What are sales skills training and techniques as they apply in the modern sales process? Like everything else about business, sales methods change on a regular basis. The way that we sell and reach customers will naturally reflect changes in our methods of communication and our technologies. The history of sales over the last several decades has changed dramatically, but the most dramatic changes have come since the advent of the internet and web-based advertising. Plus, the trend towards globalization means that we have to consider ways of communicating with others who may have very different needs than the customers we have worked with before.
Customers have changed as well.
Today, we as customers expect immediate, convenient, individualized service. If one organization doesn’t provide it, chances are we have another choice to turn to. So, understanding customers is vital to overcoming the competition and learning what it will take to help your customer choose your product or service rather than the competition’s.
The important thing to note is that with sales skills training and techniques you can be learn and developed a whole range of selling ability. These general skills include:
- Listening Skills. An effective salesperson must be able to listen to what a potential customer or customer is saying to them – as well as what is not being said. They must be willing to take the time to understand what the customer truly needs and identify the problem the customer is trying to solve.
- Effective Communication Skills. Alongside listening, you must be able to respond well. You must be able to offer solutions to the customer’s problems if the customer is ever going to buy from you or your company.
- Problem Solving Skills. Great salespeople are always working to solve problems – they understand that problem solving is what their real job is.
- Interpersonal Skills. This goes beyond communication skills; salespeople should know how to work well with their customers and with each other in order to be most effective. They should be courteous, respectful, and skilled at building relationships.
- Organization Skills. Successful salespeople are well-organized. This doesn’t necessarily mean their desk is well organized, but it does mean that they have a system for maintaining information about prospects, customers, products, and any other information their customer might need.
- Self-Motivation Skills. For long term career ambitions, you have to be able to motivate yourself. There will be those times that you don’t want to take the next step in the sales process, but you’ll need to know how to work through those feelings and take the steps that your customers need – and that will help you be successful in your job.
- Negotiation Skills. Customers almost always have a choice in the company they work with or choose to buy from. Negotiating is the art of helping the customer to choose your offer over others.
- Customer Service Skills – once you know how to make a sale, do you know how to keep that customer coming back? Do you view them as a one-time sale or as someone who could be a continual source of sales over the life of a relationship with them?
- Personal Integrity. In any relationship, including a salesperson-customer relationship, integrity is vital. Without it, you will lose the customer’s trust, their business, and possibly the business of others that the customer will talk about your company – and you.
Sales Skills Training and Techniques – Listening Skills
As we’ve learned, a successful sales relationship today involves the seller being able to help the buyer identify his or his organization’s true needs. The seller helps this process by being able to listen to and understand what the buyer is telling him. Studies have shown that most listeners retain less than 50% of what they hear. Good listeners are rare these days. Studies have shown that most listeners retain less than 50% of what they hear.
Imagine what that means when it comes to a conversation that you might have with your boss, a colleague, or a customer. If you speak for ten minutes, chances are that you have only heard about half of that conversation – and so have they. No wonder miscommunications happen so frequently! In order to be a good listener, you should practice active listening skills. In sales skills training and techniques there are five key aspects of becoming an active listener. You are probably already employing some of them but may need to practice others. However, once you are using these tools over time, you will find that they get easier and easier. Plus, you’ll learn so much about your customers and have such better conversations that you will be positively reinforced each time you practice.
Effective Communication Skills
Effective Communication Skills – in addition to listening, you must be able to respond well, whether in person, over the phone, or in writing. You must be able to offer solutions to the customer’s problems if the customer is ever going to buy from you or your company.
Imagine you are on one side of a wall and the person you want to communicate with is on the other side of the wall. But there’s more than the wall in the way. The wall is surrounded by barriers. These barriers could be things like different cultures, different expectations, different experiences, different perspectives, or different communication styles, to name just a few. You might experience only one of these barriers at a time, or you might find yourself facing them all.
Getting your message to the other person requires that you recognize these barriers exist between you, and that you then apply the proper tools, or communication skills, to remove those barriers preventing your message from getting through. Of course, communication is a two-way street. The person on the other side of those barriers will also try to send messages back to you. Your ability to understand them clearly could be left to a dependence on their ability to use communication skills. But that’s leaving the success of the communication to chance. Instead, you can also use your own communication skills to ensure that you receive messages clearly as well.
Finally, there isn’t only one point in your communication with another person at which you have to watch out for barriers. Sales skills training and techniques will show you to be successful at communicating, it’s important to recognize that these barriers to communication can occur at multiple points in the communication process. Remember that communication skills involve both verbal and non-verbal communication. When communicating with others, the non-verbal aspects of what we are saying are actually more important than the words that we use. In fact, if the two conflict, we will automatically believe the non-verbal communication we are receiving over the verbal. So, what do we mean by non-verbal communication? Mainly, we are referring to tone of voice and body language. Tone of voice is responsible for about 35–40 percent of the message we are sending. It involves the volume, emotion, and emphasis in our voice when we speak.
Problem Solving Skills
The salesperson of today is a problem-solver who works in conjunction with the customer to identify any issues that the customer has and then uses that information to offer solutions to the customer’s problems or situations. The tricky part of this situation is ensuring that the problem that the customer is attempting to solve is the actual problem that exists. For example, a customer might come to you saying that they need a specific type of software. You could just sell the customer the software and that would be the end of it. Or instead, you could ask the customer questions in order to determine what the problem is that they are trying to solve. You may then be able to:
One simple problem-solving tool is to use something called ‘The Five Whys.’ It is simple because it uses the question ‘why’ up to five times in order to help get to the root of a problem. But remember that it is indeed a simple tool – if you are dealing with a more complex problem, you may need to learn other problem-solving skills.
Interpersonal skills are more than just communication skills. They are the ‘people skills’ that seem to come to some of us so naturally, while other of us may struggle with them. Interpersonal skills will help you to work with your customers and build rapport with them, but it will also help you to advocate for your customer with your colleagues across your organization. Interpersonal skills also help you to build the type of long-term relationships that are important in maintaining customers over time.
Some interpersonal skills include:
Courtesy – it’s been said that good manners cost nothing, and that’s the truth. There is no reason to be anything but courteous when dealing with your customers and colleagues. It fosters relationships and shows that you care about making the other person comfortable.
Respect for others – you’ve heard the ‘golden rule’, that you should treat others the way that you would like to be treated. But the true expression of respect is something called the ‘platinum rule’ – treating others the way that they would like for you to treat them.
Ability to see things from others’ perspectives – if you have a customer who is upset about something, you might feel as if they have overreacted at first. But you need to be able to understand how what has happened is affecting your customer.
Ability to understand various communication styles – each of us has a way of communicating with the world, and your customer’s could be very different from your own. These differences could create barriers to relationship building if you don’t understand how they may show up.
If you are going to be a success as a salesperson, you have to be well-organized. You’ll have information on your own products and services to keep track of, information on your customers and their businesses, information on prospects that might become customers, and any other information that your organization might provide. Plus, you’ll have information relevant to the job itself. You’ll have to keep track of any sales you make if you are paid by commission or quota. You will have information on internal promotions and procedures, as well as information on how to use any data, tools, or software that you need to use. You’ll also have a calendar to keep track of involving any meetings with clients or internal support people.
As a salesperson, you have to be able to motivate yourself. There will be those times that you don’t want to take the next step in the sales process, or to make that phone call to the next customer. But you’ll need to know how to work through those feelings and take the steps that your customers need – and that will help you be successful in your job. Motivation requires a goal to strive for. You can get as creative as you want in the goals that you set for yourself, as long as they will help you to take the next action(s) that are necessary in moving through the sales funnel. The goals don’t have to be related to your sales funnel – they could also be related to your own personal growth. Here are some sales skills training and techniques insights to keep yourself motivated:
- As we said, motivation requires goals. Decide on what your goals are – and write them down. Consider short, medium, and long-term goals.
- Do it anyway. We all have days where we just don’t feel like doing our work. But in a job like sales, every day and every contact can be important. So even if you don’t feel like doing something on your list – do it anyway. The more practice you get at this, the easier it will become.
- Stop procrastinating. It’s very easy to find things to do other than what is on your list. You need to recognize when you are procrastinating and nip it in the bud. The sooner you get whatever it is you are procrastinating over finished, the sooner you will be free of it and ready to move on to the next thing on your list.
- Set rewards for yourself. As you complete your goals, be sure to celebrate your successes with rewards for yourself. This positive reinforcement will then motivate you to work towards the next goal – and the next corresponding reward.
In today’s competitive marketplaces, customers have a choice in where they will take their business. Persuasion skills are the tools that you can use to encourage the customer to choose your product or service over the competition. One aspect of sales skills training is that the most important skill in persuasion is understanding the point of view of your customers and providing information on the benefits of your offer. As salespeople, we tend to focus on the features of our offering, when what we truly need is to focus on how the customer will benefit from our product or service. Here is a link to free sales training videos.
Customer Service Skills
Customer service is not just a series of steps that you complete. It is an attitude and a way of looking at customers that enables you to provide the best level of service that you and your organization are capable of providing. Don’t underestimate the power of customer service when it comes to making sales and keeping customers – many customers are willing to pay a higher price or go without certain features if they know that they have access to excellent customer service people who will be responsive and effective whenever they are needed.
So, what does it take to provide excellent customer service skills? Any sales skills training and techniques program answers to that question could fill books of its own, but here are a few tips on some main points:
- Take responsibility for the customer’s experience – from first contact and beyond the sale. Customers might only make one purchase from you – or they might make repeat purchases over time. But even if they don’t ever buy from you, they can carry an impression of your customer service with them and tell others about you – the good and the bad.
- Remember that even if you have dealt with this same issue a hundred times already today, it is the first time that your customer is dealing with it. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand how their problem is impacting them and their business.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Whether you have good news or bad news or just some interesting news, you need to remain in communication with your customers. Many times, a customer will be understanding about a situation as long as you keep them informed about what is going on.
- Honor your word. When you make a promise, be sure that you can deliver on it – and hopefully, exceed what you’ve promised. Your word is very fragile with customers – it takes only one time of failing to deliver on your word for you to destroy the reputation that you’ve built with the customer.
As in any relationship, integrity is vital in your relationships with your customers. What do we mean by integrity? A simple definition is that someone with integrity acts in accordance with their values and their commitments. This means that if you act with integrity, you will be fulfilling not only your organization’s values, but your own.
When you demonstrate that you have integrity, you show that you are someone who can be trusted and that you have the best intentions for your customers. This can make you a valuable partner and a trusted colleague. It can take multiple interactions to show that you have integrity – but, as mentioned above, you can damage your integrity with only one failed interaction. Remember that every time you work with your customer, you have an opportunity to demonstrate your integrity. This is why sales skills training and techniques are invaluable.