Selling Skills That Every Salesperson Needs

There is a whole range of selling skills that every salesperson needs to be successful in the modern sales 3.0 era. Thanks to the digital influenced world we live in, how salespeople sell has changed. The role of a salesperson is constantly evolving and a more consultative selling skill set is now required in most sales roles.

However, regardless of any sales methodology, one fact remains true: Successful salespeople will always be looking at ways to enhance their selling skills to achieve higher levels of performance. Whether it is getting better at social networking (social selling), developing their personal brand, improving how to do sales prospecting or account management, the reality is salespeople need support from sales management plus access to continuous sales coaching.

Both at the company and individual salesperson level, everyone has to invest more time learning and understanding the art and science of selling in today’s fast paced buying environment.

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Selling Skills Every Good Salesperson Needs

  • To have empathy and take the time to really understand a prospect’s needs
  • Ability to engage with a prospect at their level and on their terms
  • Is seen to add value to the prospect or customer at every stage of the process
  • An active listener along with skilled at asking questions to uncover challenges or objections
  • Can create a vision for the value that their product will bring for the buyer’s business

Let’s deep a little deeper as these selling skills.

Confidence and a can-do attitude.

Average salespeople do what is required, great salespeople do whatever it takes. A career in sales can be a bumpy road, salespeople suffer all manner of rejections by prospective customers along the way, and they need to be resilient, confident plus maintain a positive can-do attitude from the get go.

A winning mindset in sales “is not a question of do you know it, but rather of one ‘Do you want to do it?”. Because “If you want to do it, you will acquire the necessary knowledge and skills.”  In a sales career, a salespersons most valuable asset is not their value proposition, nor their sales scripts, nor their contact lists. Their most valuable asset is their mindset.

A confidence mindset allows salespeople to transfer belief in themselves and what they are selling to the customer.

An active listener and skilled at understanding the customers’ needs

Research has shown that successful selling is 54% listening and 46% talking. Whether prospecting or business development, active listening to really understand a customer’s needs (they may not even be aware of a need you have flagged as a result of listening to them) is a critical sales skill. Active listening isn’t passive as it involves asking clarifying questions. Salespeople need to understand it is more than just hearing what is being said. It means being constantly attentive to what the customer is saying and truly understand the sentiment or position of the other person.

We know that sales conversations are the key to successful selling in the complex, consultative, or solution type sale. So, effective sales conversations are the result of the salesperson taking responsibility for both their speaking and their audience’s listening.

Rapport building and selling their personality

Another critical sales skill to the ability to establish rapport and relatedness that opens trust with the buyer. So, selling their personality (and personal brand) is incredibly valuable. Being genuinely interested, authentic and engaging is the major plank in gaining buyers trust. Let’s take one step back, because great rapport building can be linked to the research a salesperson does prior to engaging a customer. Sharing insights and asking unique questions related directly to the customers business lets them know that the salesperson is not there just to run through the typical sales conversation.

Even in this digital world, people buy people. It’s about convincing the customer to listen in the first instance and then work towards gaining their trust that the salesperson is the best person to sell the product to them. A salesperson needs to sell their talents (product or market knowledge, problem solver etc) but, even more importantly, they have to sell their personality.

Business acumen and a drive for continuous self-improvement

Top salespeople possess a genuine interest in how business works. They have business acumen, an entrepreneurial drive and ability to self-evaluate their own performance. They can use this to engage customers and then create opportunities where they may not seem to exist. Successful salespeople also display a characteristic of business curiosity. They research and plan out the right questions to ask plus they seek out the right people to ask those questions to, along with finding the answers.

The forward thing sales professional will always see a sale through from execution to delivery as they value customers opinions and referral potential.

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Sales habit loop for sales consistency.

Salespeople have to acquire the skill via sales training that sales negotiation is a process not an event. This means having a well-planned out sales habit loop that consistently addresses all parts of the sales process. They pay attention to the 3Ps of selling – Prepare, Probe, and Propose.

So, there you have some of the selling skills that every salesperson needs. These critical sales skills that can make a difference in how salespeople sell – listening, rapport building, empathy, storytelling, and thinking on their feet, are things that most people in sales can probably do, yet ask ourselves – How much opportunity do they get to practice them? Sales leaders need to create a time and place to allow salespeople practice the more human side of selling to be successful in the sales 3.0 world.

Future of B2B Sales

Future of B2B Sales

Most sales leaders agree that B2B sales are on the verge of a great leap forward, with a series of changes that will redefine what it takes to succeed in the market over the coming years.

The use of data and analytics as part of a sales transformation or sales enablement program is allows sales people to forecast with increasing accuracy, their most valuable sales opportunities. In fact, forward looking companies are using data and advanced analytics to drive their sales productivity alongside revenue growth without adding to their sales teams or costs.

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Future of B2B sales

The change in the B2B buyers journey where they self-educate via content, are technically savvy plus a preference for engaging via the digital networks, is leading the charge for a new breed of sales leaders who have digital expertise plus a strategic approach to engaging customers. The change in the buyer’s journey is also transforming the composition of sales teams with a move away from customer facing sales towards a growth in inside sales and social sellers supported by analytics functions.

Add in the shift towards subscription-based models and you can see why it is critical to re-evaluate how customer engagement is managed. The sales world of recurring revenues means that deals need to be won monthly, quarterly and yearly. Customer relationship salespeople will become increasingly more important and digitally connected sales teams are aligning themselves closely to the buying journey the customer undertakes.

Science is replacing Art in B2B sales

The disruption to the traditional buyer- seller model means B2B sales is becoming more science than art. Selling, customer acquisition and target selection is now more data-driven because of the range of digital tools and advanced analytics available to sales leadership. The focus is now firmly on really understanding the “what, why, and when” of the customer buying process. Research from McKinsey shows that organisations who have embraced “the science of B2B sales” are seeing over 2X times industry average revenue growth.

An interesting statistic from the research shows it is the CEOs of the leading pack who actively lead the sales transformation. They understand that redefining their go-to-market strategy require cross functional alignment and unified execution from sales, marketing, IT, finance and HR. The future of B2B sales will require sales leadership to fundamentally transform their go-to-market strategy around three defining pillars.

Pillar 1. Engage the customer the way they want to be engaged

The debate of salespeople v social v digital is over. Driving sales growth in the future means combining all these resources. However, digital assets (social media channels, content, social selling, data, digital sales tools etc) will be the glue that holds a successful multichannel sales strategy together. To support this pillar, research shows that while 76% of B2B buyers found it helpful to interact (via social media, phone or meeting) with a salesperson when researching a new product or service, this falls to 52% for repeat purchases of products with new features, and down to only 15% who want to interact with a salesperson when repurchasing the exact same product or service.

So, sales leaders will have to plan and cater to the different preferences of first-time and repeat customers.

Companies will use the social channels and digital sales tools alongside the more traditional sales interactions when targeting new prospects who seek direct interaction with salespeople. Examples here include sharing white papers, customer case studies, webinars and interactive product demos, which help salespeople engage customers in the awareness and consideration stages of their buying journey.

For the repeat customers who prefer the online channel, companies need to deploy “socially trained” inside salespeople to keep ensure retention plus speed up the sale process. The inside sales teams will focus on engaging this customer set via social media, email, live web chat, and even live video calls.

Pillar 2. Using data and analytics to make faster strategic and tactical decisions.

Forward looking organisations and leaders will use data and analytics to action key strategic sales issues, such as which market or set of customer profiles to target, what sales opportunities are worth pursuing, resources (and engagement) needed on selected accounts, and to identify sales behaviours required to increase sales productivity. Sales leaders of the future using science in B2B sales will use analytics to build a detailed profile, account and product plan for each of their customers and ideal prospects. These plans will then be enriched with external and social data such as news, financial information, management profiles and market trends to generate a 360-degree view of every customer.

Science will replace art or gut feeling for sales management to identify the sales behaviours that drive sales productivity or how to match the right people to the right deals. Sales performance will be linked back to actual sales habits (sales planning, time management, frequency of customer interactions, conversations, nurturing, prospecting, solution proposals, win/loss ratio etc) so management will be able to identify the best salespeople.

Pillar 3. Nurturing and Growing talent for the digital era.

The socially connect and digitally influenced buyer is increasingly sophisticated and interaction savvy, so sales leaders need to adapt accordingly. Hiring and training a new generation of cross-functional and multi-channel comfortable salespeople will be vital.

Finding the right talent will only be part of the jigsaw, companies will need to invest time and resources in nurturing and growing their sales force. Most current sales training is not fit for purpose, this is why you will see lots more articles on sales transformation or sales enablement.

Some interesting facts worth noting are that adults only remember 10% of what they heard and approx. 32% of what they saw, just three months after the training has finished. But an adult will remember 65% of what they learn by doing. This insight is driving a transformation in how companies deliver sales training. They are evolving from slow instructor lead classroom training to online digital modules and “on-the-job” training where coaches help the salespeople to learn from doing.

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B2B sales trends

Getting started with the science of B2B Sales

A few tips on getting started with the science of B2B sales include:

Understand your current position. Begin by looking at the customer and how their buying preferences will impact the business. How customers buy (will buy) should determine what investments the sales organisation needs.

Take a longer-term view. What will change look like in 12, 24, 36 months? Taking a longer-term view means that sales leadership can plan for and invest in the right sales capabilities based on customer driven road-map.

Use data to test and learn. Buyer habits are changing faster than sales are responding, so speed matters now more than ever. Use whatever data on hand to test and learn, keeping the business nimble. Break down internal silos and set up a sales war-room to launch new multi-channel campaigns and messages. Maybe implement an agile test-fail-learn-adapt model to engage more buyers and then refine the sales tactics to include social selling, social reach, digital engagement etc.

The future of B2B sales will require vision, strong leadership and focus from the CEO and the leadership team plus an investment in time and resources to win out. However, companies using the three pillars in the science of B2B sales are already racing ahead of their competitors and driving sales growth at a faster pace.