When you think about athletes that are at the top of their games, the skills that they need to succeed seem pretty obvious. For example, a basketball player needs endurance, top-notch hand-eye coordination, and the ability to work with a team.
But when it comes to something like sales, the skills you need become a lot less obvious – what skills could sales include besides the ability to sell?
Once you know what specific skills you need, you’ll have a roadmap that you can use to improve on each of them. With that in mind, here are some of the most important sales skills you need to succeed in your sales role this coming year.
People are often under the impression that sales is all about convincing people to buy something. While that’s true to some extent, the word “convince” is a bit of a misnomer. You’re not attempting to change someone’s mind about your product, you’re trying to help them realize that they actually wanted or needed your product all along.
To achieve such a feat, you need to be a master of communication. Your job as a salesperson is first and foremost to communicate the features and benefits that your product can offer to them and, most importantly, how it can improve their lives.
Being a successful salesperson requires knowing how to speak clearly and get your ideas across without misunderstandings.
2. Active Listening
You may be wondering: how can I show my leads that they’ve been in need of my product all along if I don’t know them at all?
That’s where active listening comes in. To sell to your lead, you need to know them, and you should be making your best effort to do so in all of your conversations.
Listen carefully to what your leads tell you about their needs. When they’re speaking, you should be taking notes, not planning out your next convincing statement.
Every lead is a puzzle, and they’ll give you little clues about how to solve their pain points every time they speak. Listening carefully is the best way to learn how to crack the code and make the sale.
Empathizing is similar to active listening, but it’s a bit more general. Instead of just listening to something your lead says, take note of how they say it.
Similarly, pay attention to how they react to things you say. For example, did they start to get defensive when you brought up a certain point? If so, that’s your cue to ease off. Alternatively, did they seem to ask more questions when you mentioned a specific feature? That can help you guide your conversation around that part of your product.
Empathizing helps you read your leads better and understand what they want and need from you. It’s a way of putting yourself in their shoes so you can go beyond what they say and understand how they feel.
Since the dawn of time, people have been learning and sharing through stories. While the reasons behind this are continuously being researched, the most important takeaway is that learning how to spin your sales pitch as a story can pay off.
In a sales context, storytelling works because it helps engage your audience on a topic that otherwise might not stand out to them. What makes your social media scheduling tool better than the dozens of other ones on the market? When you add little anecdotes about your team or your company, it helps your leads connect with the product more and remember it.
To make this even more effective, try to demonstrate how your lead can fit into the product’s ongoing story by becoming a successful and happy customer.
5. Objection Handling
The reality of sales is that most conversations aren’t going to go as planned. At one point or another, your lead is bound to object. As a salesperson, you need to know how to handle that.
One way to deal with objections is to prepare for them in advance by coming up with responses to the most common ones. These include objections like:
- It’s too expensive.
- How is it any different from your competitors?
- We don’t need something like this. Our old methods work just fine.
Planning out some stock responses to each of the most common objections can be a big help, but it isn’t a silver bullet. Sometimes, you’ll need to be able to think fast and come up with a response right on the spot. This will come in time, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind as you progress in your career.
Confidence isn’t usually thought of as a skill, but it actually can be learned and practiced.
But how exactly does it help with sales? Well, people generally are more likely to follow and take the advice of people who are self-assured – as long as they’re not arrogant or cocky. By appearing confident that your product has the solutions to your lead’s problems, you instill a sense of trust in them and help alleviate their doubts.
Essentially, confidence helps you take charge of your sales conversations and guide your leads through your discussions from opening questions to signing to the dotted line. Just make sure that your confidence doesn’t turn into arrogance, which can sink a deal very quickly.
In many sales contexts, negotiations are par for the course. Without knowing how to negotiate properly, you’ll either sink a bunch of deals or leave a lot of money on the table.
Luckily, the negotiation process is nearly romanticized in today’s culture, and there are lots of resources you can use to up your skills in this area. Simply browsing the business section of your local bookstore or library will lead you to tons of books that cover the art of negotiation, and there are many podcasts and online resources on the topic as well.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription when it comes to winning a negotiation. You’ll have to study up and put what you learn into practice again and again to truly become a master negotiator.
8. Managing Your Emotions
Sales can be a stressful and thankless job that forces you to deal with irate leads that don’t give you the respect that you deserve. But even when a lead is treating you poorly, you need to make sure that you don’t let your frustration and emotions get to you.
Whenever you speak with a lead, you need to ensure that you’re able to put all your negativity aside – you can’t unload all your stress from the morning commute on your lead. Even if they’re being completely disrespectful to you, you need to stay calm, collected, and polite.
This is a tough task, but it’s an essential part of being a successful salesperson. Luckily, learning this skill will reward you not just in sales but in your life in general, so honing it is a win-win situation all around.
9. Time Management
As a salesperson, you need to be able to manage your time effectively to meet all your sales targets. In this situation, the saying “work smarter, not harder” could not be more apt.
Salespeople need to learn how to schedule themselves and keep track of their time so that they can manage long lists of leads, and make sure they’re working efficiently. Modern tools, like CRMs and schedulers, can help you with this, but you’ll still need to be able to discipline yourself and make sure you’re managing your time effectively.
So far, all the skills we’ve talked about generally revolve around what to do once you have a lead in hand. But to get to that point, you need another skill entirely: prospecting.
Prospecting is a broad term that consists of identifying and reaching out to potential clients. There are lots of ways to do this, but one of the most ubiquitous is using new technologies, like email finder tools, social media, etc.
Prospecting includes its own subset of skills, like conducting research, deciding where to invest your time, and learning how to use new technologies. You’ll also need to find a way to keep track of all the potential customers you identify, which typically means using a CRM or similar software tool.
Being a successful salesperson requires many more skills than can be covered in a single article. Plus, each skill can be broken down into even more microskills. But if you focus on these 10 skills, you’ll have a great foundation to build off of.
However, improving your skills will take more than book learning. To achieve your sales goals, you’ll need to get out there and put your theoretical knowledge to work out in the field. Get out there, don’t be afraid to fail, and you’ll find success over time.