The sales skills every salesperson needs most
When you work in sales, you’re the backbone of the company. You bring in the dollars that pays everyone’s salaries, from the janitor all the way up to the CEO. And yet you can’t major in sales in university or college. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry… and you can’t learn about it in school. So if you want to get into sales or improve your game, there may not be that many resources out there for you to improve your sales skills.
That’s why we’ve compiled the top skills that all salespeople must have. If you master these skills, you’re well on your way to selling more and getting bigger deals.
Sales is all about getting people to buy things – but the key word is “people.” In order to convince a person to buy something, you have to connect with them and show the value of your product or service. You then have to show how the value you provide solves a problem in that person’s life – and does it so well that they are willing to pay for it. All of this is about relationships.
Since solving problems for people is the key to sales, relationship building is a necessary skill. Depending on what business you work in, there are two kinds of relationships you need to build: one-to-one and one-to-many.
One-to-one relationships happen when you connect with another individual, or small group of individuals making a single purchase. A common example would be selling a larger item like a car or a big software subscription. You spend a lot of time on one sale because it’s worth a lot of money to you – in some cases, millions of dollars.
You have to find a way to connect with those people and deeply understand their problems. Further, you have to collect data along the way from your conversations to see if you have other opportunities to sell to that person or group. Since you’re spending a lot of time with them, you want to solve as many problems as possible (because that means more money for you).
One-to-many relationships are for lower cost products. You may not know all your customers by name, but you know about their characteristics. A common example here is retail chains or online stores. You know that you’re selling to a certain type of person, for example men who like sports for a sporting goods store. Data collection here is more about trends than specific people’s opinions – you need to collect a lot of data about what your potential customers want and then do your best to offer those products or services.
The ability to listen to others
When you see a salesperson in TV or movies, they are often constantly talking, always on the phone, and always convincing people to buy from them. Sometimes they are honest, sometimes they are slimy, selling people things they don’t need or that don’t work. But they always seem to be talking. In reality, the opposite is true. The best sales people, according to a study by Sales Hacker, found that the people who close the most deals listen 57 percent of the time and talk only 43 percent of the time.
The best salespeople are nothing like the ones you see in movies – they listen, and listen a lot. Whether one-to-one sales or one-to-many, they are doing their best to hear the customer’s concerns and problems. Then they position their product in a way that shows how it solves the specific problems of their customers. For example, take cow poop. Most people think it’s really disgusting. However, if you call it “fertilizer” then a lot of people, farmers and gardeners in particular, will get a lot of value out of it. By listening to your prospects problems, you can position your product or service as the perfect solution.
But listening is about more than just using your ears. Listening should be done in any way you can. This means:
- Research on trends for your customer type
- Talking to customers
- “Listening” to customers on social media and seeing what they post or talk about
- Body language when you talk to customers in person
- Surveys and other written methods of data collection
So as you go about building relationships with prospects, make sure you’re also listening to their needs. Sometimes, they know exactly what they need and will tell you. Other times they don;t know what they need – that’s when listening to other information is helpful.
Good memory for key facts and stories
When you work in sales, you’re going to spend a lot of time engaging with prospects. Sometimes that’s literally talking to them through email or over the phone. Other times it’s “talking” to them by analyzing their action data and seeing where they engaged with your product or service and when they didn’t. In either case, you want to create an easy system where customers get all the information they need, easily and quickly, so they can make a decision. And in most cases, that means you’ll be talking. A lot.
If you’re going to be talking a lot – either in conversations, webinars, online, or other means – you’re going to need a good memory for key facts and figures. While you personalize things for one-to-one prospects, you will always need to have general information on hand in case people ask questions. This data should be things like:
- Key features of the product or service
- Main problems you solve
- The value you bring
- How your company services clients
- Price ranges and other money-related information
- Basic industry trends and tidbits
If you don’t have this information on-hand, you may lose a deal because potential customers don’t get the information they need in a timely manner. Further, studies show that potential customers want salespeople to act more like consultants, helping them solve business problems, than just someone trying to get them to buy something. Being ready with key information helps you help potential customers, often leading to more sales.
Not everyone has an awesome memory by default, though. If you’re the type that easily forgets things, have your own checklist or “cheat-sheet” of key facts that you keep with you – either a saved email, a piece of paper, or a note on your phone. That way you can recall things or review them before each meeting, helping you remember better.
A common misconception with salespeople is that they are aggressive. They are shown as the hotheaded, angry ones in the office. Pounding the phone down when someone declines to buy and shouting throughout the office when they close a deal. While this sometimes happen – salespeople are humans, after all – most salespeople are incredibly friendly.
Since sales is all about developing relationships and helping people solve problems, being friendly is a necessary skill that any good salesperson must learn.
Being friendly helps in a variety of ways:
- Helpfulness: Being friendly sends a signal that you want to help.
- Kindness: Being friendly just means you treat customers with kindness, which can go a long way.
- Helps you stand your ground: When you’re aggressive, you may have to backtrack later. If you’re friendly, you can stand your ground without regret.
If you’re naturally a more aggressive person, you don’t have to suddenly become meek and quiet. Being friendly doesn’t mean you can’t have passion, be assertive, and pursue your goals. You can also still be disappointed when someone says no and excited when someone says yes. The key is to make sure you’re not being so excited that it makes potential customers uncomfortable. After all, you want them to feel comfortable so they open their wallets.
Knowing how to use social media
The major social media platforms of the world have billions of users between them. A study found that about half of the world is on at least one social media platform. That’s a kind of connection the world has never seen before. And with odds like that, chances are your ideal customers are also on social media. That means knowing social media is a key skill for any salesperson who wants to do well in their career.
You don’t need to be on all the platforms. Just the “major” ones include:
While it’s safe to say your prospects are on at least one of these platforms, it’s unlikely they are on all of them. And, if they are, it’s unlikely they want to do business on all of them. Instead, think about where your prospects are most likely to be when you think about getting on social media. For example, a more professional, white collar audience is likely to be active on LinkedIn. A younger audience will likely be on Snapchat or TikTok.
It’s also crucial to know what kind of content is necessary for each network. While Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook all use written newsfeed style posts, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube are all video based. Even between those networks, there are different kinds of content (Twitter is shorter and conversational, for example, while LinkedIn usually involves people sharing professional wisdom).
If you don’t already use social media, it could be a missing piece to the success of your sales career. You don’t need to be on every platform, but going where your customers are could really help boost your progress to targets.
Keeping track of potential customers
When you meet prospects or engage with them online, you’re likely going to get some good information. Maybe they asked a cool question or said they were interested in learning more. Naturally, you want to keep track of all that data. And that’s where customer relationship management (CRM) systems come into play. These platforms help you keep everything – contact information, notes, deal progress, and more – all in one place for easy reference and analysis.
With the speed of sales and constant changes in the 21st century, knowing how to use a CRM system to manage information is necessary in sales. These platforms come in all shapes and sizes, and can help companies from one employee to thousands. The key is to find the one that works for you and set it up for how you do business.
The most famous CRM company is probably Salesforce, but their platforms can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per year – definitely not small business pricing. However, other platforms like Hubspot are free, making it easy to get started.
When you use a CRM, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is figuring out how it all works. Each system is a little different, so you’ll likely want to get some training on how to do basic functions like adding a contact, leaving a note, or planning out a deal to close. Typically, these how-to guides are made by the provider and are available for free on their websites.
The next hurdle you need to overcome with CRMs is how to do analysis. It’s one thing to track information about a potential customer, but it’s another thing entirely to draw trends out of it. One of the great benefits of CRMs systems is that they can be set up to track analytics about your deals. You can learn things like how quickly on average you close a deal, information trends about who your customers are, and even insights about what you might be able to do to sell more.
If you’re new in sales, learn about CRM systems as fast as you can. They are a very powerful tool to help you track sales progress. If you’re more advanced in sales, become a CRM master – you’ll need it to close bigger deals down the road.