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Sales Haters: The 'S Word' Is Not an Expletive

What is it with the word 'sales' that makes otherwise talented executives run a mile? Too many managers think sales is about putting on a shiny suit and cold calling; actually it's just about effective relationships. Success at sales is about finding a currency of communication and engagement that works for you and your potential clients.

In 2010, the sales game is as tough as it's ever been, as clients look to pay less for products and services. I talked about this recently with Pascal Grierson who heads up SweetSpotMedia, a London-based business development agency. Grierson has spent over 20 years in sales roles, most recently working with brands and broadcasters to exploit new technology platforms -- including MTV, Guardian Media Group, Bauer and Global Radio. He's a talented sales guy with some straight-talking advice for anyone looking to master the 'S' word in a tough climate:

  1. Target carefully: When you're identifying targets, know your audience. Take time to understand their business so you can be sure they'll be interested in what you have to say, then tailor your message accordingly. Simple research can avoid embarrassment: for example don't approach a target offering web design services if they've just launched a new site.
  2. Sniff them out fast: Try to establish the likelihood of a successful sale as fast as possible. If it's going to be a 'no', get an understanding of why, but do it fast. There's nothing worse than a slow no.
  3. Be creative on price: Find creative ways to deliver what the client wants at a price they can afford. Often contracting them in for a longer period can satisfy their cash flow, and it means you still get to hit your targets. For example, if a client can't afford the monthly fee quoted, give them a discount and lock them in for 18 months rather than 12. You'll secure the same financial return in the end.
  4. Super-serve them: Give the client exceptional customer service and let them know you're there to help them make more money. If your product works for the client in bringing in extra revenue, ultimately they will keep spending with you for longer -- and spend more with you as the relationship deepens.
Sales doesn't have to be scary. This common-sense advice should help you get better at it.