In today’s small business world, the art of selling is changing. In order to adapt and succeed, your business may need to overhaul its sales skills and adapt new methods to meet the changing needs and expectations of customers.

Here are some steps that can help you and your business become better at selling:

Sale Percentage1. Become a Multi-Channel Presentation Expert: A variety of online tools are helping to change how businesses sell. These include such things as interactive video and web conferencing tools that have replaced some in-person meetings. Taking the time to organize, design and build strong online presentations will quickly convert prospects into buyers. Check out Brainshark (www.brainshark.com) and Knowledge Vision (www.knowledgevision.com) which offer easy ways to create really cool online sales presentations that combine different multimedia elements.

2. Understand what Customers Really Care About: For starters, you might want to understand what they do NOT care about, such as how “great” your service is, how much “better” you are at everything, and whether they might have been your customer in the past. Words such as better, more comprehensive, faster and a lot of other adjectives are hollow unless you can explain benefits that truly matter to customers. Loyalty runs thin these days, and old sales platitudes fall flat. What customers do care about is how smart you are about what they need; how you can satisfy those needs; and how strong of a reputation you’ve built with people they might know.

3. Be a Research Racehorse: Given the multitude of information available online, you must come to the table equipped with a depth of information and knowledge about your target customers that proves your interest and attracts the prospect’s attention. One surefire way to gather information about your customers is to ask them. Try surveys, or just informal conversations. If you sell business-to-business, visit websites of typical businesses and study them for details of how they operate and what’s most important to them. It’s not the first three minutes of a sales conversation that are most important – it’s the three days of preparation you put into it that really matters.

4. Create Contagious Content: Increase your credibility and build awareness of your products or services by publishing content relevant to your customers. This is easier than ever to do online. Start a blog, a newsletter, or contribute to community sites in your industry or profession. Regularly post comments and participate in web communities and forums where your customers also participate. For many business professionals, LinkedIn is another place where you can publish thought leadership articles and gain your own following.

5. Define and Sync your Messages: Craft a short, compelling “elevator pitch” that captures the essence of what you offer. Then stick with it. Use the same language on your website, in sales brochures, signage, emails, social media profiles, and anywhere else you talk about your business or interact with customers. Your messaging methods should all work in tandem. This will give prospects a clear and consistent picture of who you are. And that makes selling a little easier.

6. Find the Real Buyers: Especially in the business-to-business world, more people today are involved in the decision-making process — but fewer of those individuals actually have the power to make a purchase decision. Learn to recognize the decision makers and bypass others without making them mad. One trick is to avoid leaving “tracks” such as emails and voice messages that can be forwarded back to the non-decision makers. Once you contact a decision maker, always mention the name of the non-decision maker and compliment their efforts, but say why you are working around them.

7. Follow-up is critical: Even if you hear “no”, that may be temporary. Things change. Consistent and respectful follow-up (not overly aggressive) leads to more closed sales.

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