Why Proactive Sales Pays off and How to Adopt It

Most individuals are natural people-pleasers and this tendency becomes even more pronounced when one person wants or needs something from the other.

In sales, for example, it’s tempting to facilitate a harmonious conversation and appear to be on board with whatever the customer wants at all times.

And while this approach can win you points for congeniality, it doesn’t help you close more deals. Contrary to popular belief, being a good salesperson isn’t about being agreeable with the customer.

Athletic challenge.

Industry data shows that top-performing salespeople are the ones who lead or even challenge prospects versus simply going with the flow or with what the client wants.

Research conducted by the Sales Executive Council found that salespeople who challenge their customers and take control of the conversation regularly outperform their peers.

In the Sales Executive Council’s study, these salespeople (dubbed the “Challengers”) made up nearly 40% star sales reps.

Meanwhile, salespeople who focused on building relationships and removing tensions from the conversion (dubbed the “Relationship Builders”) were among the lowest performing individuals.

In the study, Relationship Builders accounted for just 7% of all high performers. These results indicate that having a take charge or proactive attitude in sales is far more effective than simply being nice or friendly.

What is proactive sales?

Proactive sales is an approach where the salesperson actively takes charge of the sales process or conversation instead of simply following the client’s lead.

Proactive sales is an assertive –though not aggressive– approach in which the salesperson prescribes specific action steps to help the customer reach their desired outcome.

Why adopt a proactive sales approach?

Being proactive with your customer interactions benefits both you and the client in a number of ways, including:

It makes your customers’ lives easier

This is particularly true in high-ticket or complex buying journeys. In such cases, customers are often drowning in information and there are other stakeholders involved. You’d be doing these customers a favor by taking the lead and guiding them throughout the process.

So, don’t be afraid to take charge and show them exactly what products, services, or strategies to implement.

You’ll stand out

In a world filled with yes-men and women, a proactive salesperson feels like a breath of fresh air for your customers.

While others are focused on being pleasant and reacting to the client’s needs, you’re being a leader who takes control of the conversation. This approach will help differentiate you from your competitors.

Your customers will get better results

When you offer expert guidance instead of letting customers do what they think is best, your clients have a better product experience, and see results faster.

Ultimately, you’ll have happier customers who are more likely to stay and refer their peers.

You’ll close more sales

When you streamline the sales process, position yourself as a leader, and set yourself apart, clients will be more likely to choose your products and services.

How to adopt a proactive sales approach

Now that you know the basics of proactive sales and its advantages, let’s look into how to best implement the approach in your organization.

Have a deep understanding of your customers

You can’t lead your customers if you don’t know and understand them. Before attempting to challenge your prospects or prescribe action steps, take some time to truly comprehend who they are and what they’re going through.

Know your buyer personas

Create detailed profiles for the types of customers you serve. Identify your most valuable customers and list out the key things to know about them, particularly when it comes to their:

  • Demographics (age, gender, location, income, etc.)
  • Psychographics (attitudes, motivations, fears, aspirations, pain points, etc.)

Map out the buyer journey

Next, figure out the different paths to purchase that your customers take.

An old-looking map.

What triggers them to research your product? What are the channels that they use when researching and evaluating solutions? Who are the other stakeholders involved in the process and what are the common roadblocks?

Answering these questions — and documenting your findings — will help you understand what clients are going through, which will then enable you to come up with better scripts, responses, and solutions to bring up during your conversations.

Do ample research before initiating a conversation

Do your research prior to sales meetings. Get to know a prospect beforehand so you can tailor your approach.

In addition to persona and buyer journey information, take note of each prospect’s current situation, recent brand interactions, and public activities.

Use your CRM, web analytics software, as well as social media platforms like LinkedIn to glean insights into who the customer is and what drove them to consider your offerings.

Doing so will make you look better-prepared, position you as a leader, and help you come up with responses that are appropriate and more well-received.

Educate your customer

Customer education is a major component of proactive sales. You need to be seen as a leader, and the best way to do that is to inform and educate your clients on how to do things.

Share best practices and talk about what’s worked for similar customers

Be proactive when recommending action steps. Rather than waiting for the customer to move through the process, take the initiative by informing them of what to do next.

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Let’s say you’re selling a complex tech solution for B2B companies and want to make sure that the stakeholders in the client’s organization are all on board and on the same page.

At this point, you could say something along lines of:

Mr. Smith, I’m looking forward to walking you through the solution! Will your IT director be joining us? Based on our experience working with companies like yours, we’ve found that IT folks have a lot of questions and concerns. It’s best to get them across as early as possible to avoid issues in the future.

Doing so not only demonstrates your authority (which builds trust and respect), it also paves the way for a smoother customer experience (which keeps them happy and increases the likelihood of conversion and retention).

Don’t be afraid to disagree with your customers

When implementing a proactive approach, you, the salesperson, are taking on the role of an expert. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you see the client doing something that isn’t optimal to their success.

Be opinionated about the best way to do things. Share your input instead of silently watching as the customer does whatever they think is best. You could say things like:

  • “I hear what you’re saying, but we’ve found that ABC is actually more effective than XYZ…”
  • “I see where you’re coming from. But if your goal is X, then this other approach will get you there sooner…”
  • “That’s a common desire. Based on our experience, though…”

Note that the more complex or high-end a product is, the more the customer benefits from guidance.

Student hats.

Here at Userlike, for example, we typically encounter new customers who have notions about how they want to set up live chat on their website .

Some businesses are keen to initiate a conversation the moment visitors land on their site. These customers are typically new to live chat and are unaware of what works and what doesn’t.

That’s why our sales and support team members take it upon themselves to educate the customer on what they should do instead. If the client is going in a direction that we know won’t work, we respectfully express our opinion and set them on the right path by educating them on what’s worked for similar customers.

As a salesperson, you could go with whatever they ask, but this will lead to suboptimal outcomes. Instead, it pays to actively guide these businesses towards best practices.

Take control of the sales process

Being a proactive salesperson requires you to take control and be a step ahead of the client throughout the sales process.

A horse chess piece.

To do this, you need to know the buyer’s journey like the back of your hand. Be aware of potential issues and address them even before they come up.

Let’s go back to our example of selling complex technology to B2B companies. A proactive solution provider would be well aware of common issues that come up during the rollout process, and prepare the client accordingly.

The B2B sales person could inform the client about typical pitfalls that companies encounter when rolling out the solution, then offer up advice to ensure they don’t run into them.

The same thing goes for addressing objections. As a proactive salesperson, you need to understand and anticipate when clients may resist your offerings, then address them before they’re brought up.

Someone selling high-end services for example, can explain why their offerings are superior and well-worth the investment even before pricing comes up. They may tell the client:

“Our service packages are priced at a premium, and that’s because unlike our competitors, we don’t take a cookie-cutter approach to solving our client’s problems. Plus, you get a dedicated team of specialists who are there for you 24/7. Our customers feel that this is well-worth the investment!”

Don’t overwhelm the customer with too much info

More information isn’t always better. In fact, as a proactive salesperson, part of your job is to filter unnecessary and irrelevant details and present the client with just the right info they need to achieve their desired outcomes.

Bonsai tree.

For example, if the client is asking about additional features or options but you know that it’s not in their best interest, you could redirect the conversation to the things that will help them.

Doing so will make your client’s lives a lot easier, reduce distractions, and could even shorten the sales process, so they can get on board and see results faster.

We can see this in action in financial advisors (the good ones, at least). Rather than giving the client a myriad of investment options, a good advisor recommends a portfolio based on factors like the client’s age, risk tolerance, and preferences.

The advisor takes care of complex details, so the client can then start investing without dealing with overwhelm or analysis paralysis from having too many options.

A proactive salesperson takes complexity out of the equation, so the path forward is clear to the customer.

Position yourself as a leader

In order for proactive sales to work, customers need to trust and believe in you. That’s why it’s important to be a leader and authority in your space. There are a number of ways to do this.

Offer social proof

Social proof such as testimonials, reference, or even logos on your website can go a long way in building trust.

Leverage these elements as much as possible by using them in your marketing and advertising collateral. Doing so will engage prospects and help get your proactive sales conversations on the right foot.

Social proof can also be valuable in the middle of a customer conversation. You could, for example, bring up client success stories to back up your recommendations and offer references in the event that a prospect would like to speak to an existing customer.

Produce original and industry-leading content

You can’t be a thought leader without putting leading thoughts out there. Strive to come up with original ideas and content that provokes thought and starts conversations.

You can do this by running a thought leadership blog that contains high-value articles, as well as by conducting proprietary research or studies that shed light on trends in your industry.

Implement strong PR and media efforts

Further cement your image as an industry leader by getting your name on websites and publications that are read by your target audience.

In addition to demonstrating your expertise, strong PR efforts give your brand relevant exposure, which keeps your company top of mind.

Your customers need a leader, not a follower

In a world filled with people-pleasers and followers, being a proactive salesperson not only enables you to stand out, but it allows you to guide your customers towards better outcomes.

This approach may feel uncomfortable or create a bit of tension, but when implemented properly, proactive sales leads to tremendous results — both for you and your customers.