Edgar L. Smith Jr. constantly relies on his 25-plus years of sales and marketing experience to drive his company’s revenue growth. As CEO of World Pac Paper L.L.C. (No. 71 on the BE Industrial/Service Companies list with $38.8 million in revenues), Smith expects that growth to continue and projects revenues of more than $42 million by year’s end. Prior to launching World Pac in 2004, Smith was a vice president, national sales with Coca-Cola North America.
Selling, unlike what most people think, is a process, just as manufacturing is, Smith says. “You don’t just show up and sell something.” Here are some sales tips the veteran salesman has to offer:
Plan things out. It all starts with a lot of pre-call activity – the planning piece. “You’ve got to set the call and the meeting objectives, plan the routing of your calls. Put together a collection of calls in an area (or cluster) that you can visit, to minimize drive/travel time and maximize call time with the prospect or customer. This is effective and efficient time and sales territory management. You must schedule in the time factor. so the routing of calls I think is very important.
Anticipate questions in advance. What particular needs and/or solutions will be discussed? What is the ideal prospect or customer commitment that you would like to gain? Is there a minimum acceptable commitment? What information do you what to learn during this sales call? What particular information do you wish to communicate during this sales call? What are the potential, or possible, sales objectives or issues? What are your potential or possible responses?
Increase awareness. Use certain interactions/opportunities to elevate the prospects/customers awareness of the value that they do, or could receive from doing business with you and your company. Anticipate questions in advance. If a client has a question, be prepared to answer it right then and there, if possible. If you don’t know, let them know that you will find out and get right back to them with an answer. “We are always cognizant of the time factor. You know our prospects and customers obviously have time constraints,” says Smith. We are always sure to assemble the needed materials – various samples and presentations that we might will be presenting.
Establish a rapport. Allow 5 to 10 minutes to do this and exchange pleasantries. People like to talk about themselves and their companies and a good salesperson will use this time to break the ice. Smith says, “Until they are truly sold on you, they’re probably not going to buy anything from you or your company, your organization.” Then identify a reason to go to the next step—a mutual need for advancing/continuing the process. Following that, understand the decision-making process at the company, along with who the key decision-makers are, as well as any competitors that may be involved.
Build credibility. You can do this by either showing or demonstrating in-depth knowledge of your business and their products and industry. “I really don’t care what it is you are selling—it all has its own set of complexities, complications, features, and benefits, etc.,” says Smith. “As the subject matter expert, you really have to understand that you’ve got to instill that confidence with that prospect or that customer.”
Identify the needs and opportunities in order to generate solutions. Work diligently to understand the overall situation. Know what exactly they are looking for. “Sell to the needs. You’ve got to see the opportunities as the prospect or the customer sees them and align with them on the highest leverage opportunities,” says Smith. “You’ve got to prioritize the various solutions.”
Identify reasons to go to the next step. “This is where you outline the mutual need for advancing and continuing the process,” explains Smith. Things to determine: Who’s going to actually be involved? Who’s going to be present? Who are the key decision makers, as well as any other competitors that might be involved?
Close the deal. You’ve got your pre-sell strategy and prepared your customer-focused presentation, complete with your capabilities statement and unique value proposition. You’ve summed up all the various features and benefits, answering all questions and handling objections. Now it’s time to close. “You’ve got to confirm any and all agreements and mutual commitments around that opportunity and that business, and then you work towards the actual implementation, developing, and executing of the plan and reviewing the results against mutually agreed upon measures, or metrics, of success.”