7 sales skills to further improve

The following 7 sales skills I believe are the most important skills for professional salespeople. Get good at this and you’ll be able to make a lot of money no matter what the economy is like.

Sales Skill No. 1: Qualify quickly so as not to waste sales time

Do you chase your prospects until they tell you yes or no? Do you ever tell your prospects “No,” as in “No, I’m not going to sell to you”? There are many things in sales that you have no control over. The only thing you do have control over is your time and how you choose to use it.

To qualify quickly, you need to have a set of criteria describing who you will and will not sell to. You want to sell to the prospects who are likely to buy your products, and drop the prospects who are not likely to buy (so you can find more good prospects). Sounds simple, but too many sellers allow sludge to build up in their pipeline, limiting the total revenue flowing out of it.

IMPORTANT TIP: Make a list of sales qualification criteria that prospects must meet so you can invest your sales time with them.

Sales Skill #2: Motivating prospects

Qualifying goes beyond budget, authority and need. You want to sell to prospects who *want* to buy from you. Finding potential customers who need our products is usually not difficult. However, it can be very difficult to find those who really want our products if we wait for them to come to us.

Products sold by professional sellers are more complex and offer more value than basic products offered through shops, catalogs and brokers. Prospects generally don’t know they need such products until they first discover they have a problem. This process can take seconds or years, depending on the nature of the problem (and the outlook!). Potential customers are motivated to work with you when you help them discover that you solve their problem better than anyone else

KEY TIP: Determine what problems you solve or fix for your prospects. Plan and ask questions to expose and agitate those issues.

Sales Skill #3: Selling to people outside your comfort zone

Most sellers who are “people people” already think they are good at this. Let me ask you a question. When you last lost a sale, how was your relationship with the key person who decided against you?

You can’t afford to look away and ignore people you don’t have a natural rapport with. The good news is that people love people like themselves. All you need to do to gain rapport is to stretch your behavior beyond your comfort zone until you become just like a different person.

IMPORTANT TIP: Match speech patterns with people to build rapport beyond your typical sports or weather conversation.

Sales Skill #4: Reach decision makers via voicemail

There are two ways to sell more. One is to close more of the prospects you contact. The other is to get more prospects in the pipeline. When prospecting, you can view voicemail as your friend or your foe. With 70% of your prospecting calls going to voicemail, it’s time to make friends with them.

While you’ll never come close to getting every voicemail, you can get a significant number of your messages back if you treat them like one-on-one commercials.

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IMPORTANT TIP: Prepare 3-5 separate voicemail messages focused on benefits that you can leave for a single decision-maker over a period of days or weeks before giving up on her. Each message should focus on one unique customer benefit.

Sales Skill #5: Giving “I have to have that” presentations

Let’s face it, many business presentations are really boring. Sellers talk about why their product is great, why their company is great, and the history of their company. Outlook does not relate to this. That’s why they look so bored.

Great presentations capture the prospect’s imagination. The best way to involve the imagination is to tell stories. Stories rich in descriptive detail make the prospect imagine they are using your product and elicit the “I Gotta Have That” response.

IMPORTANT TIP: Study 1-3 of your best customers and develop detailed customer success stories that will bring emotional power to your presentations.

Sales Skill #6: Getting Commitments Instead of Closing

Eliminate “Closing Cheese” from your vocabulary. You know what I’m talking about: “Do you want it in gray or black?” or “If I can show you how this will help you, would you like to buy today?”. Rules like this are why salespeople are at the bottom of society’s respect list, somewhere near lawyers.

Learn the power of asking for incremental commitments from the beginning of your sales cycle. It’s not an easy shift to make. First, you need to get the prospect to show you what they want most (Hint: see Skill #2 above). You can then negotiate incremental commitments in exchange for more of your time, information, or resources.

IMPORTANT TIP: Practice asking for simple commitments once someone has expressed a clear need, pain, or desire.

Sales Skill #7: Have more fun

Sales are fun when you’re in control and closing deals. Selling is miserable when you’re under pressure to close business.

Take the pressure off yourself to close and focus instead on qualifying and motivating your prospects.

IMPORTANT TIP: Shift the responsibility back to the prospect to solve their own problems, and the pressure to make the sale will disappear. Focus on selling at your best only to qualified prospects and you’ll close more and have fun doing it.

Bonus sales tip

When you’re giving a presentation, selling on the phone, or one-on-one in your prospect’s office, imagine your prospect has the words SO WHAT stamped on their forehead. Imagine the prospect asking everything you say “so what, why should I care?”.

Remember, prospects only care about how what you’re selling can solve a problem they have or help improve their business or life. The answer to this question is always what your product does for them (benefits), not what your product is (features).

© 1999-2004 Shamus Brown, all rights reserved.