Understanding Different Sales Approach Methods

Mid adult couple and salesman looking at digital tablet in kitchen showroom

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There's no one best sales approach. Your personality and background will determine which type of sales technique is most effective for you. Even if you have a methodology that works well, it's a good idea to try a different approach now and then.

Trying new methods keeps you out of a rut, and you may be surprised by how well a new sales approach works for you. In fact, many salespeople do best by using a combination of approaches.

The Instant Buddy

People feel better about buying from someone they like. Salespeople who use the Buddy approach are warm and friendly, asking questions and showing interest in their prospects. They try to connect on an emotional level with each prospective customer.

This approach can be very effective, but only in the right hands. Usually, salespeople who are naturally warm-hearted and love making new friends. Don't try this approach with a prospect unless you mean it—people can tell if you're faking it, and they'll be very unhappy with you.

You'll also need to do some follow-through to demonstrate that you do like and care about the prospect. For example, if you chat about the prospect's eleven-month-old baby during your appointment, you should follow up by sending a card and small gift or both on the child's first birthday.

The Guru

Salespeople who prefer a more logical and less emotional approach set themselves on the task of becoming experts in anything and everything related to their industry. They position themselves as problem-solvers, able to answer any question and tackle any issue that the prospect lays before them.

The guru approach requires plenty of work learning the relevant information and keeping up with changes in your industry. But if you're willing to put in the time it takes, you can do very well both in selling to your prospects and generating plenty of referrals. Once customers realize what a great resource you are, they're quite likely to send friends and co-workers with questions straight to you.

The Consultant

This approach combines the "guru" and "buddy" approaches. The salesperson who elects to use the consultant approach presents herself as an expert who has the customer's best interests in mind. She knows all about her company's products and by asking a prospect a few questions, she can match him up with the best product for his needs.

As an approach that combines the best qualities of the of the first two methods, it's extremely effective. But it also requires a great deal of time and effort on a salesperson's part. You must be both knowledgeable and able to make an emotional connection with your prospects. If you can manage both of these feats, your sales will take off like a rocket.

The Networker

Networking can be a big help for any salesperson. The dedicated networker takes it to the next level, setting up and maintaining a web of friends, co-workers, salespeople from other companies, customers, and former customers, and anyone else he meets. A strong enough network will create an ongoing flow of warm leads that can provide most or even all of the salesperson's needs.

With this approach, you'll spend a great deal of time cultivating people. It's a highly effective technique for salespeople who enjoy attending various events, parties, and so on and meeting new people. Just remember that you'll need to respond by doing favors and sending leads back to the people who've helped you in their turn.

The Hard Seller

Best described as “scare the prospect into buying,” the hard sell approach is what gives salespeople a bad reputation. Hard selling involves getting someone to buy a product even though he doesn't want or need it. Methods range from bullying (e.g., “Buy this now, or you'll feel stupid tomorrow”), to manipulation (e.g., “If you don't buy from me I'll lose my job”), to outright deception (e.g., “This product has a much better safety record than the competition”).

No ethical salesperson should use a hard sell approach. Sadly, there are still salespeople who use this type of sales strategy, even though the result is a customer who never buys again and, sooner or later, a bad reputation for the company as a whole. Stick with one or more of the first four approaches—they are all both effective and ethical.