When I first entered sales, back in the 90s, it was to sell cars.
Proactive sales at the time meant I would make a coffee run for the sales team, in anticipation of a slow day.
Fast forward about 20+ years and proactive selling is something much different.
Think about the last time you purchased something. Did the person serve you only once you asked, or did they approach you first? Did they share insights about the product or service that were potential concerns for you, or did they wait for you to suggest concerns?
Simple examples, but you can start to see the contrast between proactive sales versus reactive sales.
Proactive Sales and Reactive Sales Differences
Looking back, when I sold cars, I actually practiced a combination of proactive and reactive selling.
Some days I would be lazy and wait for potential customers to walk on the lot (reactive).
Other days, I would pick up the phone and start reaching out to past customers, colleagues, or friends to catch up and see when they were considering buying their next car (proactive).
Reactive selling, then, is more aligned with the “wait for the customer” approach to sales.
Sometimes this is the best way to sell, considering the product or service you sell.
A mortgage broker, for example, can’t sell you a new mortgage right after you signed up for a five-year closed term (they could, but the penalties would mean there is no way you’d go for it).
So, they might be proactive in planting seeds for when you are ready to renew, but then they have to wait until the time is right.
Examples of Reactive Selling Strategies
Some examples of reactive selling strategies include:
- Waiting for a customer to approach you about buying your product or service.
- Providing a quote or proposal and then waiting to hear from the customer.
- Waiting for the customer to raise objections before addressing them.
- Not asking for referrals until a customer offers them.
Sometimes these strategies make sense.
Most times they just depersonalize the sale altogether.
Typically however they are a sign of something else.
Either a salesperson either not being eager to make a sale or being so overwhelmed with existing sales they don’t have the time (or desire) to proactively pursue more.
Proactive Selling (At Its Best)
My preferred approach is proactive selling.
It provides more control over the sale as signs of pending sales are seen much sooner than if you wait for the opportunity.
In my experience, proactive selling is possible in virtually all sales roles, although opportunities to be proactive may be less. If the product you sell has a 6-month lead time, there might not be much you can do to make the sale happen faster.
There are dozens of ways you can sell proactively, like proactively reaching out to prospects.
Proactive selling drives a salesperson to proactively pursue a sale, and attempt to close it. A much-preferred approach for most businesses that demand transparency in the sales cycle.
10 Tips to Proactively Sell Your Products or Services
- Always be prospecting. Ensure your outreach to past, existing, and potential customers or clients is a daily ritual.
- Document objectives and prepare responses. Don’t wait for an objection; instead, be ready to respond and offer suggestions to your prospect.
- Make a plan to close each sale. Think through potential objections (see #2 above) and your response, and then map out how you will move your deal forward.
- Dig into dialogues with prospects. Learn more about who your prospects are, and why they are thinking of buying your product or service.
- Build relationships. All selling is relationship selling. Spend time building a relationship which will increase trust, reduce objections, and speed up the sale.
- Solicit feedback. Ask customers for their thoughts or feedback during the sale. Listen carefully and be prepared to respond. Don’t sit and wait until the end of your presentation to find out they had different expectations.
- Provide value. Offer tips, resources, and suggestions up front. The more value you bring at the beginning of the sales process, the better chance you’ll have to close a sale. Check out my LinkedIn profile for examples here.
- Get your manager’s approval before you close. Don’t wait to find out the sales manager doesn’t support your offer or idea.
- Keep clear records. Make sure you document important details about conversations with prospects and customers. Before you ever meet with them, review your information and arrive at the conversation prepared.
- Always focus on being first. Reach out to customers to check in on their purchase before they call you. Reach out to prospects before they need what you have to offer. Be the first to reach the customer (before your competition).
Becoming a Proactive Sales Leader
Being proactive is one of the best ways to fill your pipeline and close more deals.
You’ll be busy (closing deals), but you’ll also earn more money and have a flood of leads ready and eager to buy from you.
Personally, that’s my preference.
© Shawn Casemore 2022. All Rights Reserved.
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