Simple Tactics: Learn how to Sell


May 22, 2007   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

As many of you know, Jay White (Mr. Dumb Little Man) is on a personal leave of absence. While he’s been gone, I’ve done what I could to keep the site going. Today, he sent me a bit of knowledge to share.

Jay has been in corporate sales management for a software/hardware company for over 15 years and here a few of his tips on selling. Whether you know it or not, some of these can be applied to tons of things in life. If you are a salesperson or want to be, read and learn.

    • Know the weakness: No matter who you are talking to, you can build a weakness. If you are selling a product or service, understand the pain the prospect is going through and share how you will solve it. These things are easily obtained by reading annual reports or even talking to the receptionist in the lobby (if it’s a small company). Weakness is all around you and them, learn how to identify them and then learn to speak in benefit.


  • Know the target: If you are talking to a VP, don’t talk about programming or your service’s features, talk benefit. VPs are concerned with increasing revenues and controlling costs. Most often, their concern is for the “year”, not the “quarter”. If you can solve a long term problem, speak to revenue increases AND cost containment, you are golden. If you are speaking about your cool features, you will never make it past the discovery phase and you will be chasing a hopeless deal for the next twelve months.


Read Forbes or CIO magazine and learn how to talk the talk. Telling a VP you can program XYZ is going to nothing, just like saying your widget can blink in 10 colors…speak to the benefit!


  • Know the target, part 2: If you are talking to a middle manager, their scope is today, not tomorrow. They want to know specifically how they are going to make their quarterly goals. In many cases, they have monthly or weekly goals. Find out their pain and solve it. While they may not be the decision maker, their endorsement can help you as you move up the ladder.



  • Start high: If you want to sell anything, start high. When I sell, I always start at the CIO, CFO, or CEO. No, I don’t ever talk to them but their admin tells me who to talk to. You see, the admin’s job is to make the boss happy and that means keeping pesky salespeople away. They will tell you anything, just to keep you out. So, get a name! I can then call that guy indicating that Mr. CIO’s office told me to call him specifically…it’s like immediate attention. If that person doesn’t respond, you tattletale and go back to the CIO saying Mr. Middle-manager never responded..The admin will escalate and redirect you.



  • Be the leader (not market leader): Buyers want to be led. If they have to guess or create their own plan, you will delay the deal and possibly lose it. Once you have identified a business problem that you can solve, literally illustrate a clear path towards hitting that goal, on time.



  • Maybe (this one works wonders for me): When a prospect tells you “maybe”, don’t accept it. You MUST get them to say NO or YES. A yes is great and you can move on to the implementation planning. A NO is just as great because it tells you what you must overcome.


Them: (this is a maybe) “It’s a great product but I have to check with my boss”
You: Well, what exactly is your boss looking for?
Them: A new paper clip that clips without scraping the paper.
You: What do you mean?
Them: When it scraps the paper, our scanner picks it up and it distorts our permanent file.
You: And how is that affecting your team’s work?
Them: In the typical clip area, we have data that must be recognized or else we have to call the customer back for clarification.
You: Hmm, I never thought of that. How many time does that happen each quarter?
Them: 1800 times and it takes at least 15 minutes each time
You: So that’s 450 hours per quarter! That’s roughly a full time salary for someone. So are you saying that my $10K solution can eliminate a $32K job?
Them: Yes.
You: Ok, well let’s tell your manager that you’ve identified a way to save $22K year by using my ABC Product, not that you have found a better paper clip…

Get it?


  • Confirm your value: Even after you have received confirmation that your service(s) will help achieve a goal, you must constantly reinforce it to be sure you are on target. Businesses change quickly and if you are suddenly not scratching where they are itching, you are out of a deal. Almost every important email should recap and/or summarize the value you are bringing and the problems you are solving. You have to keep the need alive.



  • What is the process?: I don’t care how many times you hear, “I will buy it”. You must ask for and understand the process. Who has to approve it, are there budget concerns, what could delay the deal? If you don’t know these things, you are not in control of the deal, you are chasing it.



  • Hold the Closing: One of the best things a sales person can do in their sales process is delay the close. Yes, as asinine as this seems, your credibility with double. At some point in the contract process, ask the customer to slow down for a tad while you make a few internal inquiries with other sales people. I highly recommend that you seriously do this and talk to other sales people in your company that have sold similar clients. This gives you a chance to determine if you’ve structured the deal correctly without leaving out any up sell potential. Regardless of your findings, you will have a story to share with the prospect, A) We’re in good shape, or B) Another client actually added this service because of XYZ benefit.



  • Shut up: I almost didn’t add this because it’s a basic sales rule. If you are talking or presenting more than the prospect, you will lose. Did you know that most people will talk all day about their problems if you let them? Well, let you prospect talk for hours about their problems! This is giving you ammunition, the more you know about their problems, the more solutions you can propose. If you interrupt to talk, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Shut up and take notes.



  • Verbiage:
      • Stop using the term contract, call it an agreement. “Contract” is a scary term. Do you like signing your cell phone contract?


  • Close: NEVER use the term, “close the deal” to a customer. People don’t like being closed. If you’ve done your job correctly, the signing of an agreement is simply a mid-step in the implementation process.
  • Boss: “What does your boss think?” Why not ask the person to shut up and step aside? Ask what the prospect’s team believes or if the idea has support. If the answer is no, you can drill down. Don’t start by asking about the boss.


While I have never gone though any seminars or sales tactic courses, I have done extremely well in my career by learning my own lessons. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention 3 books that I read along the way. These books have had a definite impact on my techniques and in my opinion, these are grouped with the best sales technique books on the market:





Sales is not about selling. It’s about filling a need. The faster that you understand that, the faster you will kill your numbers and make money.

While I am away from Dumb Little Man, I will be answering you sales questions so fire away in the comments.

– Jay (while on leave)


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