Increase sales by getting back to basics

Are your sales slumping but you cannot figure out why? Then stop looking at the macro and break the sales process down into its component parts. In order to improve your company’s sales performance, try revisiting the basics. Below are tips for analyzing and improving presentations, proposals, negotiations, closing, and more.


Qualified sales opportunities can be quickly sunk by ineffective or downright poor presentations. If your analysis reveals an inordinately high number of qualified opportunities not making it to the proposal and negotiation rounds, the problem may be with some of your reps’ presentation skills. Volumes have been written about how to make an effective presentation, but the key for you as a business owner is to make sure you get out there with your reps and observe how they’re presenting. You’ll quickly see both in your reps’ presentations, and the impact it has on their audiences, whether you have a problem that needs to be addressed. If you do, and the problem is something that can be easily corrected (e.g., a rep is constantly interrupting someone), the solution could be as simple as pointing out a bad habit she maybe unaware of. If it’s more complicated (e.g., the presentation is too product-focused and not aligned with the prospect’s needs), some in-depth training in preparing the presentation may be in order. Or perhaps you notice that some in the audience are tuning out; coach your salesperson on how to bring a wayward audience member back to attention.


For many salespeople, a proposal is nothing more than a 1- or 2-pager with the price and terms of the proposed purchase. For a product or service selling in the hundreds of dollars, this is probably acceptable. For products or services costing thousands of dollars, it’s not. A proposal is a selling tool, aimed more at the person who will be making the decision, not at the person who’s your primary contact. The proposals your salespeople submit need to be a much more comprehensive document that helps them sell the benefits and value for which you’re charging their prospects. Create a proposal template for your team to use that contains the elements needed to sell the buyer on your offering. Among the items you’ll want to include are the objectives the prospect wants to achieve with this purchase, your solution and how it will help them achieve their objectives (and why it’s the best option), investment and return-on-investment information, and a description of how and when your product or service will be delivered, installed, or implemented.


Few people are born with negotiating know-how, including your salespeople. If you are finding that your reps are giving away profit with no resistance in order to win deals, some basic negotiation-skills training is in order. One tenet that your salespeople should always follow is to never give away anything without getting something of equivalent or greater value in return. Another is to avoid making large concessions, and instead make several small ones (it makes it seem as if you’re giving away a lot, which increases your own leverage). Instead of just handing over a discount, take the opportunity to negotiate. For example, your prospect asks you for a 10% discount. In return for a significant concession from them (a two-year contract instead of a one-year contract), you concede on a discount during the negotiation.


Remarkably, many a sale is lost simply because the salesperson doesn’t ask for the order. Salespeople need to be able to sense when a prospect is ready to buy (and also when he’s not). Since prospects don’t usually volunteer that they’re ready to buy, it’s incumbent upon the salesperson to be proactive and ask for the order. Coach them to ask questions such as, “If you have no remaining concerns, let’s move forward and get you using your new product/service…” In fact, when you are in the field with your reps, listen to determine if they are using trial closes such as, “so, what do you think so far?” throughout the process to gain commitment throughout the sales cycle, which makes asking the ultimate commitment question that much easier.

Resistance-handling abilities

Prospect resistance is a part of life in sales. Your salespeople need to be well trained in how to skillfully, respectfully, and confidently handle objections, skepticism, and indifference. Role playing on a Friday afternoon is a great way to perfect these skills, and have some end-of-the-week fun while doing so. 

Post-closing activities

Are your reps ensuring customer satisfaction and farming for referrals after they close a sale? The sales transaction doesn’t end with the close. Customers occasionally have “buyer’s regret.” To head this off, make sure your salespeople understand the importance of following through after the sale to ensure customer satisfaction before walking away and moving on to the next prospect.

When they are fighting for every dollar they bring in, a back-to-basics prescription for each aspect of the sales process can help your sales team perform they way you, and they, expect.