Look to Data, Not Expert Opinions
Occasionally two top salespeople will say exactly the opposite sales techniques are effective. They can’t both be right, can they?
Yes and no.
Many top salespeople rely on their own natural charisma, rather than a process that is repeatable, so something that worked for them may not work for anyone else.
Further, once we find something that works, we stick with it. We do not continue experimenting.
After years of hearing vastly differing sales advice, my engineering mind started to wonder what was really valuable to the sales process. I wanted to figure out which variables did in fact matter, and did in fact impact the outcomes of my sales endeavors. So I started testing.
Let’s take a quick look at split testing in the world of marketing, then we will apply it to selling.
Testing Marketing Materials
It is standard practice in the marketing world to use a multi-variable experiment. As an example, I developed two different mail pieces, a postcard for “A” and a personal letter for “B” and mailed these to two different lists.
A quick inspection of the data shows that Mail Piece B in this example clearly worked best. And clearly List B, which had higher response rates in both cases, was the better list.
Using the data
With continuous experimentation, I was able to triple my response rate from 2% to 6%.
While that, by itself, may not seem exciting, it was the front-end lead generation engine that fed my business. Leads for my business were the scarcest commodity. Tripling the leads tripled the contacts I made, the sales calls I made, and ultimately more than tripled margins and my personal income.
Now shift that simple idea to sales
If you start thinking about it, there are dozens of variables you can test in sales conversations. And if you do test them, sometimes you find results that are counter to what top salespeople or “the experts” say and even counter to your own intuition.
I have used split tests and calling recordings to carefully assess what does and doesn’t work in real buyer/seller conversations.
Split testing in sales is time-consuming and tedious, and therefore not commonly done.
In case it is not clear to the reader, it is tedious and time-consuming because observing actual buyer/seller conversations takes time.
Over my 30 years of testing, I have had access to thousands of hours of sales call recording, and I have taken the time to observe them in detail. I have found that top sales performers do things differently than their peers, and these patterns are what set them apart.
- They care, but not too much.
- They are desireless – not desperate.
- They are in conscious control of their demeanor.
- They have an aura of practiced indifference.
- They do not fear conflict.
- They are careful to preserve the buyer’s self-esteem.
- They ask more questions.
- They never get ahead of the buyer.
- They are hesitant to recommend.
- In the early discovery calls, the buyer does most of the talking.
- Every step of the process, commitment is mutual, never unilateral.
- If you ask them how they do, what they do, they can tell you.
- They know that behind great performance is great process.