While every salesperson has a unique approach to making a sale, there are some universal selling skills they need to have to be successful. Thankfully, many of these selling skills transfer across industries and even professions, so most of them will not be new to you or your sales team. Of the many broad categories of selling skills, we’re going to focus on professional, soft, consultative and personal skills as well as the best ways to train different selling skills. Building these skills is invaluable to your team’s professional development and your company’s ability to remain competitive.
So, what are the selling skills? If you are being technical about it, they are the abilities you use to convert leads into sales. That definition gives you a goal—to build the skills necessary to make sales—but it does not offer any suggestions on how to meet that goal. If you have spent any time researching how to develop your selling skills, this is an issue you are likely familiar with. Everyone has suggestions on where you should go, but no one seems interested in telling you how to get there. At Selling Revolution, we are aiming to change that.
Professional Selling Skills
A 2019 Forbes article mourned the loss of traditional professional selling skills brought about by the internet. However, the author goes on to grudgingly admit that professional selling skills aren’t lost or dead, they have simply evolved to keep sales teams competitive in increasingly global markets. Instead of operating alone, professional selling skills now work in concert with more technical marketing and sales strategies. When you are working with the members of your sales team to develop or hone professional skills, make sure you are thinking about the future rather than the past.
Getting Through the Door
In the good old days, cold calling and door-to-door sales were commonplace. Many people would hear you out for the sake of politeness, even if they weren’t interested in your product. Now, however, you have to be fast and persuasive even with carefully selected leads. That means your sales pitch has to be perfect. Keep it short, and focus on the problems your product will solve for your customers. A sharp sales pitch is one of several invaluable professional selling skills.
It may seem like a shame to have lost the more laid back, gregarious approach to sales, but the salespeople working now are saving time and effort because their potential customers can find much of the information they want online. Today’s customers are also generally in a hurry. They do not have time to hear you out if they are just going to tell you no at the end of your pitch.
Closing the Deal
Your main competitor is not another company, it is your potential customers’ unwillingness to embrace change. You are attempting to sell them a solution to a problem. If they do not see the problem, feel it is serious or think that your product will be less work than not doing anything, you are not going to close the deal. Knowing how to create a sense of urgency is another one of the most essential professional selling skills to have if you want to convert leads.
Asking Useful Questions
Every interaction you have with a potential customer could turn into a sale, but you should ensure it is also a learning experience. Asking potential customers what pain points they face or what is stopping them from purchasing your product or service right now can help you overcome their resistance and assuage their fears. It also serves to provide you with information you can use when working with similar customers in the future.
Soft Selling Skills
So-called “soft” skills are often overlooked. They are considered easy, unimportant or secondary to “hard” STEM skills. While this is true across industries, placing value on soft skills is particularly important in sales, where a human connection often makes the difference between success and failure. There are too many soft selling skills to cover in a single article, but here are three that we consider vital to the success of any sales team.
Passion and Authenticity
Your sales team does not have to love the products they sell. They do, however, have to be believably enthusiastic about interacting with customers, the product itself and making sales. If they are bored or disinterested, your potential customers will notice. If your team does not seem to think the product is worth putting effort toward selling, why should they buy it?
Projecting passion and authenticity is more challenging than it sounds, but it is one of the most necessary soft selling skills out there. Potential customers will be more enthusiastic about your product, feel more positively about their interaction with your sales team and trust your company more when they interact with a passionate salesperson.
Storytelling is one of the most widely applicable soft selling skills because it is a fundamental part of human communication. From scraps of ancient, classical tales to that one time in college you talk about at cocktail parties because it makes people laugh, stories are how we best convey information and relate to one another.
When you are trying to make a sale, tell your potential customers their own stories. Tell them about where they are now and the struggles they are facing. Then, tell them how the story could end if they purchase your product. Storytelling in sales can help the future, ideally involving your product, feel real to a customer in a way it otherwise would not.
Time management skills are required fairly ubiquitously across industries, so it seems odd that so many people would struggle to manage their time effectively.
Poor time management results in lower productivity, lower quality work and less job satisfaction. People who are reprimanded for struggling to complete tasks on time, or completing tasks poorly, are unlikely to be motivated to improve. If what they are doing isn’t good enough, why bother even trying? Poor performance reviews should always come with advice on how to change problematic habits, and department-wide training can help avoid making anyone feel singled out. It is not a waste of time either; everyone can use the occasional refresher.
Consultative Selling Skills
Consultative selling skills are similar to soft selling skills, but they are more collaborative. Rather than managing your attitude or your ability to get your point across or your time, consultative selling skills aim to improve the interactions that occur between your sales team and potential customers. They are meant to facilitate a deeper, more meaningful understanding.
Do Thorough Research
Do not waste the opportunity to make a sale by walking into a meeting unprepared. Thoroughly researching a lead before you talk to them means you can anticipate their wants, needs and any difficult questions that might arise. Do not be left stammering or searching for answers. Having a great sales pitch is the first step to a successful conversation, but once you have a potential customer’s attention, you have to keep it.
Active listening is one of the most useful consultative selling skills, and it applies to all aspects of your personal and professional life. When you listen actively to what someone is saying, you do more than hear them. It might seem a little cliche to say, but you understand them too. When you listen actively, you are focused on and engaging with what your conversation partner is telling you, both with their words and their body language.
Some steps to practice active listening:
- Give your conversation partner your undivided attention.
- Acknowledge what the person is saying, even if it is just with a nod.
- Be patient. People hate to feel rushed.
- Summarize what they have said after they say it to ensure you are both on the same page.
Active listening is a practice. You will not be perfect at it immediately, but the more you work at it, the better you will become.
The best customers are the ones who keep coming back, again and again, to buy your products and use your services. You did the work to convince them to make the initial purchase. They continue to return because of brand loyalty and satisfaction. Sometimes that is enough. Other times, particularly when larger sums of money are involved, you need to build closer relationships with your customers.
That means staying in touch between sales, offering support and perhaps even loyalty discounts or rewards. It is helpful to have a specific salesperson dedicated to larger, long-term clients. Your employee can build trust and rapport with whoever they interact with regularly on behalf of the client, leading to a stronger, lasting relationship.
Personal Selling Skills
If you had to pick three traits you would like every salesperson on your team to have, what would they be? Every manager’s choices would be a bit different depending on their needs and the current composition of their team, but we are willing to bet there would be a significant amount of overlap. We call these personal selling skills, and everyone’s vary. There are benefits and drawbacks to every trait, but we think being knowledgeable, motivated and intuitive are three of the best for salespeople to possess.
Ideally, your sales team will be able to answer every question about a product that a potential customer has without having to pause to look it up. It is always better to double-check than it is to give a potential customer the wrong information, but having to stop to search for answers or hesitating when asked a question does not inspire confidence.
The best salespeople are motivated. They have to be when they are faced with frequent rejections and arguments from leads who are not interested or believe your product is not worthwhile.
Few people agree to make a purchase the first time someone on your sales team asks. Having the motivation to keep asking, to keep researching and to keep calling to make a sale is what distinguishes the best salespeople from everyone else.
Intuition may seem like an odd skill to include when it comes to sales. But, in reality, it is incredibly helpful. Understanding a potential customer’s tone, body language, phrasing and thought process can help you determine what is stopping them from making a purchase.
When you directly ask what is stopping someone, you risk running into sentiments that are hard to argue with. Perhaps you will receive a helpful answer. But if someone tells you that they do not want to purchase, you will have a much more difficult time changing their mind than before they articulated that thought.
If you anticipate objections, you can respond to them before they’re voiced and give shape. Often, a potential customer will begin to relax when you offer assurances about issues they have only begun to consider. Acknowledging their hesitation makes you seem both trustworthy and understanding.
Selling Skills Training
Many people consider selling skills something you either have or lack. Luckily, that is not the case. Some people are more skilled than others when they first start selling. However, with enough hard work and the right selling skills training, anyone can become a phenomenal salesperson.
There is a wide variety of selling skills training programs available. You always have the option of developing your own as well. Take the time to find or create one that is perfect for you and your team. There is no reason to waste time or money on a program that does not cover the selling skills you want to emphasize.
Wrap Up – Selling Skills
No matter where you are in your career, there is always more to learn and different perspectives to see. With that in mind, never stop striving to improve. Selling Revolution co-founder Ryan Chute has worked with thousands of businesses across four continents and eight countries to update their sales strategies and develop their selling skills. To take advantage of his knowledge of the science and psychology of sales, book a call today.