collaboration 3Just 4% of salespeople in the United States sell 94% of the goods and services, according to a study by Gallup and Harvard University. What does this small segment of highly successful sales professionals know that others don’t?

A study conducted by Cranfield University School of Management and Silent Edge identified eight common sales styles used in sales meetings:

Experts – In tune with customers’ needs, they make selling seem effortless. Experts face few objections due to their high-trust relationships with customers.

Closers – They are excellent at countering customer objectives, and are usually better at closing product rather than service deals. Sometimes, their smooth-talking style puts customers off.

Consultants – They listen and solve problems effectively. However, they sometimes overlook preparation and try to wing it, foregoing case examples that can boost sales.

Storytellers – Customer-focused and passionate about providing case studies, they can be guilty of conducting long meetings that don’t yield results.

Focusers – They know their products and believe deeply in them, but often lack confidence. They may focus more on product features than customer needs.

Narrators – They know their offerings and the market, but are dependent on scripts and marketing materials.

Aggressors – They approach sales meetings as price negotiations. Many customers dislike their combative approach.

Socializers – They may initially impress customers with friendly chats, but usually can’t progress beyond the earliest stage of the sales cycle.

The study showed that Experts, Closers, and Consultants were the most effective at making sales. Not surprisingly, the top B2B sales people incorporate practices from all of these. They are consultative expert advisors who build collaborative relationships that enable them to make the big closes.

What Exactly Do the Top Salespeople Do?

1. Start with a collaborative mindset. They approach each sales situation as an opportunity to create value together with the customer, for the customer, and for themselves and their company.

2. Listen. Top sales people don’t walk in and pitch. Instead they first seek to understand the customer’s problem or goal so that they can work with them to create a solution.

3. Ask the right questions. An expert’s questions don’t just serve to discover information about the customer. They challenge current thinking, reframe problems, and push the customer towards new insights.

4. Use the white board. Unlike the Narrators in the Cranfield study, top sales people launch open-ended interactive discussions that are free of PowerPoint and truly tailored to their customer.

5. Reward customers for engaging. Customer time is precious. Great sales people get this and reward customers with value for every interaction. This can take the form of ideas, resources, content, and even access and introductions to other people.

6. Sell the value. While they are savvy negotiators, the sales people who close the biggest deals focus on demonstrating the tangible, economic value of their solution rather than haggling about the cost.

7. Follow up. Top sales people know every sale is a step to the next. They check in to see if the solution worked or functioned the way it was supposed to, and whether the customer is getting all the value they hoped for.

What selling style do you relate to most? Share how you incorporate traits of the top performers to collaborate and build better relationships with your customers.