Sales is a tough profession. Moreover, it is currently undergoing foundational changes. Now, the buyer is in charge, overt pressure is avoided, and technology is transforming how the new sales force is conducting their profession. Only the cream of the crop in sales will survive. So how can you be among those who sell more?
To survive and thrive in this fast-paced and demanding environment, salespeople need to develop vital skills. Many sales professionals will name different skills they believe have driven them to the top. Among top sales professionals, those who consistently exhibit success, the following five skills are essential.
Understanding the Buyer
Today, sales is about identifying the experience a buyer wants to have as they consider making a purchase. Your prospective buyer holds a set of expectations about the purchasing experience and your job as a salesperson is to exceed those expectations. You can’t do that if you don’t understand the experience the buyer wants to have.
When you understand the buyer, you can engage in “buyer-responsive selling.” The goal is simple: provide the buyer with what they want, when they want it. For example, if a buyer needs to evaluate your product or service but don’t have much time, give them a free trial that is easy to set up, easy to use, and really demonstrates the value of your product – in five minutes or less.
Modern consumers prefer to do business with people they trust. The stereotypical used car salesman is out! Good salespeople develop the ability to establish trust with a buyer, treating it as a core sales skill. The best salespeople take action based on what they hear from the consumer. It’s not enough to just listen; you must internalize what the consumer says and then do something about it.
Buyers don’t just want to hear about your product or service. They want to hear how their lives will be enhanced or changed for the good. Top salespeople are able to weave the product or service they’re selling into a larger story that ends with the customer receiving what they want. Your product or service is simply a tool to get the consumer what they seek. For example, when a consumer buys a home sound system, they don’t really want to buy a sound system. They want to enjoy the most incredible entertainment experience possible, and see your home sound system as an effective tool for doing that.
Top salespeople must be able to write. One of today’s most important sales skills is communicating with the written word. How much do you use email to communicate with prospective buyers? Shoddy writing with poor grammar and long, wordy explanations kill the sale aborning. Here are a few rules when it comes to sales copywriting:
- Less is more. Keep written communications short and sweet.
- Avoid generic copy. Take time to personalize as many of your communications as possible.
- Your writing must appear intelligent. Use good grammar, word choices, spelling, and punctuation.
- Format accordingly. Bulleted lists and short paragraphs give information quickly and will likely be read and understood.
- Begin and end your written communications with a call to action that asks the buyer to take a next step.
The face-to-face meeting is quickly becoming a teleconference or quick phone call. Therefore, salespeople need to be effective at managing sales calls using the phone. This requires the ability to read the tone of a client’s voice or measure the cadence of the conversation to determine the buyer’s level of satisfaction. Good phone etiquette is paramount, as well as paying attention to volume and spoken grammar. Smile as you talk; it comes through in how you speak.
Demonstrating Product Knowledge
Salespeople actually need to be subject matter experts. This applies in two vitally connected areas. First, you must understand the buyer. We addressed this in a section above. This involves knowing about the pressing issues the buyer is facing and what the buyer wants as they work their way to a purchase. Giving them what they want, how they want it.
Second, salespeople need to know about their own product or service. Consumers want to learn about your product or service and how it will help them solve a problem or meet a need. In this age of digital information, the consumer has likely researched the product or service in question and will possess more than just a rudimentary knowledge of what is needed.
Modern salespeople must know how the product or service works, how it excels in its given claim, and why it does so better than the competitor’s product or service. Especially if your competitor is selling a similar product or service for a lower price. You must know the product or service through and through in order to convince informed consumers to make a purchase.
Streamlining Your Methods
Many successful salespeople are using technology to become more efficient and shorten the length of the sales process. The salesperson that uses technology to become more productive gains a significant advantage over those who do not. Automating mundane sales tasks allows you to spend more time selling.
Successful salespeople focus on daily tasks or activities that will set them up to achieve a set quota. For example, you might know that a certain number of prospect meetings each month usually allows you to make X amount of sales. Therefore, be sure to schedule at least X amount of meetings, and more each month. If following through on contacts usually brings a sale, by all means spend more time following through on contacts than reading the mail. Structure your daily routine around those things that guarantee success.
Prospecting – Filling Your Sales Pipeline
The foundation of successful prospecting is the strength of your prospect list and precise targeting. Reach high to sell to decision-makers, whether in businesses or the home. Seek to ascertain immediately if you are speaking with someone authorized to make purchasing decisions. Don’t waste time with administrative assistants or other guardians of the throne. Ask for the boss.
When you sell, your prospect is looking to find out how their lives can be enriched by working with you. When you think about providing value, think about how you can provide value from the first conversation. Eventually, this distribution of value will sell you, your business, and your products or services. Begin by selling the idea that the buyer’s time will be well-spent if they choose to speak with you.
Plenty of business success awaits a high-integrity approach. Refuse to use tricks, bend the truth, or cut corners to generate an initial conversation. It can often take multiple touches to get through to someone. The number goes up and down across different industries and when you reach out to different personalities. Don’t give up; persistence pays off.
What are your top skills and strategies to sell more in the coming year? What has worked well for you in the past? We’d love for you to share it with us and our readers! Leave your best sales advice in the comments below.