In this article we discuss the essential sales skills that every salesperson should seek to master as selling moves into the next phase of its evolution. Nearly every sales skill that is essential for engaging buyers today can be acquired with regular sales training. The world of selling is moving fast around us, moving towards digital, moving towards soft skills and moving towards helpful consultative selling without the hard sales pitch.
Regardless of how we consume our sales training, the program content should ideally target the essential sales skills. Make sure the online sales training program includes some of these sales skills.
Soft Essential Sales Skills
Salespeople who excel at the soft skills outperform their competitors by more than 30%, outperform them in areas such as close ratio, size of sales, and customer retention. Success in today’s marketplace is all about the soft skills.
Formal qualifications and technical skills are only part of the requirements for the modern sales professional. ‘Soft skills’ and personal attributes are just as important to success.
To handle interpersonal relations. To take appropriate decisions.
To communicate effectively. To navigate the sales environment.
To make good impressions and impact. To gain professional development.
To compliment hard skills. To building relationships based on empathy.
To demonstrate intellectual curiosity. To be comfortable with new experiences.
To demonstrate flexibility when things change
Soft Skills. The relationship building skills, the skills that encourage our prospects and customers to know us, like us, and trust us. They determine how we act. While the line between the two can get blurry, they are distinct sets of skills and all of us are going to need both.
Emotional Intelligence 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 will 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. Emotional intelligence will and should always be present in sales, even more so with the implementation of automated processes and AI. As long as we serve humans, we need human empathy to balance the impersonality.
In sales, communication is the sum of all the things we as salespeople 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.
The right sales training course can provide us with the skills we need to develop effective communication and will include techniques such as:
How to ask open-ended questions. The ability to convey your views.
How to be open without compromise. Observing emotions and feelings.
Constructing a sales conversation. Offering feedback and opinions. Verbal and non-verbal language.
Develop Your Sales Mindset
Essential sales skills include understanding that today, salespeople operate within a complex, demanding, and dynamic working environment where we are prone to experience an array of different emotions through our various interactions with customers, managers, and co-workers.
Sales training programs should help us to grow our sales mindset. By having a growth mindset, we can develop our abilities through hard work and dedication. We understand that all of us can improve or learn more about sales or life in general, as long as we put in the effort.
The law of attraction is about focusing our thoughts so we can take actions that lead us to the things we want. Expectancy theory states that we generally get what we expect; if we listen to the things that we say to ourselves, our thinking shapes our results.
Create a Sales Habit Loop
Learning about selling or new sales skills, should lead to a relatively permanent change in our behavior as a result of experience. Deliberate practice involves attention, rehearsal and repetition and leads to new knowledge or sales skills that can later be developed into more complex knowledge and skills.
Research shows that what pulls that desire out of us and turns it into real–world action is not our level of motivation, but rather our plan for implementation. Salespeople who make a specific plan for when and where you will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through.
Essential Sales Skills Includes Listening
We speak at around 100 – 125 words per minute but think at around 500 words per minute. This means that we need to concentrate on what is being said and the meanings to stop our thoughts from straying. This is the essence of Listening.
When we deliberately enter into a sales conversation with a fixed purpose of listening for what’s different, we all hear more. We become more actively engaged. Our minds will be less likely to wander and fill in the blanks. We’ve all developed certain habits when it comes to listening. We prioritize and filter for certain types of information. We respond differently to different types of delivery. We tune out, without realizing it, when style or substance doesn’t resonate with us.
Understanding our own listening habits can help us heighten our awareness and become more versatile in our listening. We become more receptive even when what’s being said (or how it’s being said) is less appealing to us.
Learn Negotiating The Close
In sales negotiation, we have to make choices that impact the likelihood of achieving a successful outcome. To get the best outcome, it’s important we know the steps involved in the negotiation process. One of the essential sales skills, negotiation involves a buyer and a seller finding an acceptable solution to an identified problem. Successful sales negotiators control the sales process and come away with a result they’re satisfied with – whether or not they’ve made compromises along the way.
With the right sales negotiation strategy and sales negotiation skills training, even this part of the sales process can remain warm and result in a mutually beneficial outcome for all parties.
An interesting fact from research by Harvard University, salespeople are significantly more swayed by buyers’ constraint rationales than by their criticism of the proposal. Well, it seems salespeople view criticism as inaccurate and even rude and react by holding firm on price. Plus, when buyers describe their financial constraints, salespeople have the habit of taking them at their word when they say they can’t afford the deal on the table.
So, learning how to negotiate the closing of sale is a central cog if we are to avoid lack of compromise or catching red herrings.
Digital Sales and Essential Sales Skills
The digital channels and social media have taken center stage when it comes to selling and are now one of the more valued essential sales skills. Savvy buyers can learn about our business, our products, and our prices with a couple of clicks of a mouse.
The wonderful thing about digital selling and sales in general is that it is a learned skill. No matter where we are in our level of selling ability today, by continual practice at the business of finding problems that our ideas, products and services can solve, we can become better and better. To become more and more persuasive in everything we do and with everyone we engage with. And the more effective we are at selling, the more successful we will be in every other part of our business career as well.
To be effective in digital selling and in building your network, we have to know our audience. That is, we have to be aware of context. What drives them? How does our product or service fit in their ecosystem of needs? As Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt put it: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want to buy a quarter-inch hole.” We simply must understand why your customer wants that hole. Cultivating relationships within that context is much more powerful.
A sales training program that teaches us how to sell on social media will cover how to communicate with our clients, how to build influence, and how to attract new contacts.
Sales conversations should always be guided by relationship building, which allows us to maximize our sales efforts and opportunities. To build lasting relationships we must be able to:
Get critical issues on the table so they can be worked on.
Engages customers in a meaningful two-way discussion.
Actively listens to hear the customers real needs.
Challenge our clients to think differently.
Collaborates internally and externally to build a solution that’s best for everyone
Relationship building happens via a series of Conversations and Commitments. So, making an early impression is important, but ongoing engagement closes more sales. That is possible only by deeply understanding our clients and industry and their unique long-term solution requirements. It requires us asking deep questions, listening as much as talking.
The role of a consultative salesperson is to yield, listen, understand, confirm, and guide. To use every interaction to ask well-crafted questions that prompt the customer to talk more and disclose their needs. The more we talk, the more open and trusting we become.
Here are some basic relationship building selling skills you should make sure your sales training program has:
Active listening. Mirroring and reflective language. Finding common purpose
Building trust and credibility. Following leads and expectations. Cultivating relationships
Know your Value Proposition
The modern buyer is time poor and overloaded with sales messaging. By harnessing a powerful value proposition, we are able to effectively communicate the “what” and the core of our business activity, composed of our products, services, promises and pricing of the business.
If customers believe they will get more value out of our value proposition than our competitors, over time we will win. So, don’t overlook your value proposition in your essential sales skills arsenal. Ultimately, every buyer opts to purchase products and services to improve their lives in some way, to extract value. Value equals the rational and emotional benefits customers get from selecting our product or service minus the price they pay.
To get buyers to listen to our sales conversations and build relationships, we need to ensure that we have a value proposition(s) for our product or service that has both sufficient points-of-parity (POP) and points-of-difference (POD).
We will cover off some other essential sales skills in a follow up article. In the meantime, we should all review our sales training for the year ahead and ensure we continue to build our sales skills.