Every salesperson has a different selling style. However, there are certain skills that all top salespeople have in common. We've outlined 8 skills that we believe are essential for sales reps in the 21st century - whether it's establishing a relationship with a client, identifying customer needs, or the sale itself.
1. Active listening
Gone are the days when salespeople were predatory beasts who imposed products on clients and didn't let them have their say. Experience has shown that empathy and active listening is a much more pleasant and effective approach for both parties. Ideally, today, most of the sales meeting is not spoken by the salesperson, but by the client.
Active listening = paying maximum attention to the client's problems, shortcomings and ideas without interruption. The client must know that the salesperson perceives, understands and thinks about his/her problems.
By actively listening to the salesman:
- gets to know the client's needs faster and finds the best solution for them,
- follow-up questions at the meeting,
- naturally leads the conversation
- and better instils confidence in the client.
Active listening is a skill that must be practiced. If you have the opportunity, practice with teammates or go to practice.
2. Building relationships
If the client never contacts the merchant again after paying the invoice, that's too bad. The merchant should maintain good relations with clients because:
- the client may require additional solutions in the future,
- a good relationship increases the likelihood that the client will recommend the company further,
- the larger the network of contacts, the greater the chance of new contacts.
The salesman should contact the clients from time to time at reasonable intervals and ask them how they are doing, what is new with them and how satisfied they are with the solution. This will let the client know that the firm is not just trying to get money from them, but is interested in whether the solution is actually helping them.
We recommend building relationships not only with clients, but also with all professionals in the industry. If they know the name of the vendor, it increases the chances that they will contact them when they or their friends need a suitable solution. Most salespeople today use LinkedIn to build a network of contacts.
3. Knowledge of the product
It sounds like a given, but in practice some managers still think they can send a new salesperson to a sales meeting right away, even if they've never sold a similar product before. But even the most charismatic salesperson in the world won't succeed without knowing the product - if they don't know much about it, they have nothing to sell.
Product incorporation should be managed by the sales manager who performs the dealer incorporation. He or she should prepare a detailed product manual for salespeople, regularly update them on new product developments and organise regular product training sessions - for junior and senior salespeople.
As a salesperson, if you feel that you don't have enough knowledge about a product, talk to your manager about it.
4. Art of conversation
A salesperson doesn't have to be an extrovert, but they do need to be able to have meaningful sales conversations and small talk. In addition to the above active listening, they should also:
- should have spoken concisely and clearly,
- it should be to the point and not repetitive,
- not lecture the other person,
- not to jump in,
- and shouldn't be afraid to admit he doesn't know something.
Although the client should do most of the talking in a sales meeting, the salesperson actively manages the conversation. He has control over its direction, length and meaningfulness.
The art of conversation can only be mastered by a salesperson through training. It's not enough to just talk to people regularly, but you need to actively think and reflect on conversations (not just sales conversations).
5. Strategic evaluation
Every company, whether it is a corporation or a start-up, should have a well-defined business process - that is, a roadmap for salespeople to follow when dealing with business cases. However, the salesman must be able to judge for himself which solution is best in a particular business situation.
Among other things, they must decide:
- whether the potential customer is relevant and corresponds to the ideal customer,
- whether the product or service actually helps the customer,
- what solution to offer the customer,
- whether it makes sense to approach the customer with another offer.
The ability to make the right decision in similar situations depends on experience. If you are younger, we encourage you to find a mentor and share your experiences with other marketers at work, at networking events or online. Self-study will also help significantly - the more you read about sales, the more ammunition you'll have for your regular practice.
They say that in life we don't get what we deserve, but what we bargain for. This is doubly true in the store. If the salesman knows how to negotiate, he brings better margins to the company and does not have to use discounts as a business tool.
The salesman negotiates constantly, for example:
- about the price,
- on the form of the contract,
- with teammates,
- with the product manager when he needs to modify the functionality of the product,
- with clients if a problem arises.
In addition to daily practice, you will improve your negotiation skills through self-study, courses and mentoring. Although negotiation isn't an exact science, there are plenty of best practices and practices you can apply right away.
7. Project management
Selling requires a systematic approach and smart planning. Therefore, business people should be inspired by experienced project managers. Merchants should approach their jobs the same way they approach their projects.
Project management skills give salespeople control over pending cases, flexibility, organization and the ability to approach individual clients individually.
With knowledge of project management, salespeople:
- they meet deadlines better,
- they close deals faster,
- increase client satisfaction,
- they monitor the budget for individual orders
- or better predict outcomes.
The best way to master project management as a businessman is to take an active interest in how project managers work in everyday practice. Think about how you can apply their know-how and experience in your daily work.
8. Time management
Everyone wants to make the most of their time. For a salesman, this feeling is exacerbated by the stress of the fact that if he does not close enough orders, he will have low commissions at the end of the month. In addition, the salesman always deals with several orders at once and has to plan meetings, trips, phone calls and administration himself.
The advantage is that mastering time management does not require talent as in the case of active listening or the art of conversation. Just find out the proven lessons and follow them.
For example, we recommend:
- automate administration and reduce pointless tasks,
- use templates to create documents,
- don't put off unpleasant tasks,
- prioritize tasks
- and also rest.
We discuss these and other tips in detail in a separate article on time management for business people.
TIP: Salespeople delegate part of the duties associated with time management and project management to CRM. It relieves them of unnecessary paperwork so they can spend more time with clients. If you're not using CRM yet, try it for free for 30 days.