Sales · Startups

What small things can I do to improve sales technique?

Nate Holbrook Founder / CEO at Lilac

July 17th, 2015

Successful salespeople tend to have their own individual technique that makes them good at what they do. But what are some things a newer salesperson can do to improve their skills? What exercises or routines can I do to improve my own skills when sales is not my first trade?

Katherine Chalmers B2B software marketing executive

July 17th, 2015

Read "The New Strategic Selling."  The Miller Heiman approach is very powerful.  All the truly great sales people I know use this trusted advisor strategy and systematic process for partnering with their customers from a place of integrity, expertise, and longterm relationship building.

Richard Janezic Growth and Digital Strategy, Sales, and Services; Transformations in Tech, Healthcare, Life Sciences

July 17th, 2015


Sales is about helping people solve problems (reduce cost, gain capabilities, streamline operations, reduce friction, etc) with your product (solution, service, etc). Many salespeople think they need to be 'product' experts to be successful, which is important. More important is to be a 'problem' expert, that is, understanding, and helping a prospect to understanding the depth, magnitude, persistence, consequences of their problem, and why change is not only possible, it is well worth the change (purchasing something, changing processes, etc). Understanding the financial, operational, risk, and convenience problems of their current state (without you), and being able to step through and validate with them the depth, clarity and consequence of continuing on without your 'solution' and making it clear and uncomplicated for them is what you're trying to accomplish. Hope that helps.


July 17th, 2015

Hi Nate,

Here’s a few off the top of my head:

Be Listening: ask more leading questions and get your prospect talking. That old saying “you have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason” rule really applies here. Come to sales calls prepared to listen.

Be Knowledgeable: know your product or service inside and out.  Today’s world is all about delivering MORE value to your clients. If every sales call you have to bring 1 or 2 more technical resources, why does the client need you? Invest in continuing education and training.

Be Responsive. No more than 24 hours without a response. Responses should be same day if anything. Someone is always hungrier if you’re not.

Be Honest. People aren’t dumb and can smell BS. If you don’t know an answer to a client question, say “I don’t know, but I have made a note and will get an answer back to you by 5pm”.

Set Realistic Expectations.  Better to under-promise and over-deliver than vice-versa.

Good luck selling!

Ernie Beck

Mike Rozlog Advisor at TechColumbus

July 17th, 2015

Some of the best sales people I have had the pleasure of working with and around are people who follow-up.  The reason a sales person is in front of a potential buyer is because they have a need, if there is no need, there is no sale, 99% of the time.  If a sales person says, "I will call you next week..." they better call next week and be ready to move to the next steps.  I know if sounds basic, but talk to buyers, they will tell you that most sales people don't follow-up on what they state.

Peter Johnston Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.

October 25th, 2015

One simple thing will make the biggest difference.

Stop Selling and start communicating.

In the industrial age, the only way to success was to spend fortunes on setting up a production line and have goods pouring off it in large numbers. So selling came to the fore as the way of stopping these things cluttering up the company car park when they overflowed the warehouse.

We're not in that age anymore.

We're in an age when you can actually find out what your customer wants, needs and is prepared to pay for. How they want to pay, how it fits their lifestyle and aspirations and even who they'll show it off to.

So find one customer. Your best friend perhaps. Analyse why he/she likes what you've produced. What they think it is worth. What would make it better than everything else they're considering. And what will make them choose your item over the other big option - buying nothing. Then produce that better item for the price they think it is worth (you may need to make a few compromises).

Now you've done that, you no longer need to sell - you only need to communicate. When they find it, they'll buy it. And they'll tell their friends.

They call this inbound marketing. 
It has 3 parts - communicating, making it easy to buy and making it easy to share.
The last is most important, because it is what builds viral growth.

Think about a market. People show up because they know they'll find what they want. If yours looks most attractive, that will be yours. At the end there are a few people who have to shout, to discount, to give stuff away and ultimately to throw it in the trash.

The only people having to sell are the people who have failed at marketing.

Laurelle Johnson, MBA

July 17th, 2015

Jeff Levine - So true!!! 

Richard Harris Top 25 Inside Sales Leader, Public Speaker, 40 Most Inspiring Leader, Sales Trainer, Start-Up Advisor, SalesHacker

July 17th, 2015

Richard is spot on. It's not about product expertise, its about problem solving. What this really means is that good sales people are naturally curious and display a strong sense of empathy when speaking with clients. 

As for your statement, "Successful salespeople tend to have their own individual technique that makes them good at what they do." 

This is a myth. Good sales people have adopted a sales process and methodology. Sales people by nature are highly emotional beings even though some say they are not. They also tend to hold their "secrets" (another myth) close to the vest because they fear someone is going to steal their playbook and beat them. 

Whether it's Miller-Heiman, Sandler, The Challenger Sale, they all have a methodology they follow. Some will say they "created their own", that is probably partially true, but 70% will come from real methodologies.

So back to your original question... "But what are some things a newer salesperson can do to improve their skills? What exercises or routines can I do to improve my own skills when sales is not my first trade?"

Find a coach or mentor. Someone who is willing to teach you the things about sales processes and methodologies. 

Also, keep reading, I like The Sandler Rules and Challenger Sale these days. 

Note one thing... Sales is not something you are going to learn from a book and then implement. I see this all the time with CEO's and founders who are engineers first. They think they can read it and just implement it. That's possible but not probable. You need experience to get better just like everything else in life. 

Hope this helps.


July 18th, 2015

The Sandler system.  A sales coach is the fastest way.

Jeff Levine Provocateur

July 17th, 2015

Hey Founders,

How'd you get better at your pitch?

For a new salesperson, or an experienced one with a new product, the fastest and most assured way to get better is the following 3 step approach: 
1. Practice
2. Practice
3. Practice

With friends, family, peers, coworkers, ...

Laurelle Johnson, MBA

July 17th, 2015

All great suggestions.  I would add to that a classic on human interaction:  "How to win friends and influence people".  It sound as if it's a book on manipulating people, but quite frankly it has some great technics on listening (mentioned above), solving problems (mentioned above) and being able to 'reflect back' what to you have hear to make sure you have listened properly to the client.