued to show an increase in sales year on year. My own sales record has risen year on year too and I had my best year by a long way in 2016. Marketing and Sales will also continue to become closer. The sales funnel has developed, largely because of the emergence of online channels such as social selling, meaning working ever more closely with our marketing team to develop and implement strategies will continue to be an important factor that us sales guys will need to embrace as the marketplace changes.
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