Over the last few years, I’ve been part of many external client calls. One statement I have heard often is, “He/she is totally cut out for sales” or “My manager is great in sales.” Although some people have a natural flair for sales, sales skills are not genetic. Like any other skill, sales skills can also be learnt and mastered.
The digital transformation era, pandemic and constant changes in customer needs have paved way for new processes in business. Post the pandemic the role of a salesperson has become more complex, and the sales skills needed currently are not the same as they were few years ago.
Over the next five years, how do you think sales will evolve, and what are the skillsets that every salesperson will require to grow and see success?
In short, mastering technical skills (industry, domain, products, etc.), people skills, sales methodologies, behaviour skills along with technology skills will be the recipe for success in sales. Business psychologists say that apart from having the right skills, having the right mindset is also crucial.
Below are the top 8 sales skills every sales professional needs to master in order to succeed in the future:
1. SOCIAL SELLING: Sales used to be all about cold calling, sales demos, and deal qualification. The current new way of sales focusses on using social media networks to reach prospects and help them understand how your organization can help them grow. Prioritising on providing value and selling how you would like to be sold to is key. Social selling is all about focussing on having a personal brand (social media equity), sharing knowledge through valuable consistent content, engaging in conversations, automation, and tracking. Social selling is not a onetime activity, you should be consistent along with other prospecting skills. As a salesperson it is important to master this skill and embrace it for sales to grow.
2. ART OF STORY TELLING: A skilled salesperson is always good at positioning their sales pitch inside a compelling story that subtly communicates the reason why a prospect should buy from them. Certain types of stories are more compelling than others in sales situations. It is important for the sales professional to arm themselves with a library of stories including client success stories, influence stories, clarity building stories, own personal selling vulnerability stories, impact stories et.al. that can be applied to client conversations at any given situation. Story telling not only helps prospects connect the dots to how a product or service could impact their business but also helps build stronger connections and meaningful relationships that is not just transactional. Understanding how to integrate story telling in sales conversations in an authentic way to build value and trust.
3. BEING COMFORTABLE WITH TECHNOLOGY: Salespeople use technology of all kinds like buyer enablement, sales enablement, CRM software, data networks and many more. Being familiar with technology like mind maps, murals, visual story boards, etc. is crucial as engaging with customers and build consensus becomes easier. Our working methods changed as a result of the pandemic, and salespeople who adapted quickly to remote selling (via zoom and teams) saw success. This skill is here to stay and salespeople who embrace technology will be more efficient and productive.
4. USING THE POWER OF INTIUTION: In sales, intuition is a great differentiator. Trusting your intuition will always separate you from others because you will be able to build better connections. As a salesperson, there is no CRM technology to help you understand the dynamics of your prospect or client. In order to improve and add to the sales conversations, you need to practice listening to your intuition and instincts. Situational fluency comes with intuitive capability and every sales professional can achieve this by practicing everyday rituals like meditation, connecting with nature, practicing silence and visualization. Developing this skill allows you to relate to your clients in a more authentic and powerful way, which is the key to sales success.
5. BECOMING THE EXPERT: A key role of the salesperson is to foster an environment where closing the deal is not the focus but a natural by-product of the sales process. This is achieved by building a great rapport with the customer in which the customer feels that the salesperson is an expert and a partner. Having the right service/product knowledge, business acumen, preparation, research and honing the intuitive skills will help in the process of becoming an expert. However, salespeople should be wary that their expertise can turn into an ‘expert’s curse’ if their customer is not the centre of focus. Once you are an expert in the eyes of the customer, your solution is not perceived as a sales pitch but an organic recommendation for the situation and this will eventually lead to customer success.
6. SHOWCASING INTEGRITY: Having integrity is not only about honesty but demonstrating consistency in everything you say and do. As a salesperson you shape how others perceive your organization. For example, acting with integrity, such as being optimistic about people, being 100% committed to helping your customer, valuing the customer’s time, having belief in your own product/service, selling only what is truly best for your customers, etc. will result in an increase in your emotional bank account with happy long-term customers.
7. BEING RESILIENT: The pandemic brought about a lot of ambiguity, change and uncertainty that affected physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Salespeople who successfully handled this adversity were able to accomplish goals, boost the team’s morale, and strengthen productivity. The change is here to stay, and this demanding environment and frenetic pace requires a skill set that will help salespeople navigate the setbacks, remain innovative and agile. That skillset is all about being resilient. Resilience will be the determinant for success in the world of sales.
8. AUTHENTIC COMMUNICATION: When it comes to communication a lot of emphasis is laid on language, oral communication, social media presence and content. Although they are important, most of us forget a skill that brings all the communication together- EQ (Emotional Quotient). Learning sales conversations is one thing but being able to come out on top even if the customer throws you a curve ball is important. In a sales conversation, when it is the customer’s turn to speak or respond, emotional intelligence is the one that will help you prepare for that response especially if it is an objection. As a salesperson it is important to develop the skillset of EQ to be able to respond to any scenario.
Sales is a tough yet rewarding job and if you have the right skillsets, you can grow to become world-class. It is not only these skills that will help, but success in this field will also require self-motivation, humility, authenticity, the right mindset and attitude combined with continuous learning to unlock your capability and potential.