By Rieva Lesonsky

In my (relatively) new life as a business owner, I’ve gone on a lot of sales calls and here are a few things I’ve learned.

  • Be prepared.
  • Some people try to make a sale without fully exploring what matters to the prospect. Never get to an in-person meeting stage without knowing the prospect’s business issues thoroughly. Go online and find out who their biggest competitors are, who their customers are, what challenges are facing their company and their industry, and what their growth plans seem to be. In this day and age there’s absolutely no excuse for failing to do this.

  • Get excited.
  • If you’re not enthusiastic about your company, the prospect won’t be, either. So if you’re not an energetic person, consider hiring a salesperson who is. If you’re nervous, practice ahead of time first with your spouse or a friend and ask for their honest feedback.

  • Listen.
  • When you’re trying to make a sale, listening is more important than speaking. Only by listening will you find out what the prospect really needs (and wants) that you couldn’t get from your other research. Ask open-ended questions—ones that they can’t answer with yes or no. If you really listen, you’ll find out what really matters most—whether that’s reliability, price or prestige.

  • Small talk matters.
  • People do business with people they like, so find something about the prospect that you can relate to and comment on it—whether it’s a sports team logo on the wall of his office or the family photos on her desk. Sales is about building relationships, so even if you’re in a hurry to make this deal, take time to slow down and be friendly and polite.

    Sales may seem intimidating, but as you can see from the list above, it all boils down to the kind of simple stuff your Mom told you before you started kindergarten.