Sales skills are still widely misunderstood. An HBR article on how to improve your sales skills, outlines the common misconceptions that people have about sellers. The general public still views the “top sales reps” as the people that are the pushiest and associate unethical actions with the profession of selling.
Unfortunately, the practitioners in our profession are not doing enough to combat these stereotypes. Sales professionals are still prone to winging it and as a result, buyers categorize ⅔ of B2B sales people as average or poor performers. In the startling research by DiscoverOrg, they also found that only 18% of buyers trust and respect salespeople.
For the sake of the selling profession and to ensure its longevity, sellers need to start practicing and honing their sales skills. First comes the recognition that sales is in fact a noble profession. The best salespeople are not pushy, they help the customer make the best possible decision for their circumstances by asking insightful questions. Salespeople help their customers by delivering relevant information and insights at the right time.
There are many sales skills that every sales rep must master. For now, lets focus on the sales skills that veterans must master to reach the ideals mentioned above. Sales veterans set the tone for the next generation of sellers therefore, it’s critical that they appreciate selling as a skill and consistently hone their craft. These are the three sales skills even veterans need to practice:
One of the best ways salespeople can help customers is by actually listening to them. Active listening does not mean polite silence. Sitting quietly and thinking about what you will say next to get your product’s value across is in fact the exact opposite of active listening.
Your first goal should be to understand what your customer is going through. This means asking questions to clarify details. You need to summarize what the customer is saying back to them to confirm your understanding. This builds trust with the customer because it is an affirmation that you are making an effort to understand them. It is not however, an intuitive sales skill. Active listening is something that one must practice and make an effort to hone on every interaction with a prospect or a customer.
The best way to come across as being prepared is by actually being prepared. Sales people are notorious for their habit of “winging it” and relying on a “pitch” to close a deal. Both of these practices are outdated.
Before each call, think about not only your objective but the customer’s objective during the call as well. What are they looking to accomplish and what information is important for you, as the salesperson, to gather? With that in mind, you can craft a plan that will accomplish both objectives in a harmonious manner. Here is a more detailed guideline on how to plan for a sales call.
Veteran sales people should know better than others that a lot of times, salespeople themselves need to generate opportunities. Sales professionals can not always rely on marketing to fill their pipelines.
Cold calling is unfortunately a dreaded part of sales cycle - for both sellers and buyers. It’s understandable why. Cold calling is often ineffective but as soon as certain scientific principles are applied to cold calling, they can dramatically improve your rate of conversations and initial appointments.
When done well, prospects are very receptive to cold calls and will give you the time of day. It is also a great opportunity to build trust with your customers right from the get go.
A lot of veterans are most likely already well versed in the skills listed above. However, let's not forget that these are skills. Sales skills demand practice and deliberate effort. In order to stay at the top of their game, and to debunk the myths of sales professionals, veteran sellers must practice these sales skills throughout their entire career.