You spend hours trying to close a deal, but the lead ultimately doesn’t agree to buy from you. You keep getting rejections over and over again, and you end the month without making a single sale. You can’t help but wonder: Am I doing something wrong? Why aren’t my sales techniques working?
If you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone—selling is hard. The key is knowing when to adapt your sales tactics. To help you see how you might shift your approach, we asked some top sales professionals to share their best advice and closing techniques. Win more deals by using these tried-and-true selling strategies that experienced salespeople use to convert more leads into customers.
Successful sales tactics to try next
1. Help your prospects discover their pain points
Set your brand apart from the competition by telling prospects how your company’s product or service solves their problems and meet their unique needs—including those they might not have even thought about yet.
“When you’re able to talk to your prospect about the pain point they haven’t considered before, you’re now being seen as an expert and an authority—which increases trust—so your prospect is more likely to buy from you,” says Shawn Plummer, CEO of The Annuity Expert.
This strategy, often referred to as the consultative sales approach, puts the salesperson in an advisor role and takes the sales pressure off both the customer and the sales agent.
When trying this, you might be tempted to create illusory problems for the prospect—don’t. People can sniff out when a brand is being inauthentic, and your message won’t resonate if it doesn’t relate to their true problems. Instead, gain a better understanding of your customers’ needs by asking questions about their pain points.
Ember Hansen, head of marketing and strategy at Biproxi, recommends asking questions like:
- What are your biggest challenges?
- What are the implications if you don’t solve them?
- What will it cost the business if you let this continue?
If your leads aren’t sure about their pain points, Plummer suggests giving your prospects a helping hand by “thinking about needs your prospect might not have considered before and explaining it to them.” Ask more open-ended questions to uncover the prospect's unknown pain points.
Say you’re a freight broker trying to understand the pain points of a shipper named Anna. You could ask two types of questions:
- Close-ended: “Anna, are you happy with the speed of your shipments?”
- Open-ended: “Anna, what don’t you like about the progression of your shipments?”
With the first question, Anna may decide to answer with a “yes” or a “no” and end the conversation. But if you ask the second question, you’re inviting Anna to voice her concerns about how she would like her shipments to move. From there, you can help her see how she could improve her shipment speed with your service.
2. Follow the 80-20 rule
The Pareto Principle states that 80 percent of consequences come from 20 percent of the causes. What does that mean in terms of sales? Focus on the 20 percent of leads who are most likely to convert.
To apply the 80-20 rule, you need to identify high-value leads worth chasing. Ruben Gamez, founder of SignWell, recommends starting with data.
“Find what kind of people are the most valuable customers in your company,” suggests Gamez. “Do they have anything in common? Once you spot a pattern, try to find similar people among your leads.”
Manually looking for similarities may work when you have a list of 10 leads. But if you’re like most sales leaders today, you probably have hundreds of leads to evaluate. A sales CRM like Zendesk Sell can help you quickly and easily find commonalities among potential customers. Use the tool to score leads and track opportunities as they move through the sales pipeline.
3. Don’t try to force a sale
When speaking with a lead, the pressure is on to close the deal so you can reach your sales quota. But winning a sale from a customer who isn’t the right fit for your product or service only leads to more problems down the road—it’s highly likely the customer will leave dissatisfied. Plus, the customer will create extra work for your team as they begin to realize the product or service isn’t what they needed.
“Saddling your customer experience and product teams with a service-intensive customer is a lose-lose,” says Hansen.
A better approach is to be pragmatic when you follow up with leads. Let them know if you think it’s a poor match, and send them to a business that can actually help them solve their problems. You stand to gain not only credibility, but also the trust of the lead. Even though they won’t end up buying your product or service, they may spread positive word of mouth.
“By being upfront and honest, you’ll either earn a friend who’ll send you referrals or get them to think differently about the problem they experience and how your product or solution solves that problem,” says Michael Defoe, a sales lead at Vanilla.
4. Sell with stories
Need to rescue a boring sales conversation? Tell a story to grab your lead’s attention and help them see how they could succeed with your product or service.
“People love stories,” says Shaun Heng, VP of growth and operations at CoinMarketCap. “They just resonate on a deep level, which is why storytelling and narration work in sales.”
A simple way to begin storytelling, according to Heng, is using “you” rather than “we” while speaking to your customer. “You” makes the customer the focus of the story, not your brand.
Heng also suggests making your customer the hero of your story.
“Frame your pitch with a narrative in which the hero (your customer) is armed with a new tool (your product or service) to overcome their challenges,” says Heng. “Lay out a real-life process that the customer can relate to, rather than an abstract concept that goes over their head.”
For a sales agent selling productivity tools, your story to a lead might be:
You’re bogged down by so many responsibilities and meetings that you get behind on work. You download a time-blocking app to bring you back on track. You use this tool to reclaim time and avoid pesky meetings that aren’t adding value. With the extra time on your hands, you complete all of your work plus extra tasks—making you an invaluable member of your company.
A simple story like this elevates your product from just another productivity tool to a necessity for your customer to succeed. Combine your story with a perfect sales presentation to animate your pitch even further.
You can also use stories to create the bandwagon effect, a psychological sales tactic where customers base their buying decisions on social proof. All you need to do is to tell a story of how another customer has succeeded with your product or service. By using testimonials and reviews as “stories” that appeal to a lead, you can spark curiosity and answer objections in a compelling way.
5. Mirror your lead
Imitate the behaviors and communication styles of potential leads to increase trust—and sales numbers.
“People always speak more openly and honestly with others who seem similar to them,” says David Marshall, founder and CEO of Performio. “Mirroring is a way in which to synthesize that feeling into something that boosts sales.”
Along with adjusting your body language, use prospects’ words to mirror them.
“Repeat back the last three to four words that your client or prospect has just said to you,” Marshall advises. “For example, if they say something like, ‘Business has been tough lately. We're having trouble generating leads,’ you might respond with, ‘I have a workaround solution for companies that have trouble generating leads.’ ”
Mirroring promotes active listening, too. You have to decide what’s worth repeating back instead of mindlessly reciting everything the customer said.
In general, mirroring is best done subtly in one-on-one conversations. Avoid making it obvious that you’re imitating a lead’s actions and words. Remember: The idea of mirroring is not to manipulate your prospect into making a purchase—it’s to build a meaningful connection.
6. ABC—always be curious
ABC is a popular acronym for “Always Be Closing.” Organizations often use this mantra to push their sales teams to use any means available to seal a deal and boost sales numbers.
But this saying is risky because it places your own goals in front of your potential customer’s needs and satisfaction. While taking calculated steps to close a deal is a great idea, you don’t want to become a sales-hungry monster who’s willing to do anything to raise your quota.
What’s a more powerful sales technique? Avoid the sales pitch—instead, always be curious about the lead and their company. Tripp Close, a senior account executive at ChartHop, recommends asking yourself these questions to understand your leads:
- What’s their day-to-day like?
- What impact are they trying to make?
- What are their challenges in hitting those goals, and where can we help?
- How can we provide value without asking them for anything first?
“You make a friend by gaining trust,” says Close. “If you do things the right way, the deal will come.”
By being curious, you also stand to uncover new clues about the lead that’ll help you better align to fit their needs. This investigation is critical, as it’s easy to lean on assumptions and offer potential customers uninformed solutions.
Show genuine curiosity about what brought the lead to your brand, and the connection will organically build.
“Taking a step back and focusing on the client’s ‘why’ (in a respectful manner) will help guide the rest of the conversation and enable the rep to connect value to pain points quicker,” says Ancy Joseph, head of sales and account management at Ramp.
Track performance to see which sales techniques work best
The only way to know which techniques are working well for your team is to monitor sales performance and key sales metrics. This is where customer relationship management (CRM) tools like Zendesk come in handy. With Zendesk Sell, a modern sales CRM, you can track customer interactions and keep a close eye on your sales pipeline. That data will help you determine which methodology is most effective in securing new customers.