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Top 10 Factors Separating Sales Winners from the Rest

blog author
Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

For our What Sales Winners Do Differently research, we studied over 700 major purchases from buyers who represented $3.1 billion dollars in annual purchasing power.

One question we wanted to answer was, “Is it the company and offerings that make the biggest difference in the buyer’s purchase decision, or is it the seller and how they sell?”

Guess what: it’s the seller and how they sell that most separates sales winners from the rest.

The following list reveals what buyers say are the top 10 areas where sellers who win outperform those who come in second place.

  1. Educated me with new ideas or perspectives: The sellers who win bring ideas to the buyer’s attention that they perceive as new. They give buyers ideas that can change their thinking. Also, note that the winners don’t just do this a little bit more than the second-place finishers—they do it almost three times as often.
  2. Collaborated with me: Buyers want to be part of the solution. Think about working with your buyer not just to “sell” to them, but to help them achieve a goal with your help. This is the essence of collaboration: working together to achieve mutual goals.
  3. Persuaded me we would achieve results: There are two parts to this one. First, you have to give the buyer an idea of what the end result will be. Second, you have to persuade them that these results are achievable and not just a pipe dream.
  4. Listened to me: It’s an old piece of advice, yes, but it’s still true. The sellers who win sales listen more often than the sellers who don’t.
  5. Understood my needs: Interestingly, we found that sellers don’t need to diagnose needs as much as they have in the past. However, sellers still need to demonstrate that they “get” what the buyer wants to do, where they’re going, and what they want to achieve.
  6. Helped me avoid potential pitfalls: Be honest with buyers about what can go wrong after they buy. Do this, and it not only builds trust, but also sets an expectation of what life will be like after they purchase. Set the right expectations and not only will you win more sales, you’ll also build trust and maximize repeat sales.
  7. Crafted a compelling solution: Another old, but still important, piece of advice. Make sure your buyer sees how what you’re selling will help them achieve their desired outcomes. The Harvard Business Review recently published an article titled, “The End of Solution Sales.” Based on our research (see point #5 and this one) and experience, dismissing the concept of solutions in selling is not a good idea.
  8. Depicted purchase process accurately: Like “helped me avoid potential pitfalls,” this one leads to trust. Set and meet expectations, don’t sugar coat anything, and don’t hold anything back, and the buyers will trust you and appreciate your advice and knowledge.
  9. Connected with me personally: Another trend in selling is to diminish the importance of relationships. Do so at your own risk. I’m not suggesting that connecting with a buyer personally represents the totality of a strong business relationship—there’s a lot more to it—but making a connection with buyers person-to-person helps.
  10. Overall value from the company is superior to other options: There are two important parts to accomplishing this. First, you have to be able to maximize the buyer’s perception of value of whatever you’re selling. Second, you have to be able to position it favorably against your competitors, and potentially against the buyer deciding to do whatever it is you’re selling on their own.

These 10 points aren’t everything you need to do to win sales (download What Sales Winners Do Differently for the rest of the story), but take them to heart and you’ll be well positioned to win more than your fair share of business.


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Topics: Sales Research