Creating a sales skills definition is unique to every business as they need to reflect the overall sales strategy alongside the expected sales activities of the salespeople. Sales skills differ depending on inside V outside customer facing sales plus which part of the sales process a salesperson is involved with. Technology, social media, the internet and the digitally connected buyer has in effect driven the change in how we apply sales skills definition to a sales role.
Sales Skills Definition
This will be personal to each business. However, an overarching sales skills definition is the specific set of sales skills (prospecting, cold calling, nurturing, engaging, presenting, negotiating, closing etc) and knowledge (product, markets, trends, business etc) a salesperson possess to enact the exchange of value between a buyer and the vendor.
Sales Skills Reflect the Business Environment
Sales skills will always reflect the prevailing environment and the buyer’s acceptance of how they interact with the purchasing process. Let me explain further, once upon a time door to door sales was a dominant channel in both B2B and B2C. So, the prevailing environment was to enact sales via “the travelling salesman”. If you were to ask John Henry Patterson (probably the father of sales) back in early parts of the 20th century for a sales skills definition he may have stated skills that reflected a door to salesperson. Firm handshake, storyteller, manipulator, friendly, can convince, pushy, ability to take rejection and a persuader could be some of the skills he would mention.
My point here is that sales skills reflect the company’s sales strategy and business model. So, when it comes to creating a sales skills definition consideration must be given to how the business operates, potential customers preference for buying, ethos, channels and product complexity. The hiring profile and training of sales people should reflect the skills definition as laid out in a sales playbook or strategy.
Let’s compare the sales skills of a door to door salesperson with a modern sales professional when it comes to sales prospecting. For the door to door salesperson it would start with the knock on the door (not too aggressive), their opening lines, the handshake, the smile, their body language, how they were dressed, the opening pitch etc. For the modern sales professional doing sales prospecting what are the skills you would expect?
Future Sales Skills Definition
Some of the traditional skills still hold true, however skills such as ability to research, use of data, multi-channel activity, nurturing relationships and value exchange have replaced many of the interruption sales skills employed by the door to door salesman. This is being driven by social media, data, connectivity, educated buyers and technology that requires a transformation to how many companies sell. These changes will require sales skills that go way beyond the traditional selling tactics.
Skills that make buying easier. Research shows that the educated, savvy and connected buyers want the whole buying process to be easier more rewarding, informative and fulfilling. Business needs to consider what sales skills salespeople are being trained on that reflects this new reality.
Buyers want to engage for longer term value that goes beyond the product. They want to do business with sellers who really understand the “what, why, and when” of their needs. Selling will become more collaborative and intelligent.
To bring this extra value to buyers, companies need to invest in sales training for salespeople so they can educate and nurture customers on needs they do not know they have. Yes, social media, social selling, inbound marketing and digital connectivity is making it easier to engage with customers more cost effectively. But do sales skills and sales techniques reflect the current environment is a good starting question.
Sales Skills Definition for Sales 3.0
Salespeople need to have empathy and ability to really understand a customer’s needs.
The skill to engage comfortable with a customer at their level and on their terms.
Ability to add value to the customer at every stage of the process, leaving aside self-interest.
Skilled at active listening along with asking discovery questions to uncover business challenges.
The salesperson can create a vision for the value that their product will bring to the customer.
Can build rapport, tell stories and sell their personality, because even in this digital world, people still buy people.
Business acumen, the salesperson has a genuine interest in how business works.
They are trained to know that sales negotiation is a process not an event, so they constantly use the 3Ps of selling – Prepare, Probe, and Propose.
Is credible and understands how to build credibility and add value to a customer’s life.
Has the sales skill to pinpoint, quantify and communicate clearly the value their proposed solution will bring to the customers business.
As stated in the outset of this article, a sales skills definition for the sales roles and salespeople will be personal and unique to every business. Just as sales has evolved from door to door in the analogue era to the digital salesperson of today, so too will the sales skills as our environments change with the times.