This is our list of sales skills with examples to give a glimpse of what it takes to be successful in selling today. Selling is a purposeful and producer focused profession. Every time we engage with a customer, send an email, or have a meeting, we must ask ourselves, “What is the purpose of this?” This leads on to questions such as what sales skills are required for each step or stage? how do we approach our selling activity? What is the difference between hard and soft sales skills etc?
Today, sales expertise, talent and the sales experience is now the top reason buyers choose a supplier. So, skills, knowledge and the sales mindset takes on renewed significance.
When we consider what customers are looking for, what they are trying to avoid, and what tips the scale in favor of the winning supplier, the sales task is clear. We need the skills to build our sales tactics around deep industry insight and expertise. To clearly demonstrate that we can solve the challenge at hand. This is what the modern buyer is seeking and what converts them into paying customers.
Instead of hard selling customers on our offerings, our focus is on serving them. Or another way to look at this is to aim on having our time together be valuable for them, regardless of the outcome of the interaction. We must be able to position our company to be relevant to our customers ongoing and evolving needs. This means we must first understand what those needs are and how they are changing. Then we must make it clear how our expertise can address those challenges or pains.
Then we need to build our sales skills to nurture and stay in contact with customers more frequently, educating them, not selling to them. Listening to them, not telling them. Do what it takes to be perceived as a Visible Expert—a respected subject matter expert and trusted advisor.
This leads us on to the rise of relevance as buyers seek out, are loyal to, and refer suppliers that they believe can drive their business success. Increasingly, it takes specialized sales expertise to beat the competition. Today, sales talent is now a key differentiator. A salesperson with great sales skills is the top factor that tips the scales for buyers. That means the quality of our sales skills directly affects the bottom line.
The modern buyer is business savvy and expects more than the value that comes with the purchasing the product. They want more than the value our company adds in. They want unique, relevant, personalized value. The only place they can get that is from us, the seller, human-to-human. They expect us to create value in every interaction with them. The rate of change of technology is driving an increasingly competitive selling environment, lowering barriers to entry for companies and products. While the expectations and preferences of customers continue to evolve. These forces are changing how businesses and salespeople operate – from selling tactics and business models to product offerings.
What are sales skills?
We know that selling is an exchange of one product or service for something else in return (usually money). The key is streamlining our sales process so that our efforts result in higher sales numbers and higher returns on our time investment. In a nutshell, selling is successfully influencing the buying decision of the client.
“Selling success is contingent upon the sales skills of the salesperson, not the attitude of the customer.”
Our role as the salesperson is to be effective in all our sales efforts, so our activity and communication facilitates the decision making for the customer. To do this, we must be able to.
· Open meaningful conversations with a customer.
· Understand the business issues of the customer.
· Help customers to understand these issues.
· Build an effective solution.
· Link the proposed solution to the issues.
List of Sales Skills with Examples
Sales is about getting a prospect or customer to take action. “Teach customers something new and compelling and provide reasons for them to act” To improve selling opportunities, we need to understand the buyer, their pain, what they want to gain and then we need to add value to open up the buyer to change. Selling today is all about recognising the true motivations of buyers and aligning our presentations and solutions to match their needs and desires.
- Be an expert. To be an exceptional salesperson we need to start with knowledge. We are knowledgeable on the products we sell alongside the market or industry. We are experts on product uses, benefits, operations, procedures etc. Because of our knowledge, we don’t have to sell ourselves as hard as we can narrow down the relevant information the customer needs to understand. We know that our personality is an important factor in sales, but it pales in comparison to our knowledge and the ability to answer the questions a customer brings to conversations. We understand that our buyers aren’t looking for a new friend, they are looking to improve and enhance their business results.
- Our sales mindset. Those of us who consider our ability to be malleable (a growth mindset) will strive to develop it by setting challenging goals. We consider effort an inherent part of the learning process and setbacks to be fruitful experiences to assimilate. We are characterised by a greater passion for learning and a decreased anxiety in the conception of failure. This leads us to stretch and expend efforts to reach our full potential. We are more responsive to feedback, more resilient and persist for longer, cope better with change, have better self-management, higher self-esteem, wellbeing, and mental health. No matter what level of sales ability we have, we know that effort ignites ability and ability turns into accomplishment and achievement.
- Creative Thinking. Did you know that sales creativity is a higher order thinking skill (HOTS)? Creative thinking is an important life skill for the 21st Century that helps us cope, adapt and flourish in our sales roles. This is why creative thinking makes our list of sales skills. ‘Creative thinking is defined as the thinking that enables us to apply our imagination to generating ideas, questions and hypotheses, experimenting with alternatives and to evaluating our own and our peers’ ideas, final plans, tactics and processes.’ So, creative thinking really boils down to its impact on our productivity and ability to solve challenges. Creativity is increasingly viewed as a collaborative process of sense making and problem solving. Employee creativity has been heralded as key to organizations’ survival and success. Indeed, scholars frequently suggest that employee creativity is positively associated with work-related outcomes such as job performance, organizational effectiveness, and competitiveness.
- Active Listening. As salespeople we talk, and we listen. But how much active listening do we actually do? The strongest sales communicators are strong listeners. Active listening is the practice of showing a customer we are listening through verbal and non-verbal cues. Active listening has two main purposes, one that impacts us and one that impacts the prospect or customer that we are listening to. The first purpose of active listening is to structure how we listen and respond to others to ensure that we understand, interpret, evaluate, and respond to what we hear helpfully. The second purpose of active listening is to show the person we are listening to that we are doing all these things – giving them our full attention. This in turn builds trust and appreciation between us and the speaker. Enhancing our active listening skillset involves more than just hearing someone speak. When we are putting active listening skills to practice, we should be using the following techniques: Paying full attention, Withholding judgment, Reflecting, Clarifying, Summarizing and Sharing.
- Ability to measure sales progress. The only way to know whether our sales efforts (ROSE- Return On Sales Effort) is successful is by self-monitoring our sales progress. To improve our sales outcomes, we must be able to accurately measure our sales progress. To do this we must be able to identify Yes Commitments or Yes points at each of the stages in our sales process so that we can track, forecast, and improve. Yes Commitments = One commitment at a time. Yes Points = Series of Yes commitments you want in any sales stage. Start by breaking your sales process down into its logical chunks, such as, for instance: Prospecting, Discovery, or Presenting Value.
- Communication Skills. Communication is simply the activity of conveying information. The word communication has been derived from the Latin word ‘communis’, meaning to share. In sales, communication is the sum of all the things we do when we want to create understanding in the mind of a customer. It is a bridge of meaning and purpose. It involves a systematic and continuous process of telling, listening, and understanding.” Effective communication happens when we follow the basic principles of professional communication skills. These can be abbreviated as 7 Cs, i.e., clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete, and courteous. On our list of sales skills, the ability to communicate effectively, concisely, purposfully and impactfully cannot be underestimated.
- Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is also on our list of sales skills. Click for list of sales skills definitions. This is our ability to attend to and use our inner experiences (both good and bad) in a more mindful, productive way for our sales career. Developing our emotional intelligence involves cultivating our curiosity (business and personal), growing our knowledge, and producing new ways of looking at things. On the surface, it’s a repetitive process. So, we need consistency and patience. Tending to our emotional intelligence brings new opportunities from discovering a new sales tactic, having a eureka moment, connecting the dots between two issues, getting involved in a lively sales conversation with a customer. Research shows that one of the most important foundations of emotional competence “accurate self-assessment” was associated with superior performance among several hundred people from twelve different companies. The best salespeople know how to get into the heart of people’s needs or pain points, addressing them and turning objections around into a sale. There’s an opportunity there to connect even deeper because we are being given insight into that customer’s way of thinking. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) recognizes those opportunities.
- Overcome Buyer Roadblocks. In any sale, we aren’t simply competing against competitive offerings. We are Competing for “mind share” and competing for resources. Competing against alternatives including The Status Quo. Competing against internal Buyer Roadblocks (The silent stages). To overcome roadblocks, we need to understand that the Decision-Making Journey relies on active decision making, with a focus on cognitive and behavioral influence and engagement. We have to overcome the many implications that a potential customer must consider before purchasing any offering. Implications include concerns about change, risk, training etc The many tangible and intangible factors that are associated with the actual adoption of a new offering. The buyer roadblocks has to do with the change that will occur, or even the perception of change that will occur on acquisition and adoption of our offering. It doesn’t matter if the reasons are valid or imaginary, proven, or perceived—the change that an organization thinks it will have to endure is the buying concern that can most significantly slows or stops the buying journey. We need the sales skills to address buyer roadblocks.
Bonus List of Sales Skills with Examples
A recent research study strongly suggest that personality traits of high achieving salespeople play a significant part in our success. The 7 Key Traits are as follows:
- Being Modest. Over 90% of top performing salespeople have medium to high scores in modesty and humility. Also, these salespeople tend to be very team oriented.
- Conscientiousness. In excess of 85% of high achieving sales performers have a strong sense of duty and responsibility. They take control of the sales cycle and maintain control of the account.
- Achievement Driven. Nearly 84% scored high in achievement. Achievement in sales is paramount. They are always aware of their performance to goal. To achieve this, they tend to be customer-focused as opposed to product-focused.
- Being Curious. 82% scored high on curiosity. These salespeople have an “active presence” during sales calls, are good listeners who ask thought-provoking discovery questions that uncover needs as well as potential problems.
- Self-Determined. Top sales performers do not need social recognition or constant affirmations. They become sales experts and build credibility. Teir recommendations are taken seriously and followed. They focus on being solutions providers, being trusted, as business partners without the need for being liked.
- Resilience. Top sales professionals reflect but do not wallow. They visualize positive outcomes, and they can bounce back from rejection. These top performers look ahead to the next opportunity and take actions to succeed.
- Focused. Top performing sales professionals are focused on the outcomes and results. They are comfortable engaging customers they may not agree with or who have different values. They are committed to their career, sales skills training and success.
So, there is our list of sales skills with examples. We hope you enjoyed the article and can reflect on your own journey towards sales success.