Though the word “salesman” sometimes evokes images of pushy guys in cheap suits, the truth is that sales is an art. It often takes emotional intelligence, empathy, and problem-solving to reach a mutually beneficial place with clients. Many sales departments never learn to strike the right balance. Here at Incentive Solutions, we regularly advise clients on issues like sales channel marketing and increasing customer loyalty, so we must be able to speak from experience. Because our team is invested in not only our GP, but also those of our customer base, it puts them in a unique position to gain in-depth knowledge of sales strategies that work.
For this article, we sat down with some members of our sales team to talk about how they perfected valuable tactics in discussions with clients.
1. Know When to Persist
Jeff Cagle, Account Executive at Incentive Solutions, learned how important patience and perseverance were when he spent a year and a half in talks with what would become one of our largest accounts. “The key to that success,” Cagle says, “was not only persistence and staying in touch, but also being cognizant of the client’s time.”
This particular client needed to prepare before instating a reward program. According to Cagle, “They had a lot going on internally. They were a conglomerate who had purchased other companies, so they needed to collect a huge amount of data from their customers, who all had different customer numbers depending on which dealership they were associated with.”
Because Cagle understands that a reward program takes time and planning to be effective, he allowed his client the preparation necessary, stepping in wherever guidance was needed. “It took a long time,” Cagle says, “but I sensed he was sincere and truly interested in our product.”
The Incentive Solutions sales team believes in talking about the client, not ourselves, during the discovery phase. Being too eager to drag a “yes” or a “no” out of a prospect can cost business. Opportunities often come disguised as lost causes.
Jerry Ryan, an Account Executive with Incentive Solutions, begins every discovery phase by having clients fill out a Program Planning Guide worksheet identifying their immediate business goals, as well as their problems and needs. “It’s important to learn about our clients first, and where their pain points are. As a result,” he says, “I can show them product demos that are specific to their particular challenges.”
Ryan often encounters situations in which it’s best to first gather information about clients and understand their situation. “Listening is always very important,” he says. “I had a call come in, and the client said she wanted three $100 debit cards.” Incentive Solutions provides full debit card reward programs, not individual debit cards, so Ryan prodded her for further information about her needs.
“Instead of going right into a discussion of our minimum prices,” Ryan recalls, “I asked her questions and got into her world. It turned out that her company had an internal rewards program, but she was the only person redeeming all the rewards. I said, ‘That sounds stressful,’ and she said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I bet it’s not in your job description, either,’ and she said, ‘No!’”
Ryan explained to her that Incentive Solutions online reward programs automate all reward fulfillment. Our online reward technology is developed in-house and is based on cyber currency we call points, which program participants can redeem for items in our online catalog. Program users can shop for millions of merchandise, ticketed events and travel, choosing their rewards as easily as buying items from online stores like Amazon. Ryan’s client was excited to hear about a system that could ramp up employee engagement and spare her the busy process of manual reward fulfillment.
“That $300 call,” he says, “turned into a million dollar account.”
3. Become a Niche Expert
Over the years, Incentive Solutions honed in on a niche client base—manufacturers who maintain sales channel customers and business partners, or other members of those sales channels, like distributors and resellers. “Our clients are often part of larger organizations,” Cagle says, “like buying groups or auto parts distributors. So we’ve developed an expertise, working with those types of clients.”
Niche expertise helps in understanding how our product fits into a client’s needs. The more thoroughly we understand their day-to-day challenges, the better we are at pointing out how we can help. Cagle cites an example in which he called up a potential client who was VP of sales at his organization. “I just asked him about himself and his company,” he says. “I asked what he was doing to increase sales. I just started a conversation, not a sales pitch, and that allowed him to lower his defenses and open up more. I was able to talk to him about their supply chain and we found that our rewards program had the potential to really improve a certain area of their company.” In this situation, familiarity with his prospect’s circumstances helped Cagle close a very profitable sale.
At Incentive Solutions, our sales team share and draw from their own experiences when communicating with clients and prospects. One of the best ways to make connections with others—in sales and in everyday socializing—is to share something in common. Our approach is based on issues we share with them and our investment in their improvement. Commonality breeds trust, which leads us to our most fruitful client alliances. The Incentive Solutions sales team understands the importance of learning about clients through being persistent, listening, and becoming familiar with a niche.
Copywriter for The ISI Group of companies, consisting of:
- Incentive Solutions, Inc.
- Travel Solutions
Direct Contact: 678-514-0248
Sales Hotline: (800)-844-5000