Secrets of successful sellers

May 31, 2004

Everyone in the A/E or environmental consulting business wants to turn their technical people into sellers. Not a week goes by that the desire to do this isn’t mentioned to me by someone in this business! And, while a solid majority would also be quick to acknowledge that doing so is practically impossible, it doesn’t stop us from trying. We are diligent workers and will keep plugging away at it! If you look at how the best salespeople in A/E firms do it as a precursor to helping your staff improve their selling skills, here’s some of what you will learn: Good sellers live by the odds. They know that the more sales prospects they have, the more sales calls they make, and the more proposals they get out, the greater the chance of making a sale. Good sellers track the relationships of these activities to results and make sure that regardless of their short-term results, good or bad, they keep their selling activity numbers where they need to be. Good sellers know that when it comes to organization structure, it is easier to start at the top than it is to crawl your way up the ladder from the middle or bottom. This means that they don’t just go to the easiest to reach or most accessible person in the potential client organization as a first course and will instead make repeated efforts to get through to the boss first. Good sellers know that every buyer doesn’t want the same thing. They are reading the buyer for cues of their reaction, good or bad, to any sales presentation. The result is that they don’t try to simply push the standard offering, whatever that might be, and instead appear to be offering a more customized service for their client. This is critical and not that hard to do if you listen and are willing to be a little different. Good sellers know that lots of little things can help. Whether it is the novelty clock with their company name, or the Thanksgiving turkey, or the free tickets to Ü the big game, there are a lot of little things that good sellers do to make the client like them and be favorably predisposed to hiring them. I always like to be sure the moment I meet someone who may be a prospect for our services to add that person to our marketing database. I then oftentimes make sure to give them six free issues of The Zweig Letter in a trial subscription. And the point is not to sell these people the newsletter, though that often happens. The point is to show them that we are a part of their world and establish our credibility. It’s also a constant reminder of how interested we are in working with them down the road. Good sellers know there is no substitute for a little honesty to gain the trust of your prospect. Have you ever gone to a restaurant where a waiter tells you that under no means should you order the “Tortellini Scallop Scampi” or some other such dish? That’s their attempt to establish their credibility with you so you will listen when they tell you that you do need to order the “Snails Supreme” appetizer. Good sellers in A/E and environmental firms work the same way. They give some free information, they say something you wouldn’t think they would say to a client, and they do something that shows they are trustworthy. This primes the buyer for the big sale! Good sellers know that, even after they’ve lost the sale, they may be able to get it back. They don’t give up on a client or get mad because the client hired some other firm for their work. The best sellers have found many times that, if they stay cool and remain interested in helping the client, they will probably get their chance eventually. And when they do, the client will be grateful for their interest and desire to work with them. Good sellers have a NEED to sell. It’s in their blood. They cannot turn it off. They may drive their spouses mad, they may keel over dead prematurely, or they may live a long and healthy life in a good marriage. But one thing’s for sure. They are going to be selling. Do you have any other observations of what makes an effective seller in your firm that you’d be willing to share with our readers? If so, please send them on! Originally published 05/31/2004

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.