The truly wise sales professional has a plan for any given scenario. The one constant for any situation is that your plan will change as the process develops. Adapting, improvising and being creative with a best laid out plan will improve your rate of selling success. The sooner you know that a single style, message, personality, position or attitude is possibly the least effective plan, the sooner you will become better at selling.

Young professionals thrive on training with emphasis on specific repeated tactics for every situation. Good, yes. Necessary, yes. Appropriate, yes. Such learned rules/protocols are better used for some disciplines than others. Quality control, lean manufacturing and supply chain management are all examples of following a particular set of guidelines, always. Consistency with these efforts is tantamount to attaining measurable consistency.

Sales training also has an important place, provided that a large portion of training is learning how to adapt, improvise and be creative for each sales encounter. This becomes more important as the sale becomes more complex. Selling is not a math problem that can be solved. It is an unwritten song with as many variables as adjusting notes on page. The same song can be played in virtually an infinite number of ways. Some versions of the tune are more tasteful to some than others. Finding the right tune played the right way for a given audience is what effective selling is like.

Below are seven aspects of selling that are most desirable to in order to yield best results each sales encounter.

  1. Know your Product
    Take the time to know precisely what it is that you are selling. Know the strengths and weaknesses of what is being offered. If you don’t know, find out. Above all do not expand on your product’s capabilities with uncertainty. Other than flat out lying, being wrong in front of a customer is the quickest way to not be invited back to heir house. It’s cliché, but know the features and benefits like the back of your hand.
  2. Know your Company
    Understand completely what your company expects from a salesperson. know any limitations in price and delivery negotiations. Recognize the minutia of what is acceptable and what is not. This allows you to be creative without surprising anyone. Most importantly, keep your boss and others impacted by any commitments in the loop. It’s amazing yet predictable the difference in reaction from someone who knows ahead of time what is going on from someone who was in the dark. A team player will get better support than the rogue every time; even if that is perceived.
  3. Know your Market
    This falls into the homework category. Take advantage of those you work with, those who have been in the business for a while as well as branching out for the latest industry news and trends in your selling environment. Most importantly, use your interaction with customers to not only gain market knowledge, but also how they fit into their chosen field. This is common sense, but can be critical to starting or maintaining a conversation. Coming across as naive or knowledge void in your customer’s arena they operate in is another way to get taken off the guest list.
  4. Know your Competition
    Who are you potentially going up against? Do you know the strengths and weaknesses of what they offer as well as you know yours? How do you stack up in comparison to a given situation? This can be tricky, but not impossible. This knowledge is the lock and key variety. Keep it to yourself, but use the knowledge when and if it is appropriate. Always avoid discussing a competitor with a customer. Be respectful and change the subject, but register what was said. It may be useful someday. Use this knowledge to your advantage proactively. This perhaps can be used to highlight a product feature of interest where your competitor is lacking. Sway conversations about your weakness vis-a-vis the competitor back to something more favorable. Talk strengths relative to the competition, avoid comparative weaknesses.
  5. Know your Customer
    This is number five on the list, but is the number one priority when selling.  A very common approach to many sales “pros” is to let the customer know, up front, how great your product is and why they need it. This approach would always get an “F” in my class as you should not introduce any details (especially ones from a can) unless asked to or if later in the conversation, a point can be made by bringing this up. First and foremost, know the players you are dealing with. Do nothing but listen and absorb during the first interaction(s). Ask them personal questions and learn about what their needs are. Only offer information they ask you for. Expansion of such a request may work sometimes, but is more likely to fall on deaf ears. By getting to know them personally, you will that be able to alter an approach for that individual. For example, egoists are the single easiest personality types to deal with as you know exactly what they want to hear and most of the time do not recognize gratuitous praise. In the words of a great mentor of mine: “just give them a pat on the po-po.”
  6. Know the Situation
    Now that the scene is set, it is time to use all this for situational assessment. Exploit and advantages you may have with your products. Discover what incentives may be used without sacrificing margin if possible. By now you should know what the price point needs to be.Is delivery critical? Are other commercial terms a barrier to closing? Ask directly, what is your customer’s idea of a successful conclusion. If they cannot answer, you have more work to do. Find out what influences are at work outside of your contact. If there are other decision influences, find out what they are. All this time, maintain an open line to your company with accurate feedback about what stage of the process you are in. Remain positive and remember communication helps get support when needed.
  7. Know the Intangibles
    Every sale has intangibles. This is when the “adapt and be creative” training comes into play. Remember to measure where you are in the process. Is it moving forward or stalled? Do you suspect there is waning interest? Ask if this is the case and why. This can tell you to push, back off or walk away. There is nothing wrong to ask, early in the process, if you can count on them to say no when you are out of consideration. Many folks drag it along as a courtesy, but this only wastes valuable time on both sides. The best possible way to know the intangibles in a particular situation is to just listen. It can be as simple as reading if a lunch invitation is a useful tactic to learn something outside the meeting room. You make this call as your situational assessment should tell you. The more intangibles you know, the better prepared you will be to offer animprovisedd solution.

Prepare, plan, listen, adjust, start over. Every new sales opportunity starts with a blank piece of paper. It’s your job to write the most fitting song for your audience.