Like everything else in the modern age, sales changes at an incredible rate. The buyer of today has far more power than they did yesterday, armed with all the information the Internet has to offer. They keep to their own buying schedule, without the guidance they might have previously had from a salesperson.
Because of changes in buyer behavior—as well as other changes brought about by the digital age—sales strategies have had to change, too. Some sales organization, though, have been reluctant to give up their tried and true methods. But competition is more fierce than ever, so it’s time for a new look from just about everyone.
What is required in this ever-changing environment? Solid fundamentals.
When the most essential skills are understood by today’s sales pro, they can make considerable forward motion. These skills also allow the salesperson to build their personal brand, which is today a salesperson’s most valuable career asset.
Fully Understand Lead Qualifying
One of the top reasons for missing quotas is expending sales time and energy on prospects who in fact are not ready to buy in the near future. Keep a sharp focus on the factors that your company has identified that make up a qualified lead. You’ll always find that you have two basic kinds of prospects: “ready now” (on the short list for immediate action), and “not ready yet” (need to be nurtured).
You have different roles to play with prospects at every stage of an opportunity. But there is a considerable gulf between the types of sales activities you take with someone who is ready to buy now, and someone who is looking at a purchase further down the road. Being aware of the difference—and more importantly acting on it—will boost your success rate.
Be Open to Technology
Be receptive to technology. Learn to identify and adopt techniques and tools that will assist you in gaining insight, saving time, and eliminating bottlenecks. Gain an understanding of social media, and learn how to fully take advantage of it. Prospects today have preferences about how, when and where they communicate. Know how to meet them on their terms.
I should of course mention the great changes occurring within the CRM world. CRM has moved from a burdensome, data-entry hell into something very useful. Our product, Pipeliner CRM, is sharply focused on adding business value—helping sales professionals work faster, seamlessly use insights, tackle priorities right when needed, and easily collaborating. Pipeliner is instant intelligence, visualized.
Sharpen Your Research Skills
The very basic information about a prospect (company, role, address, and product/service) is no longer adequate. If you haven’t done so, you need to learn how to gather a generous range of information online. Information can be very much like an iceberg—the far greater amount is underneath the surface. Master the ways to uncover knowledge that drives success—from feed readers to sales intelligence software, from Twitter lists to analyzing a LinkedIn profile.
Learn to Listen
“Don’t be a crocodile salesman, big mouth and no ears,” cautions venture capitalist Mark Suster. You’ll only understand your buyers’ emotions and needs by listening.
Listening is the key component of building trust, confidence and intimacy with your prospects and customers. It brings out a willingness to share details with you, that you need.
Know How to Counter Objections
Your company’s top sales performers, in who’s footsteps you are following, know all the objections you’re likely to encounter, and have long ago learned how to deal with them. Learn all of these measures well.
Deliver a Killer Presentation
When you present, make it well-designed with great graphics. Trim down the verbiage and keep out the buzzwords whenever possible. Staying ahead of the average presentation keeps you ahead of the average sales rep. A salesperson who has mastered presentation has a powerful advantage.
There are many different media tools available today. Utilize them skillfully to get the most out of your delivery.
Ask For That Referral
Referrals are the warmest leads you’ll get—but salespeople, for whatever reason, are notorious for not asking for them. There is no reason to be shy about asking for referrals. Provide your customers with high quality products and services, and they’ll only be too happy to provide you with referrals.
Be a Storyteller
Mastering the art of storytelling is an incredible way to handle almost any sales issue you encounter. Stories can be tailored for just about every kind of situation and customer. As many experts are now telling us, a sale is every bit an emotional journey as a logical one. Even the most common idea can be made compelling with the right story.
Learn How to Write Well (and Comfortably)
Sales is all about communication, and that communication must be clear and concise. Today writing emails, referral requests, blogs and emails occupies much of a salesperson’s time. The most sure way to strengthen your writing skills is to write—so keep at it. In the meanwhile read good advice from great writers. A good reference is William Strunk’s Elements of Style, for grammar, usage and punctuation rules.
Today you can no longer “just wing it” as a sales professional. Become expert in these 9 skills, and continue to build toward your full sales potential.