Several years ago while driving from Jacksonville, Florida to Orlando with my boss, he explained to me why he was the world’s greatest salesperson.  

He said it boiled down to one thing, just one thing.  He was born with the “gift of gab.”  I couldn’t believe my ears and yet he was dead serious.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I’m not challenging the fact that he was born with the gift of gab.  What I am challenging is his statement that the gift of gab is the secret to sales success.  I’m going to give you a list of twenty principles I believe comprise the foundation of sales excellence.  Salespeople who effectively apply these principles are far and away the best salespeople in the world.  By the way, the gift of gab is not one of them.

  1. People buy the salesperson first.  Sell yourself and the sale of your product will come much easier.

  2. People buy from people they believe, like and trust (BLT).  Given the choice, all things being equal, you will always purchase from someone with whom you have a relationship.

  3. Effective follow-up (romancing the sale) greatly improves your closing ratio.  Being in front of the prospect as often as possible will help them make the right decision.

  4. People don’t buy if they have unresolved concerns about your product.  Get all concerns out on the table and work to resolve each one.

  5. Telling isn’t selling.  Knowing what your product can do has very little impact on making a sale.

  6. Problem-solving is basic to effective selling.  People typically make a purchase in order to solve a problem.  No problem, no sale.

  7. Understanding the prospect’s needs through effective questioning is critical to the sales process.  Give the prospect the opportunity to explain their specific needs before you tell them about your products.

  8. Present your products and services as a solution to the prospect’s needs.  Don’t discuss your products and services until you understand the specific needs of the prospect.

  9. Apply the principle of effective listening.  You will never truly understand the prospect's needs, wants and desires unless you ask effective questions and then listen intently to the answers.

  10. Understand all of the needs before you attempt to solve the problems.  Solving a single problem before all the problems have been revealed will limit your understanding of the total situation.

  11. Learn to effectively manage your time each day.  The majority of salespeople spend less than half their time effectively working their sales process.

  12. Schedule time each day to find new opportunities.  Opportunities can be found with existing customers as well as finding totally new prospects.

  13. Ask for referrals.  The majority of all sales opportunities never reach the point of solicitation.  Referrals close at a much higher ratio than cold calling or bidding.

  14. Know your products and services.  A prospects confidence can increase by as much as 75% when the salesperson knows their products.

  15. Know your competition.  The sales arena is similar to guerrilla warfare.  If you don’t know your competition, you will be beaten on every front.

  16. Sell the benefits over the features.  People are only interested in what the product will do for them (WIIFM: What's In It For Me).  The features will come as needed.

  17. Capture your prospect’s attention.  Most people are busy, unfocused, have short attention spans and want to get to the point.  Use a prop of some sort to capture their attention and cause them to want to know more.

  18. Always set the agenda.  Never leave an appointment without first setting the agenda for what will happen next and when.

  19. Keep score and hold yourself accountable.  Nothing is more critical to success than goal setting.  Set daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals.  Develop a game plan for the achievement of your goals and then hold yourself accountable.

  20. Dress for success.  The very first impression you make is visual.  If your customer or prospect is turned off because of your appearance, nothing you say will overcome that first negative impression.

This list of twenty principles is not inclusive.  It does, however, provide a foundation for many more principles and skills that can improve your overall sales performance.  In my sales training program, I cover more than one hundred and twenty different principles and skills.  Some are more important than others and the application of every principle and skill is not necessary to make each sale.  The important concept is to understand that effective selling is not just opening your mouth and letting the words fly.  Selling is comprised of the application of very specific principles and skills.  Use these twenty principles to shore up your sales foundation, allowing you to enjoy even greater sales success.