Why do some sales reps succeed and others fail — even if they’re both following the same sales process? Is it natural talent, more experience, better training or something else? There’s no shortage of material out there trying to decode the magic of sales. But what are the sales techniques that actually work?
If you analyze some of the top performing sales reps in the SaaS industry, you’ll notice they tend to use some of the same techniques over and over again (sometimes even in the same order). While many sales reps may not realize what they’re doing, our team at Prehired has spent hundreds of hours researching and interviewing the top sales professionals in SaaS to develop our Science-Based Sales® training program. In that research, we discovered that the difference between an inside sales rep and a telemarketer is the very thing that drives continued success as a salesperson — personalization.
Unlike telemarketers who mostly call random numbers and follow a bland script, inside sales reps help intelligent businesspeople solve their unique problems every day. They tailor their scripts, demos and conversations to fit the prospect’s needs. That’s what personalization means in this context — connecting with the prospect as an individual.
But to apply this overall strategy, it takes more than just a mental shift or simply adding a prospect’s name to an email greeting. There are solid techniques your reps can use to improve their ability to connect with prospects and close more deals.
Based on our research, here are the 7 most effective sales techniques used by top SaaS teams around the world:
In order to connect with prospects intelligently, inside sales reps need to take time each day for research. It may seem unproductive in comparison with making a strong discovery call or closing deals, but it isn’t. Without research, your sales reps won’t know who they are calling or why they should care about the product.
To start selling more effectively, your reps need to know a lot of information about their prospects. The research process might include questions like:
Doing more research helps reps generate more qualified leads. Over time, they will develop a clearer understanding of their target industry. This, in turn, makes the prospecting phase go much faster, because they already know what to look for.
Knowledge and insight about the prospect’s unique situation are invaluable in a sales call. When used correctly, this knowledge shows that the sales rep has taken the time to customize the interaction. This way, the prospect sees the call as an opportunity, and not a waste of time. It isn't just a telemarketer calling — it’s someone who really cares about the prospect’s needs.
Inside sales reps don’t try to sell to just anyone. They have specific target customers that can benefit from their product, and they try to find as many of those ideal customers as possible.
This is where an effective qualification method is essential. During the research phase, highly-skilled reps can weed out who is a good fit and who isn’t.
To qualify leads, the 2 most effective methods are:
Your customers are the lifeblood of your sales organization. In order to qualify and convert leads effectively, sales reps should get to know prospects on a much deeper level. While this does involve some research, there is only so much you can determine about a stranger from reading about them on the internet.
This is where customer personas come in. Customer personas are detailed profiles of fictionalized customer types, based on characteristics of real customers. They act as a tool to help reps better understand and communicate with prospects. To achieve this effect, your personas should feature both demographic information (age, industry, occupation, location, etc.) and psychographic information (personality, sensitivities, beliefs, fears, needs, etc.).
Sales reps should study these personas regularly with managers to better understand the needs and perspectives of real prospects that share similar characteristics with the persona. They can then tailor their approach to communicate with the prospect more effectively about the value of your product.
But successful salespeople need to go deeper than that. The best reps personalize their messaging (email, social media, proposals, etc.) to each individual prospect. This takes empathy — the ability to share the feelings of another person. The best sales reps leverage their ability to empathize to communicate and connect with the prospect on a very personal level.
You’re probably thinking, “No way. Personalizing every single message will take way too much time.” You’re right. Whenever you’re selling in high volume, you’ll need to use templates to remain efficient. However, each script or template should be designed for reps to uniquely personalize their message without having to retype the greeting, a pitch or an invitation to book a meeting.
Good salespeople focus more on the prospect than the product. They know that selling is about what the customer can gain by doing business with the company. If a sales rep starts a call by rambling on about the company and the many benefits of the product, it feels more like a bragging session than a value proposition.
The first goal of any effective sales conversation is to gain the prospect’s trust. In a world full of people trying to promote themselves, showing prospects that their needs matter to you is a value proposition in itself.
So how do you show prospects that you care about them? Most often, words do a poor job of this. Instead, it’s the act of listening (and not speaking) that makes the prospect feel heard, and therefore valued. By asking questions and actively listening to the answers, sales reps can signal to the prospect that they truly care about speaking to their needs.
Listening is also a form of research. A sales rep can learn so much important information about a prospect if they simply ask the right questions and take note of the answers. Insights from initial interviews can be essential to framing the product as an effective solution later.
Sales reps today use powerful software technology to make their sales efforts more efficient and effective. One of the most essential tools for any modern sales team is the Customer Relationship Management software, or CRM. A CRM helps sales teams keep track of deal value and manage important information regarding prospects as they move through the sales pipeline. These tools (such as Salesforce or Pipedrive) help sales reps visualize the different stages of the customer journey. Many CRM platforms also help determine the next steps to take toward closing individual deals.
Without a CRM, sales reps have to rely on memory and intuition for how to handle their prospects. A CRM helps orient the sales team for each new sales call, and clearly outlines where the prospect stands in their buying journey. It can also help determine the flow of email sequences, social media posts, follow-up messages and upselling offers.
Using a CRM well means leveraging the capabilities of the software to build a sales pipeline that’s always full of qualified leads. The goal is to use insights from the platform to optimize your sales process as a team, so you are always generating new leads and applying your sales strategy to potential deals at every stage. While strategy-level work is mostly the responsibility of a sales manager or VP of sales, your reps need to be intimately familiar with how a CRM works and how they can use it to manage their daily workflows.
The most important task in an SDR’s daily workflow is outreach. These front-line reps spend most of their days reaching out to new leads via phone or email.
But working through a list of contact information is only part of the process. The most successful sales reps make a habit of forming connections with people in their industry. Those connections may not always turn into a sale, but they usually produce referrals or become an opportunity to establish trust with a new prospect through a common relationship.
Most of the time, sales reps contact prospects via phone or email. While both of these are essential forms of communication, sales reps who make an effort to connect on social media tend to stand out among the noise of other salespeople. Beyond that, social media is a powerful tool for lead generation, prospecting and fostering long-term relationships.
In addition to posting on LinkedIn, encourage your sales reps to comment or engage with material posted by a prospect. This can help start a genuine conversation about a challenge they’re facing or a topic that interests them. This also allows sales reps to establish expertise in their industry through sharing unique insights that could be useful to the prospect and anyone else who engages with the post.
Part of effective communication with prospects means following up on a regular basis. On average, 80% of deals require at least 5 follow-ups to close. But few reps go beyond following up more than once or twice. By building follow-up into your sales process, you can automatically increase your team’s odds of closing more deals. By making it a required, repeated step in your sales process, you will keep the deal front-of-mind for your most qualified prospects.
Once you develop the right cadence for follow-up, you may try setting reminders to email or call a prospect again in order to continue the conversation. Over time, you can test and revise your follow-up process to improve your results.
When sales reps make initial contact, they should avoid starting with a hard pitch. They should instead listen closely to the prospect’s pain points and challenges, and get to know as much about them as possible. They should also know the product’s features inside and out to effectively present it as a solution.
Prospects don't care about your product. They care about the solution it provides. The best sales reps focus on the outcomes — what the prospect can gain or solve from using the product, not just what it can do. A hammer is only useful if you have nails that need driving.
In the same way that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the solution only exists in the eye of the buyer. They have to perceive the value it can offer them in direct relation to the challenges they are facing. They have to know how the product can help them solve a specific issue.
To help the prospect clearly visualize the solution, your reps first have to understand the prospect’s needs. With that insight, they can illustrate what the solution looks like by inserting the product into the prospect’s personal narrative. If possible, the sales rep may even suggest some unique customizations to better meet the prospect’s needs.
Helping prospects visualize the solution is essential, but then you need to make it more tangible. Make it easy for prospects to preview or try out the solution for themselves. Don’t just tell them about the watch — let them try it on.
Top performing software companies tend to do this in two ways:
Selling is about value. In order to convert prospects to customers, your sales reps need to make the value of your software solution as clear as possible.
At Prehired, the core of our sales methodology is Clarity > Closing®. Our philosophy is that the most effective (and ethical) form of sales has nothing to do with manipulation or coercion. Instead, reps should focus on making the value proposition crystal clear in the prospect's mind to show what the solution can offer them. This is a form of consultative selling, where the sales rep acts as a trustworthy guide for the prospect throughout the buyer’s journey.
Great salespeople don’t prey on fears, vices or insecurities to make a prospect think they need something when they really don’t. In fact, the best salespeople have high standards for integrity and honesty. If they don’t think the prospect has a need for the software, they will likely refer them to someone else. If that seems counterintuitive, don’t be fooled. While you might not make money on one deal, that honesty will help your sales team earn trust within your target industry over time, resulting in more high-quality referrals.
When applied correctly, these sales techniques will help your sales reps generate more leads and close more deals efficiently. But providing your reps with a list of techniques alone isn’t a very helpful training strategy. You want to optimize your training and onboarding process so that your reps learn to use these sales techniques in a variety of ways.
Here are a few tips to help you sharpen their skills for better execution:
Inside sales reps are experts in communicating with prospects. They’re different from telemarketers because they take the time to understand the person before they try to sell the product. They strive to make the solution unique to each person they talk to. That takes intentional strategy and well-developed technique.
It’s hard to find reps like these in a stack of resumes. So many “sales experts” out there are just trying to meet quota by the sheer law of numbers (make enough random calls and hope to succeed). But that doesn’t take much skill. It just takes time and, frankly, too much work.
On the other hand, candidates with the right intuition, skills and drive to succeed in a SaaS sales environment are exceedingly rare. But they aren’t mystical beings just emerging out of thin air — they likely took time to learn the most effective sales techniques and develop themselves, so they could become better salespeople.
At Prehired, our goal is to train more of these great salespeople and make them available for hire in the SaaS industry. Our members emerge from our Science-Based Sales® training program fully equipped with all the sales skills, industry knowledge, and techniques necessary to join the top 5% of salespeople in the world. Just take a look at the results Panoply achieved just a few months after hiring a Prehired member as their first SDR.
As a Prehired member, you’ll gain access to a curated list of highly-qualified SDR candidates for your sales team. Our members’ success is guaranteed — if they don’t last at your company for 60 days, we’ll replace them at no extra cost.
Want to build a stronger sales team that’s pre-trained in the most effective sales techniques? Hire a Prehired member for your SDR team.
As Prehired's Founder & CEO, Josh Jordan is leading the mission to help 10,000 people launch 6-figure software sales careers by the end of 2024.
How? With Prehired's Science-Based Sales® process -- born from helping dozens of software companies build their sales teams...
...and then consulting with hundreds of Software Sales Managers on exactly what they wanted new hires to know...
...and then helping hundreds of regular folks break into software sales in 12 weeks, on average.
Josh created Science-Based Sales® to help nearly anyone succeed in software sales, because it creates clarity for prospects. No killer closer instincts, charisma or kissing up to decision makers needed.
What’s it like to be a Sales Development Representative (SDR)? Learn what SDRs do, what skills are needed, and how to land a job as an SDR.