Soon the holidays will have passed and the new year will be in full swing. As a sales performance improvement company, we don’t do formal research, but we are well read and talk with a lot of smart people. And work with clients who are facing the same challenges you are.

While selling is getting tougher than ever, with the right focus, you can improve your selling prowess and make more money. Here are 6 tips to Sharpen Your Edge and make 2020 your best sales year ever:

• Take charge: Prioritize your accounts and prospects and identify where you have the best executive relationships. Pick at least two of them and set up an executive-level meeting that looks at their future and problems you can solve. Then examine other opportunities that are important to you this year and determine how to leverage that experience to drive them forward.

• Have a plan for each account: Key decision makers and positioning? How to help achieve their business and personal objectives? Primary business drivers? Decision making criteria? Where you can change the game? Specific business outcomes you can deliver? Unique competitive differentiators? Critical next steps? And much more. Solid account planning is the backbone for solid results – there is no substitute.

• Add science to your sales and sales management selection process: Poor hires cost millions, as do promoting the wrong people to sales management. And you can’t train your way out of this problem. All research done in this area has found that companies who use predictive analytics, consistent behavioral based interviewing and thorough background checks increase sales effectiveness by at least 10%. This process definitely moves the needle when it comes to hiring and placement of sales and sales management, and is a required step in the path of becoming a world class sales organization.

• Ask better business questions: The success or failure of any customer meeting is directly proportional to the quality of the questions you ask. So ask ones that make the customer pause and reflect. Questions that uncover issues they weren’t seeing and bring to light new possibilities. Help them self-discover new ways to solve problems. And piggyback off of their answers to get a deeper understanding of their universe. Listen at least twice as much as you talk, and watch your credibility increase dramatically.

• Challenge your customer’s thinking: They don’t know it all, but most believe they know what they need, who can provide it and at what price. Then they beat you up on price. Know more about your customer’s business than they do so you know what they need to do before they do. Challenge their way of thinking. Share new and valuable perspectives with them, help them navigate solution alternatives, provide ongoing advice and consultation, educate them and help them avoid potential landmines. This differentiates you from other salespeople. In a big way.

• Focus on strengthening your business cases: Your customers want help in justifying investments in your solutions. Be sure to align your proposed solution with the company strategy and buyer’s strategic business initiatives, and help them show measurable business improvement. Coach and advise your customers on assumptions and how to reasonably quantify your solution’s benefits. Ensure you understand their perceived risks and mitigate them appropriately. Get agreement from the customer on all elements of the business case so the outcome becomes something they have a stake in. Therefore, it is not a “vendor” business case. Compete on value, not price.

Remember, the way you sell is always a competitive differentiator, and even more so when solutions look similar. Learn your customer’s business. Be proactive in providing new ideas and provocative insights to help them achieve their objectives. Be the problem solver they want to talk with.

Sell business outcomes – be happy! And contact us if we can be a resource for you.

Good luck and good selling!