When it comes to relationships between individuals, building trust isn’t a very difficult thing to do. It typically requires only a few points of relatability—movies or books you both enjoy, places you’ve visited, and so on—until a level of camaraderie is established.
The task becomes infinitely harder, however, when it comes to sales relationships.
People are naturally wary of someone who’s trying to sell them something—even if they want the product or service in question. To be successful, salespeople need to employ a set of sales tactics that enables them to chip away at the doubt and build a trusting relationship that benefits both them and the buyer.
In this article, we’ll discuss why tactical selling matters, review different sales tactics that work, and explain how to avoid high-pressure sales tactics that can break trust. We’ll also touch on sales software that can give some extra muscle to your sales tactics so you can make the most of your practiced approaches.
What are sales tactics?
Sales tactics are actions that are strategically designed to build trust with potential customers and inspire them to buy with clarity and confidence. Whatever industry you’re in, there are proven approaches that resonate with customers—as well as dangerous methods that are guaranteed to push them away.
Why do you need sales tactics?
Salespeople are a special breed. They’re competitive but empathetic, curious but persuasive. Whether your sales skills are innate or learned through experience, you can’t expect them to do all the heavy lifting for you. Closing sales is the product of skill and strategy—you need both to successfully convince a prospect to make a purchase.
Unfortunately, it takes only one experience with an unethical salesperson to put a customer on guard. Pushy tactics might work in making sales in the short term, but they rarely ever amount to a net benefit in the end. Ethical sales tactics, however, will help you eliminate distrust, move prospects through the pipeline, and establish a positive brand reputation.
What is ethical selling?
There are a few negative stereotypes out there surrounding the sales profession. In the worst stereotypes, the salesperson is viewed as being manipulative, pushy, and dishonest. Unethical selling—or the use of high-pressure sales tactics—implies someone is only interested in personal gain and cares nothing about the customer’s needs or well-being.
Ethical selling, on the other hand, is an approach that favors honesty over trickery and persuasion over manipulation. It’s all about keeping the prospect’s best interests at heart and doing your utmost to be truthful about how your product or service can improve their lives.
Of course, it can be difficult to walk the line between looking out for your prospects and making sure you’re hitting your quotas. No matter how badly you want to close a deal, keep in mind that ethical selling not only preserves your personal integrity, but also protects your business from legal troubles or negative attention.
Selling tactics that work (and some that don’t)
Unethical selling can do major long-term damage, especially if it’s brought to light. But ethical selling helps you establish a reputation for being trustworthy and reliable—something money can’t buy.
Below are some sales tactics that create trust, not trouble:
Listen to what your prospects are saying (and what they’re not)
Follow through on your promises
Mention the competition—but don’t belittle them
Know your numbers
Tell a compelling story
Wait for success before asking for referrals
Continue the relationship after closing
Speak clearly. When you’re talking on the phone, your voice is competing with other sounds and stimuli. If your listener has to work harder to understand what you’re saying, you’re already losing points. So speak loudly, clearly, and with intention. Mumbling makes you sound disinterested, and if you’re not interested in what you’re saying, why should they be?
Use a script. Remember that a good salesperson needs to listen—you can’t do that if you’re talking. Have a script with prepared questions and talking points so you don’t risk rambling on. Scripts are especially useful in SPIN selling, a technique that uses a sequence of questions to learn more about a prospect’s wants, needs, and pain points.
Try call recording. There are plenty of call recording tools available through CRM software. By capturing information in real time, you can skip the note-taking and focus your attention on the person you’re talking to. Not only will you come across as a fantastic listener, but you will also retain vital information that you can use to your advantage in the future.
Mirror your buyer’s behavior and energy. You don’t have to do a perfect imitation of them—that would be creepy. But matching their energy (as long as it’s positive) will put them at ease and help them relate to you. If they appear relaxed and easygoing, you should be, too. If they’re more tight-laced and professional, you’ll want to adopt a similar tone.
Treat everyone with respect. You want to make a good impression on the decision-maker, but everyone else you come across—the receptionist, janitor, or assistant—is still part of the business you’re trying to attract. They may not have decision-making power, but their opinion of you may still hold some weight.
Be curious. If you happen to be in their territory, that’s a prime opportunity to get your prospective customer to talk. Ask about their day-to-day operations, and show interest in how things are run. You may stumble upon a piece of information that you can use to make a connection between your product or service and your prospect.
- Telling prospects they have a problem when they don’t
- Using fear as a motivator
- Overpromising your product or service’s capabilities
- Pushing prospects to buy before they’re ready
- Ignoring or minimizing their objections
- Inflating stories of your success with other customers
This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes, salespeople are so fixated on an end result that they fail to listen in the moment. Consultative sales is all about practicing active listening with your prospects so you can focus on solutions in a customer-centric way.
Some prospects don’t always know what lies at the heart of their problem. When you ask the right sales questions and listen closely to the responses, you can read between the lines and pinpoint issues that the prospect wouldn’t even have identified without your help.
When you say you’re going to do something by a certain time, you need to follow through on that commitment. Apologies and excuses will do you no good after the fact. If you foresee that you can’t deliver by the expected time, you can proactively reach out and let the prospect know about the delay. This, at least, will show that you respect their time.
One way to make sure you’re delivering on your promises is to have an automated alert system that can remind you of your commitments. That way, you don’t have to rely on memory or Post-it notes.
Customers expect you to know the other players in your field. It shows that you’re an expert in your industry and that you know what to offer in order to stay competitive.
Still, you should only speak of the competition in terms of what makes you unique by comparison. If you criticize and belittle your competitors, you’ll come off as bitter or unprofessional (not a good look). Your customer doesn’t need to know what makes the competing businesses bad—they only need to know what makes your company superior.
When discussing the benefits your existing customers have experienced, always mention the hard data. While you don’t have to rattle off numbers like a calculator, knowing exactly how much your product or service has helped your customers will convince others that you can offer quantitative results.
Numbers and metrics convince, but stories compel. As you weave statistics into your conversation, you should also tell human-centric stories. People are logical and emotional, and you’re more likely to hit the mark if you appeal to both qualities.
Be prepared to talk about other customers who’ve faced similar problems, the product or service they purchased, and the success they’ve had with it. Relatable anecdotes and humor are key to building strong, trusting relationships. (It should go without saying, however, that your customer stories must always be 100-percent true.)
Referrals are a great way to gain new customers. Still, there’s a right time and a wrong time to ask for one. Wait until your customers have experienced success with your product or service before pursuing referrals.
Asking for a referral too soon implies that you don't care if your product or service has actually solved their problems. So, hold off until you’re certain that your customer is pleased with their results—if they are, they’ll most likely be happy to refer friends and family to you.
If someone is interested enough to do business with you once, you’re doing something right. So, why stop there?
There are various ways to keep your customers engaged even after the deal is closed. If you have a solid CRM, you can store and easily access detailed records of their interests and pain points. Using that information, you can notify customers of new products or services, special promotions, and exciting industry events.
No matter your prospect’s demeanor, always stay positive. This doesn’t mean that everything coming out of your mouth needs to be rainbows and sunshine—that can be just as off-putting as a bad attitude—but maintaining a positive mindset is crucial to making your buyer’s experience a good one.
Sales isn’t an easy profession. First, you must believe that your product or service is worth selling. Second, you have to believe that you’ve got what it takes to sell it. The good news is, there are several ways to boost positive thinking, and it can lead to massive personal and financial rewards.
Sales tactics to use over the phone
When meeting prospects in person, you have the benefit of being able to read body language and facial expressions, which helps you establish trust and credibility. But how do you achieve that on the phone?
In addition to the tactics mentioned above, here are some effective techniques for building rapport over the phone:
Direct sales tactics
Direct selling is the process of selling directly to customers in a non-retail environment. You have the benefit of seeing the buyer in person, so you can observe their facial expressions and body language. At the same time, you have to think fast on your feet and make adjustments on the fly.
Here are a few direct selling techniques to keep you relatable and on the ball:
High-pressure sales tactics to avoid
Unethical, high-pressure sales techniques cross the line between persuasion and manipulation. While these tactics may result in a sale, the short-term gain is usually overshadowed by the long-term damage that can be done.
Below are several sales tactics to stay away from if you want to create trust with your customers:
Few customers will make a purchase at the first opportunity. They need time to think, consider their options, and find the best fit. Still, overcoming sales objections should never involve unethical practices. Even if you land the sale, your shady tactics may come back to haunt you and your business later.
Incorporating sales tactics into business plans
Your business plan keeps you on track so you can continue selling and growing. And how you approach potential customers is a part of that plan. While each individual salesperson will have their own unique personality, it’s important to ensure your tactics are consistent with your brand voice and business goals.
Whatever sales techniques you plan to use, they must fit in with your process as a whole. This is especially true in businesses where a lead may speak to multiple salespeople. If that’s the case, having a well-organized and collaborative CRM is extremely helpful in streamlining the flow of information between sales reps.
With all your customer data accessible from one unified platform, any rep should be able to pick up where the last one left off. This makes it seamless and simple to continue moving leads through the pipeline.
Let Zendesk support your sales tactics
Regardless of the sales methodology you choose, using a CRM as a single source of truth is a surefire way to maximize the outcome of your sales tactics. Zendesk Sell gives you the tools you need to be proactive and responsive to customer needs and questions.
Request a Zendesk demo today to see how an end-to-end CRM can amplify your sales tactics and strengthen customer relationships.