SI Review: March 2013


Power Seller

Success in Sales

Three tips that will help you and your firm win business

By Donna Carroll

As a sales leader in the professional services staffing business for nearly two decades, I’ve worked with some amazing salespeople. I’ve watched how they operate and I’ve studied how they work with clients. I’ve learned a lot from them and will share a few of their best techniques.

First, they truly listen to their client. Being a good listener isn’t easy — it requires patience and a willingness to stand back and let others have their say … even if you already know what they’re going to say (or think you do). Listening requires that you park your own agenda so you can hear what the client is telling you about their business, their objectives and their desired outcomes.

Subsequently, the great salespeople will be able to “think out loud” with the client and, together, consider all the possibilities. This might be conducted through a roundtable dialogue, focus groups or by drawing out options and conclusions in a white-board session. Being able to rearticulate what the client has just said sends a clear message: I’m listening to you and I want to help you.

Amazing salespeople also have the ability to establish and build trust with their clients. The most successful business relationships in the world revolve around this fundamental idea. When a company is considering making a substantial investment with your company, they simply have to trust you. But how do you build trust? One thing is for sure: You can’t build trust through a one-time meeting or by taking an order over the phone. Trust can only happen through ongoing dialogue, passionate responsiveness, sheer determination to follow through on commitments, and the ability to deliver solutions that help your client meet their goals.

Here is a short list of qualities that can help you build trust with your client:

Transparency. Be honest and open in all your dealings. And be yourself. People can spot a phony a mile away.

Always add value. Look for ways to bring value to the discussion — do your research, provide data that can help shape a decision, propose innovative solutions to budget challenges. If you’re not adding value, then you’re wasting your client’s time.

Become an expert in your client’s industry. This will enable you to provide keen insight or feedback and be perceived as your client’s true business colleague.

Take criticism well. Remember the words from that 1970s classic film, The Godfather: “It’s not personal Sonny, it’s strictly business.”

Be a class act. Be a pro in every way, from being on time, to being knowledgeable, to following through on commitments. And remember: You’re not just representing your company, you’re representing yourself.

Keep your word. Promises not kept are promises broken. If your client feels they can’t depend on you, they’ll depend on someone else: your competitors.

Be reliable. Become known (become famous really!) as the one salesperson they can count on every time.

Once your client trusts you, your relationship can flourish and lead to even greater sharing of ideas and a deeper understanding of possible solutions.

Consider this scenario: One of our new accounts asked us to help them develop a more efficient way to manage their staffing spend. The company had made multiple acquisitions, lacked robust processes and was burdened by multiple back-office systems. It was doing business with more than 80 suppliers, had no ability to track performance and each of its business units were signing contracts and committing to relationships with no governance.

It would have been easy to simply “diagnose” this situation and recommend a managed service program (MSP). Instead, we made a considerable effort to understand the client’s overall business strategies, objectives and HR goals and ended up collaborating on a solution that included professional staffing and services — a much different solution than an MSP. But it was the right solution for this company at this time in their evolution. The take-away? Listening led to trust and trust led to the right solution.

Listen. Gain trust. Add value. These are the silver bullets for sales success. They will lead to greater success for your client — and greater revenue for your company.

Donna Carroll is vice president of sales, Americas, for CDI Corp.’s professional services staffing business. She can be reached at


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