How to Improve Sales Skills

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Edward Styles

August 29, 2021

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Sales

"Sell me this pen..." has become the battle cry of marketing teams in small businesses everywhere. The very existence of the mantra feeds the continuous need to break sales down to its most essential parts and put it back together again. 

Therefore, selling the pen is not actually about "selling" the pen, but more so about discovering why a prospect would need a pen in the first place, confirming the need, and then providing the solution. Sellers want to hear expertise, not salesmanship; they want you to listen - they don't care about what you have to offer unless it benefits them; they want to listen to the benefits and less about the features (although form and function add value as well).

Trust the Process‍

Woman on a call

Be prepared to foster relationships and endure over longer and longer customer service sales cycles. Smaller product providers can expect to nurture a relationship for at least three months before the advent of repeat business. For larger buyers with an appetite for complex business products, you may need to court them for 6 to 14 months or more in some cases. According to research by Hubspot on sales stats:

  1. It can take close to 20 phone calls to reach the buyer
  2. One-quarter of buyers need guidance from sales early
  3. Almost two-thirds of buyers are most eager during Consideration

Notice a common theme? Every stage involves a sales professional. Now, combine this underlying philosophy with the following tips on improving sales performance, and you'll have a winning program that 'gets the pen sold.’

How to Improve Sales Skills in a Matter of Days (Not Weeks)

1. Increase Cold-Calling Volume‍

Iron sharpens iron. This frequently expressed idiom rings true when trying to close any type of deal. The more prospects you try to reach, the more you'll inevitably learn about the nature of prospecting in and of itself. Run-of-the-mill salespeople would instead do anything, but cold-call leads they dread doing so. Improving sales metrics means prospecting or cold-calling...every single day at an increasing rate. Does the organization send 150 outbound calls a day? Try making 200 a day. To know the product inside and out is vital, but so is the ability to take advantage of synergistic opportunities that prop up all of the time. The best CRM for outside sales can help keep the pipeline full.

2. Avoid Conventional Sales Language‍

Man doing a sales presentation to a woman

The conversion rate for the majority of salespeople runs somewhere along the lines of one percent. The reason? It comes down to phrases like this: "if I could just have a moment of your time." Nothing is more off-putting than thinking you sound sincere when you're clearly about to try to sell something to someone; the prospect knows it, you know it. The sales process is more than just about the Opening - it also includes the Interview, the Presentation, and the Appointment. Don't place so much focus on hitting a home run with the opener that you forget to ask all of the most pertinent questions. Every call should begin with a compelling opening statement indeed. Place the focus on what you've done for other clients and how you could help the current prospect achieve similar results instead.

3. Tailor Sales Training‍

All too often, everyone gets the same script. That's all well and good if you're going to direct a movie, but not so when developing and distributing training materials. A unified message is excellent, but each salesperson ought to be trained to find and tackle customer pain points in a way that makes sense for them. Should sales team members be able to decide which strategies are best on their own? Not necessarily - but it may be a good idea to allow some autonomy in this area. Let members make script adjustments as long as it adheres to the principles of value-added prospecting and ultimately leads to a close.

4. Attend Sales Conferences and Virtual Meetings‍

Man on a virtual meeting

There are groups, large and small, real and virtual, whose only reason for gathering is the discussion and dissemination of sales knowledge. Such a think tank is indispensable because of the combination and diversity of experience. Any salesperson can get a leg up simply by signing up for weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meetings where members go deep into new insights gleaned from sales data. Small business owners should encourage regular participation in networking and sales groups. Are there industry publications, journals, or other written materials that could affirm the use of specific sales strategies? Keep up with the trends, so you don't get left behind.

5. Listen More‍

The expression 'you have two ears and one mouth for a reason must've been said initially by a salesperson, and a successful one at that. Let's take it a step further: you have to listen to what people aren't saying just as much as what they are saying - and this requires a true dedication to active listening. Let the prospect talk long enough, and eventually, they're going to tell you about a problem of some kind. Once that happens, take inventory of what information they gave readily and what information they were reluctant to give away. A good salesperson will press them on available information, but a great salesperson will take the time to read in between the lines and go deeper with their line of questions.

6. Sales is a Numbers Game‍

Sales Growing concept - People on top of coin piles

Here's the cold hard truth - sales is about numbers. And you have to know what those numbers are if you’re wondering how to improve sales skills over time. For instance, let's say that an IT salesperson picked up the phone and made 300 calls over 12 weeks, spoke to 140 prospects, and was able to set up close to 50 appointments. From those appointments, the salesperson made 75 visits and closed 10 deals. Essentially, for every 7 and a half trips, the salesperson closed one sale. See the value in knowing where you stand with the analytics. Companies are pouring billions into strategic planning from data extraction for a good reason.

Become a leader at selling through...not selling. Improvement instead comes by way of being helpful, adding value, and becoming a trusted advisor. Tell them something they don't know. Treat them like a colleague as opposed to a resource. Yes, sales are about the numbers, but leadership is about listening. It's time to adopt a different script, and that calls for retaining a partner with the marketing vision to transform a sales program truly.

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