Sales is hard.
It’s hard because prospects are wary of salespeople, it’s hard because even a 5-second lapse in judgement can lose a deal, and it’s hard because no one conversation will ever be the same as previous conversations.
The good news is that a ton of smart people with decades of sales experience have shared their best sales techniques with the world.
And in this guide, we’re going to pass them on to you.
Whether you’re a salesperson looking to improve your performance or a sales manager looking to improve the performance of your team, you’re sure to find some value among these 9 tried-and-true sales techniques.
What is Sales?
It might seem like a silly question — after all, you’re here to find sales techniques.
But let’s just step back for a moment.
What is sales… really?
Think about the last time you bought a car.
If the salesperson had been impatient or rude, you probably would have gone to buy a car somewhere else. Why? The sales person’s rudeness has nothing to do with the quality of the cars they sell. And leaving to go somewhere else just takes valuable time out of your day.
And yet, in the moment, none of that matters.
You’d leave because sales isn’t just about the product, it’s about the people.
If that weren’t true, then there’d be no need for salespeople — send the AI to do the job.
Of course, you’d also leave if they tried to charge you a premium price for a beat-up car, even if you liked the salesperson.
Both pieces matter: product and person.
The question we have to answer, then is, how do you build trust with the prospect and also, how do you show them the value of what you’re proposing?
That’s what the 9 sales techniques below are going to show you how to do. But before we get to that, here’s a quick tip for building rapport.
The Best Way To Build Rapport
Many salespeople have wondered about the best way to quickly build rapport with a new prospect.
The answer is actually pretty simple — and it’s something that many salespeople likely do without even thinking about it.
Here’s the trick.
When you hop on a call with a new prospect, don’t jump straight into business talk (unless it’s clear that they are in a hurry and want to get straight to it).
Instead, engage in a bit of banter that makes you feel more relatable, like a real person rather than a mere function of the business.
When the prospect inevitably asks, “How are you?”, share just a tad more than they bargained for — “Oh, I’m good. Just getting our house prepared for a big snowstorm that’s about to hit” or “I’m doing well. Just trying to stay awake today. Haha! The kiddos were up at the crack of dawn this morning.”
These pleasantries open the door for more honest and human communication between you and the prospect — it also indicates that you’re not in a hurry or desperate to make the sale.
In other words, the prospect won’t see you as just another sleazy salesperson.
I do this all the time in my freelancing business — mostly because it’s just a part of my personality — and it builds rapport faster than any other sales technique I’ve seen.
Try it out for yourself!
Now… onto the 9 tried-and-true sales techniques!
1. Understand Your Value Ladder
The “Value Ladder” is a concept that Russell Brunson — the fearless founder of ClickFunnels — introduced in his book, DotCom Secrets (you can get a free copy over here).
And it’s a valuable concept for salespeople to understand.
The Value Ladder is the intended buying journey that customers go on inside of a company’s ecosystem of products and services.
The template looks like this — each step represents an offer and the goal is to ascend new customers upward in value and price toward your highest tier offer. Meanwhile, it’s a good idea to have a continuity program (like a monthly subscription), this is indicated by the arrows and money symbols moving left to right on the bottom.
What does your company’s value ladder look like?
Understanding the entire value ladder makes it so that, at a glance, you can identify where a prospect or customers sits — what products have they purchased before? What comes next? What challenges are they most likely dealing with right now?
The value ladder works for any business and any industry.
Here’s the value ladder we created for our DotCom Secrets launch…
And here’s the value ladder that many dentist’s offices use (unknowingly)…
Here’s a video from Russell Brunson that dives into more detail…
2. Find Your “Blue Ocean”
Like every other business in America, you have competitors — companies that offer similar products or services. More importantly, companies that your prospects are very likely aware of.
So here’s a question: why should the prospect work with you instead of your competitor?
As a salesperson, you need a clear answer to that question.
The concept of a “Blue Ocean” was introduced in Russell Brunson’s book, Expert Secrets (get your free copy over here). If a red ocean indicates sharks (i.e. competitors), then a blue ocean indicates no sharks (i.e. an untapped market).
This concept applies to both the overall niche of your business and the differentiators between you and your competitors.
Maybe your target market is slightly different than your competitors, maybe your software has more functionality, maybe your company has more spirit, or maybe your customer support is far better.
There are a lot of ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. The important thing is that you do… so that when the prospect asks, “What makes you special?” you have an answer.
3. Start With a Sales Funnel
The sales process starts with lead-gen.
Before you or another salesperson can hop on a call with a prospect, they’ve got to give the business their contact information, or they’ve got to call the business.
How does that happen?
Well, in a perfect world, the prospect sees an advertisement, goes to your website, converts (opts in, buys, starts a free trial, etc), and then they call you or you call them.
But there’s a hitch.
Namely, that websites are extremely ineffective at generating leads — they encourage visitors to browse… which always results in less conversions.
In fact, I recently asked a Product Manager at The Hustle — a newsletter with more than 1.5 million people — for feedback on one of my own landing pages and this is what he said…
“Nice, I like the page. One more tip I’d point out — don’t let users navigate away from the entry form. I’m not sure if you’re using the homepage as the primary signup form, but it helps alot if you don’t give people the option to navigate to ‘about’ or ‘archive.’”
And we only had two navigation options on our homepage — according to him, even that was too much.
Additionally, we’ve run hundreds of tests here at ClickFunnels and one truth always stares us dead in the face — if you want people to convert, don’t use navigation.
That’s where the sales funnel comes in.
Where a website is basically just a digital brochure, a sales funnel is a series of pages that guide the visitor toward taking one specific action (opting in, scheduling a call, registering for a webinar, buying a product, etc).
By removing distractions and focussing every element on just one goal, sales funnels perform much better than websites.
And there are different sales funnels for different things.
You can use sales funnels to sell frontend products and generate leads for higher tier products (which can then pass on to a salesperson).
The sales funnel you use will depend on the goal of your current campaign. ClickFunnels’ members get access to 20+ sales funnel templates and there’s sure to be one that fits your needs — you can try us out for free over here.
4. Contact Leads Within 5 Minutes
The real magic of sales happens after a lead comes through.
And our first tip as it pertains to selling to someone is to contact the lead as soon as possible.
If someone just purchased your frontend product, then that might trigger an email sequence that introduces your brand and gradually guides them to the next step on your Value Ladder.
If someone signed up to learn more about your high-ticket service, then a phone call is more appropriate.
Whatever the case, the data suggests that sooner is better.
So turn on notifications, leave a little room in your schedule for unexpected calls, and be prepared to follow up quickly with leads that have shown interest in your most expensive and valuable products or services.
5. Follow Up 5 Times or More
As we’ve discussed in many blog posts before, there’s no such thing as a sales process that converts 100% of convert-able prospects on the first pass.
Some people need more time — to understand what you’re offering, to learn about your brand, to consider other options — before they take the leap.
That’s why follow up is a standard part of most pipelines, and it should be a part of yours.
Feast your eyes…
In other words, you should follow up with prospects at least five times… and maybe up to 12 times.
That might seem like too much, but keep in mind that these follow-ups can happen across many different mediums — email, text, phone calls, direct messages, even Facebook retargeting — and over a significant period of time, sometimes a year or more.
The important thing is that you have a clear-cut follow-up system in place so that leads don’t fall through the cracks.
The lowest hanging fruit would be to create an email sequence that triggers when prospects or customers take a specific action — abandon their cart, request more information, become a new customer, etc.
Additionally, you could create a more complex follow-up pipeline inside of a CRM like Keap or HubSpot.
6. Become an Expert, Closer, or Consultant
Salespeople and marketers have often wondered, what’s the best personality for a salesperson to have?
Well, Harvard Business Review has the answer. Lynette Ryals and Iain Davies observed 800 salespeople on live sales calls and came up with eight different sales personalities.
Three of those personalities outperformed the other five.
They were: expert, closer, and consultants.
Here are the definitions…
Experts “make selling seem effortless, keep customers happy, and consistently outperform their peers.”
Closers “pull off some very big deals (typically in product sales rather in service sales) and can effectively counter customer objections.But their smooth-talking style puts some customers off.”
Consultants “listen well and are good problem solvers; they develop solutions that meet their customer’s needs. But they tend to be one-dimensional and to forgo valuable case examples that could boost sales.”
The other five sales types were…
Here’s what the researchers said…
“We discovered eight sales types. The bad news is that only three of them—accounting for a mere 37% of salespeople—were consistently effective. What’s more, some of the behaviors of the remaining 63% actually drove down performance.”
But don’t worry if one of those top-performing buckets is a little unnatural for you. They continue,
“But there’s good news, too: The eight types represent behavioral tendencies, not set-in-stone personalities. Managers can effect changes in their current salespeople and recruit better team members in the future if they understand the eight types.”
It’s also important to note by which qualities the salespeople were graded; seven in particular. Meeting prep, customer interaction, company presentation, presentation & rapport, the sales pitch, storytelling, and rising to the challenge.
As you can see below, Experts excelled at all of those things, while Closers and Consultants struggled most with Storytelling and Company Presentation.
The best salespeople are balanced and excel at all seven of those skills — so it’s worth doing an honest examination of yourself to determine where you excel and what you need to work on.
7. Ask More, Talk Less
As a salesperson, your job is to convince the prospect — so long as it’s a fit — to buy a product or service.
And since convincing requires conversation, you might think that talking is the best way to accomplish that goal.
But really, listening and asking questions is much more effective.
In fact, top salespeople tend to ask more questions and be less pushy than their peers.
This is called the Sandler Sales Method, and it’s very effective.
“The Sandler Selling System, developed in 1967 by David Sandler, focuses on having sales reps act as a consultant rather than a pushy salesperson. This strategy concentrates on asking the right questions during the qualifying process instead of pushing a product on someone who doesn’t need it.”
There’s a few reasons this system is effective.
First and foremost, it feels good to talk about ourselves — and so when you ask prospects about themselves and their businesses, you’re putting them in a good mood.
A mood that’s going to be more receptive to your suggestions.
Second, questions help you understand the prospect — what objections they might have, what their budget might look like, and which product or service is going to be the best fit for them.
Imagine if the prospect handed you that information on a silver platter?
With well-timed questions, they will.
8. Manage Your Expectations
Every time that you meet with a prospect, you’re entering into that conversation, for better or worse, with all of the day’s baggage in tow.
Maybe, for example, you and your spouse got into a fight this morning and so you’re not feeling as patient as usual — obviously, that can have a negative impact on how you interact with the prospect.
And so another sales technique that every salesperson must learn is what Jim Camp, the author of Start With No, calls “blank slating.”
Blank slating is the process of ridding yourself of expectations, assumptions, and baggage before a sales interaction.
Here’s Jim Camp:
“Your ability to blank slate is directly related to your ability to rid yourself of expectations and assumptions, two very bad words in my system of negotiation.”
“But even if you’re good at blank slating, have no expectations and no assumptions, listen well, take great notes, refrain from excessive talking, and don’t spill beans — even if you’re the perfect blank slater, the world outside the negotiation can still intrude on your ability to blank slate. If you’re overly tired, it’s difficult to focus.”
So before every sales meeting, take a deep breath, do away with expectations, and then enter the room.
9. Identify Level of Awareness
Whether you’re speaking directly with a prospect or crafting sales copy for a landing page, how do you know where to start?
Obviously, you want to meet the prospect where they’re at.
So where is the prospect?
There are different levels of awareness when it comes to sales and marketing — in fact, Eugene Swartz’s “Five Levels of Awareness” are as follows…
- Unaware — No idea what the problem is or why your company exists.
- Problem Aware — Understands they have a problem but doesn’t know how your company can help.
- Solution Aware — Understands they have a problem and they know the solution, but they don’t know what business can help them.
- Product Aware — They know that your product can help them, but might not understand the specifics.
- Most Aware — They are completely aware of how your product can help them and just waiting for the right time to buy.
As a salesperson, how you treat each of those people is going to be a little bit different.
Someone who’s only problem aware will need to understand what your product does and why it can help them while someone who’s product aware might be irritated by such chatter and want to discuss how they can get a good deal.
But how do you know which level of awareness a prospect is at?
Well, it depends on how advanced your internal sales systems are.
You can draw inferences from the interactions they’ve had with your business so far — the resources they’ve downloaded and products they’ve purchased. Other salespeople might have assigned a level of awareness to the prospect after a previous conversation. Or when all else fails, you can ask a few simple questions…
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- Are you familiar with what our company does?
Once you know where a prospect lies in their level of awareness, you’ll know where to start the conversation and you’ll have a much better chance of success because of it.
Sales is challenging.
But it’s also fun. And with the above 9 sales techniques at your disposal, you’ll be able to make more sales in less time.
Understand your value ladder, start with a sales funnel, follow up, ask questions, and ultimately, do what works.
What works for you might not be what works for someone else.
How do you find out what works for you?
Try, try, try.