There are dozens of selling skills that sales people should know. Here are nine of the most important skills every sales person must have.
Without a consistently full pipeline, you will struggle to meet your sales targets and goals. You will experience peaks and valleys and experience a great deal of frustration.
Unfortunately, very few companies actually teach sales people how to prospect effectively. And the vast majority of sales people rely on just a few prospecting methods such as cold calling or networking.
However, there are many other ways to drum up new business including; asking for referrals, approaching customers who haven’t purchased from you recently, speaking at industry conferences, writing articles, joining associations and actively participating, looking for additional opportunities to sell deeper into existing customers, conducting face-to-face cold calls, and arranging weekly coffee, breakfast or lunch meetings.
The key is to dedicate a significant amount of your weekly schedule to prospecting activities regardless of how long you have been in business or in your sales role.
Although this sounds like a fundamental concept, the majority of sales people I have encountered over the last 15 years fail to effectively execute it.
Many sales people ask low-value questions that do little to engage their prospects in the sales conversation. Examples include:
“Are you the decision maker?”
“What’s your budget?”
“What do you know about our company?”
“Are you interested in saving money?”
“What are your needs?”
Unfortunately, too many sales people still ask tired, out-dated questions like these. As a result, they fail to differentiate themselves from the competition or demonstrate their expertise.
True sales professionals know how to ask high-value questions. Questions that encourage their prospect to share details and information about their business that, in turn, will help the rep effectively position their solution. High-value sales questions can transition into tough, penetrating questions. Questions that make your prospect sit up and think. Questions that cause them to say, “That’s a good question.” Questions like:
“What goals are you striving to achieve this quarter?”
“What challenges are you experiencing trying to reach those targets?”
“What are those problems costing you in terms of lost revenue, customers, market share, etc.?”
“What impact is that having on your business? On you?”
“How important is this project compared to the others on your plate?”
“What could potentially prevent this from moving forward?”
“What internal challenges do you need to deal with before this project gets the go-ahead?”
When you develop the ability to ask high-value questions, you will stand out from your competition while also learning more about your prospect’s specific situation.
You can ask all the questions in the world but if you don’t listen carefully to what the other person tells you, you are wasting your time and losing valuable sales opportunities. Active listening means actually hearing what people tell you. It means asking clarifying questions when the other person says something vague or that requires elaboration.
True listening means that you stop multi-tasking during a telephone conversation. Don’t type notes into your computer, scan emails or anything else.
Focus your full attention on the other person.
Listen for underlying meanings, clues and cues and respond accordingly.
One of the most effective ways to show a prospect that you have listened (and heard) what they have told you is to quickly recap the key points they mentioned as being important.
“Um, I’d like to, uh, discuss how our service can, um, help you, uh, reduce employee turnover.”
Not a very compelling to begin a sales presentation, is it? Yet, this type of opening or presentation is not uncommon.
Two aspects of presentations need to be considered:
A. The content. Too many sales people include far too much information in their presentations and open them by talking about their company instead of the buyer’s situation. Resist the “include everything but the kitchen sink” approach and only discuss the aspects of your offering that are critical for your prospect to know.
B. The verbal presentation. Consider your pace, timing and actual delivery. The more important a potential sale is for you, the more critical it is that you verbally rehearse that presentation. Watch your body language, gestures, and facial expressions.
The best way to improve your presentation skills is to video-tape a presentation and watch it afterwards. It can be painful to watch yourself in action but it is the most effective way to see how you actually deliver a presentation.
Developing a connection is still important in today’s sales environment even though we rely heavily on technology. People still buy from people.
Creating rapport with someone means connecting with them.
This does not mean that you talk about a photo on the desk or an award on their wall…that approach is severely outdated.
Instead, you need to be able to speak your prospect’s language. You need to demonstrate that you understand the business problem they face.
For example, if a client has experienced a significant decline in their profit margins due to changes in the marketplace you need to be able to talk about that problem—intelligently.
When you execute this properly, you not only develop rapport with the other person, you also position yourself as an expert.
You can also establish rapport by outlining the goal of your sales call, confirming the time that’s been allotted and then finishing early. No one will EVER complain about a sales meeting finishing early!
Objections are a natural part of the sales process. However, how you respond to them can make or break a deal.
First, it is essential that you outline the objections you hear most frequently. Then determine the most appropriate rebuttal. However, before you respond follow these three short steps first.
1. Empathize. This means verbally stating that you understand, respect or appreciate the other person’s concern. “Mr. Smith, I understand that you have budget issues to deal with.”
2. Clarify. Restate the objection back to the prospect in your own words to ensure that you clearly understand it “So you see the value in this product, it’s just that the purchase exceeds the budget you had allotted, correct?”
3. Seek permission. Ask the other person for permission to offer a solution. “Mr. Smith, would it be okay if I took a minute to discuss a few options?”
Follow this process and you will find that most people will be more receptive to hearing your solution.
If you want to achieve long-term success in sales you MUST be persistent. However, there is a significant difference between being persistent and stalking someone.
Persistence means finding creative ways to keep your name in your prospect’s mind.
Persistence means not allowing the first few no’s to prevent you from pursuing high-value, legitimate sales opportunities.
Persistence means asking for the business, the appointment, or the right questions when necessary even if the prospect is going in a different direction.
To succeed in sales you need a plan.
You need to be organized.
You need to be able to outline your day, week and monthly schedule in order of priority.
You need to juggle the demands placed on your time because it is virtually impossible to get everything done that you need to in a given day.
This includes contacting your most important and valued customers first and investing more time with them than your low-value accounts. It means managing your time so you focus on completing the most important tasks first (i.e. prospecting) rather than spending time on things you enjoy doing.
Lastly, sales people need to have focus.
There are a multitude of distractions that threaten to challenge your focus. Email, telephone calls, text messages, problems, paperwork, and traffic are just a few.
Being able to maintain your focus on the big picture as well as the smaller details can make the difference between success and failure.
This also applies to each sales call and meeting. Determine the key objective for each call and focus on achieving that objective.
Selling in today’s hectic and complex business world requires tremendous effort and energy. It is highly competitive and stressful. However, you can improve your results and achieve a much higher return on your investment by developing and applying these essential sales skills.
Could your team use some help improving these skills? Feel free to contact me and we can discuss the best approach to take: 905-633-7750.