Streetwise Advice: Sales Techniques

Doing It Yourself

You might be wondering whether you should hire an experienced salesperson. The most important key to sales success isn’t sales talent or experience. It’s enthusiasm for your product or service. No one will have more interest in your product than you, and no one will be able to sell your product or service better than you. So practice your sales skills and get ready to hit the road!

“But I can’t sell!”

A lot of people hate the idea of “being a salesperson” or are scared of it. But you need to give it a try. With practice, you’ll get better; with improvement, you’ll gain confidence; and with a sale, you’ll be flying!


The hardest part of selling is handling rejection. The rejection cycle begins when you start to set up appointments, continues through the presentation cycle, and will occur even when you think you’re just about to close a sale.

If you can’t close a sale, don’t take it personally. No one closes every sale. A certain percentage of your prospects are not going to buy your product or service no matter how wonderful your presentation is or how great a salesperson you are. Accept this. On average, you are going to get rejected a certain number of times for each sale you make. Next time around, think of the failed sales call as being one step closer to a successful one!

Voice Mail

Voice mail is proving to be more pervasive and difficult to get by than receptionists and secretaries used to be. The best approach is to avoid using voice mail. Call repeatedly in an attempt to catch your prospect “in person.” It seems that many people always leave their voice mail on. Keep trying. Call your prospects five times a day, every day, until you reach him or her.

If it turns out that the prospect’s voice mail really is on all the time, there are alternatives. You can leave a message that provides enough information to the prospect to develop interest, but leaves enough out to pique the person’s curiosity. For example, try, “We’ve saved three of your major competitors a lot of money in this area” without mentioning the competitors’ names or what you did for them. Or, try pitching the prospect’s assistant to persuade that person to arrange an appointment for you. Or, network your way to the prospect through mutual industry acquaintances.

Email, Websites, and Social Media

If you can’t get through by phone, try email. Experiment with different subject lines to find one that will catch your prospect’s attention, such as referring the recipient to a certain part of your website. Perhaps a landing page specifically designed for new prospects will be the solution. Alternatively, you can try using social media to either catch prospects’ attention or network your way to them.

Hiring Others

Hiring a sales staff may be the road to fast growth for your small business, but hiring even one person is a big step. You will need to provide your salespeople with solid knowledge of your products, the competitors’ products, and the market. You will also need to monitor their progress.

While it is a challenge to keep any sales force motivated, it is even more so when you have only one or two salespeople. Celebrate victories and provide encouragement after a defeat. And keep after them!

Good salespeople expect good pay. Provide a good base salary and a generous commission or bonus plan. Provide first-class sales materials and travel/entertainment allowances. Make sure you can afford all of this before you take the hiring plunge!

About Bob Adams

Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, the go-to learning platform for starting and running a business.