02/23/2013 01:18 pm ET Updated Apr 25, 2013

Sales Tips to Make a Small Company Look Big

Having worked in sales organizations of various sizes, I know that sales are critical to launching and expanding your business. Without a strong product message and great salespeople, few will buy your product -- no matter how amazing it is. In fact, without good salespeople, most companies shrink and die.

How do small companies build effective skills in the sales team with no training budget?

It's not easy, but smaller organizations should gather best practices from others. By doing so, the level of sales team sophistication increases and success rates should also improve when best practices are implemented.

Here are three simple ideas that have paid great dividends for me in effectively selling solutions:
  • Find out your customer's overall business strategy.
  • Determine the sales contact's personal and business goals.
  • Find out the consequences if current challenges are not resolved.

With this knowledge in hand, and assuming your product is a viable option, a salesperson can focus her discussions and messages exactly where the customer needs them. This practice can make a salesperson look very polished.

How can you gather this info? The following are simple steps to take to get up-to-speed on an organization's business strategy.

  • Create Google alerts to be notified of any news about your customer's organization or industry.
  • Read the owner's, CEO's, or president's message on the company web site, newsletter, annual report, etc.
  • Peruse the company's web site for news or events to find trends and what's most important.
  • Read press releases and review the "About Us" statement in each press release.

With this simple research in mind, contact the company and seek out the primary contact person. When speaking to that person, ask her to tell you of the goals and challenges the organization has overall. With a knowledge of the company and industry, a salesperson might be able to contribute to articulating those things and the customer will likely be impressed by the homework done. The desire to understand her business might seem refreshing to the customer. Most salespeople just go for the close during the first contact.

Next, ask the customer to articulate any specific problems that need to be solved soon, and get as much detail as possible. For example, gather details from the customer to be able to repeat a concise statement of the problem, such as "Our company needs to sell an XYZ solution starting in Q3 with an uptake rate of 3 percent for your current home users, which is about 25 percent of our customer base, with a price point of $4.99 per month and blah blah blah..."

Then, ask the customer to articulate what would happen if the problem doesn't get solved. What would happen if a solution isn't adopted? How will the company be affected? With these threats in mind, the customer may be more compelled to act.

To make it even more convincing, get the customer to talk about how she would be personally affected. Would she be demoted, lose a bonus, lose his job, etc.?

Ask her to discuss what would happen if the solution was successfully adopted. Get her to envision that success. Would she get a raise? Get a bonus? Get a promotion?

By doing this, you create a sense of urgency for the customer with a positive outcome for her personally. If you create urgency, you can more likely get a sale to occur more quickly. If your solution solves a customer need and creates a personal win for the contact person, your chances of winning (closing) are very good.

If the customer decides to pass for the time being because of budget shortfalls, you're no worse off than you were before, and you've established another contact in the industry.

Wait a few months and get back in there with the solution when a new budget cycle is approved.

I've seen these tips make a salesperson stand out among the rest because they are sophisticated tactics.