The key sales skills need to succeed in today’s business environment are very different from 5 or 10 years ago. The influence of digital media, the internet and access to unlimited amounts of information online, means everything has changed in how we go about selling to customers. The rules and interactions between sellers and buyers have been being rewritten, never more so since the global pandemic hit. Remote or virtual selling is the new normal. Meaning, a new type of buyer has entered the sales process, one who is practically a digital native, informed, armed with information and couldn’t care less about the outdated sales techniques still being used to snare them.
Our key sales skills need a reboot so we are aligned to the new buyer’s journey and their way of thinking. Sales skills that are more collaborative, intelligent, positive and interactive. The great asset any business may have in an increasingly commoditized world is the key sales skills of its salespeople to nurture relationships with buyers. Every salesperson with the determination to succeed needs to update themselves of how the various influences and channels are changing the way buyers go about buying.
Technology, data, content, AI and social channels will drive the sales process of the future. The key sales skills needed to flourish within this new reality will reflect the way buyers will and want to interact with vendors. So, what are some of the key sales skills every salesperson will need to thrive, not just for the here and now but also for the foreseeable future?
Even in the digital era, people still buy people. So apart from being really knowledgeable on our own product and services, we also need to have the key sales skills to know the exact value they bring to that specific buyer. Selling is now about being highly personalized (using data, insights and even AI), so we need to know about the trends, markets, industries and challenges of every customer we want to do business with. To be a real partner in the sales process, we also need to know the internal workings of a business, how they do business, how they see their future, what could impact or accelerate their growth and all of this with no self-interest on our part. It really is now a customer first strategy.
Savvy buyers will only want to interact with salespeople who are credible in business, with a higher level of expertise on the solutions available to the buyer, a salesperson who can collaborate with patience. Buyers also want salespeople to educate them, provide insights and neutral information on the technologies that could be of value to them in hitting their Goals (not ours!!). So, one of the key sales skills is business acumen, the understanding of the risks and opportunities in business, how business operates plus judgement and financial skills.
Learn to Master a Multi-Channel Sales Process
B2B buyers now display a lot of the same characteristics as B2C buyers (because they buy online for themselves), so more and more of their buying journey is now via digital and on the social media channels. Sales success doesn’t come to those who are smartest. Sales success comes to those who see opportunities and take them, these sales opportunities are now to be found in a multi-channel sales environment. Key sales skills such as social selling, digital selling, sharing stories via content, having social conversations, engaging and connecting with prospects online, nurturing relationships online need to be acquired or ingrained.
As a salesperson you will become a master of research. You will learn to use social media, news, data and triggers to research and prepare for every interaction with a customer or prospect. Nearly every sales organization will become a social sales organization, they will be a multi-channel seller in every sense. In fact, “social reach” to customers, prospects and influencers will become a critical business KPI. Salespeople will need to learn social etiquette and the differences between selling into a digital V analogue world.
Customer First Approach.
The modern buyer doesn’t care what you have to sell, they care about solving their pain points and challenges. The last thing they need is another salesperson plugging how great their products are. The biggest challenge to getting an opportunity started is getting a customer or prospect to listen in the first place. But they won’t listen to vanilla type sales pitches anymore. To get customers to listen, we must have a customer first approach with all our sales activity.
Instead of listing off numerous facts or benefits about the products, successful salespeople will use their key sales skills to demonstrate they understand the business challenges that the customer is facing. They will be comfortable putting aside the sales pitch to discuss the business environment that is affecting the customer. They will need to display a high level of competence in active listening, that the customer can see the salesperson is far more interested in their business than getting a sale. This is a change in the sales mindset. It’s a mindset of acquiring loyal customers rather than selling products. A mindset that says, however I leave a customer, I’ll leave with a relationship. A key sales skill will be the customer first mentality, comfortable discussing the future of the customers business, with or without your product.
Work on Your Own Sales DNA.
Sales DNA may not sound like one of your key sales skills to master. However, we believe that what is in a salespersons sales DNA will also clear the road to their sales success. You will have personal goals to achieve, be a self-starter and enjoy the challenges of the modern sales process. Then you will be persistent, consistent and competent in every sales activity you undertake. Because you will know that if you are to thrive in today’s digitally, commoditized and socially influenced business world, you need to have a system for continually updating your Sales DNA.
This means you are goal-oriented. As a future thinking sales professional, you learn the skills to take charge, lead a meaningful business conversation, and when the time is right, sell with confidence. You will know your sector well enough to anticipate and respond to concerns or issues that customers raise without panicking and then to tailor your offerings so they match with the customers priorities.
Your business acumen empowers you to own your Mistakes. You don’t shift the blame, if a deal or interaction goes wrong, you work hard to correct it. You focus on making it as right as possible and then move on. Finally, as someone who has a vision of their own sales success, the last of the key sales skills 101 is that you take responsibility for your self-development, results and outcomes in your sales career.