Sales professionals must up their ante by developing these additional prospecting skills to gain an edge over others
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Post-COVID Sales Pros Must Enhance Prospecting Skills for Competitive Edge  

Have you ever encountered a successful sales professional who is a Zombie? The answer would be no. The best of sales people is always energetic & enthusiastic.

Have you ever seen a successful sales person who has a negative mind set? The answer would be no. The best of sales people is optimistic and would never give up.

Have you ever seen a successful sales person who needs a push always? The answer would be no. The best of sales people are self-motivated people and go-getters.

Have you ever seen a successful sales person who is a poor communicator? The answer would be no. The best of sales people is not only good in communication, but also good listeners.

You might ask if a person who is energetic, enthusiastic, optimistic, self-motivated, go-getter, good communicator and listener can be a successful sales person? The answer can be a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’.

Yes because these are the basic qualities of a sales professional. With these qualities this person will be able to make the customers like him first and then convince him for his products or services.

No because with these qualities alone a sales professional cannot be assured of customer success. Like him, if the customer meets many people with similar qualities, he is not assured of success.

I have been in sales for 3 decades. I have seen this domain evolving continuously and consistently. Especially post COVID-19 era, the demands and the expectations from the customers as well as sales people have completely changed. Sales people who are ahead of the change can continue to be successful. Otherwise, they might end up basking in their past glory.

In my observation, there are at least 3 additional areas where the sales people need to develop themselves. They are

1. Providing insights & foresights

Those days have gone where the sales people would show the value of their product or service that it would bring to the customer’s business. Customers are no longer satisfied with value alone. Value creation and articulation are the basic nowadays and most customers expect some new insights and foresights about their business from the sales professionals.

  1. Insights means how can the customers run a better business?
  2. Foresights means measuring the future potential risks for their business that they need to mitigate.

For this, the sales professional needs to do a complete research in terms of understanding the customer’s business, his industry, the trends in the industry and how they make money. Then the sales professional needs to find out the insights and foresights that would impact the customer’s business. If he can articulate these to the customers clearly, then he will be viewed as a trusted partner by the customer. Earning the customer’s trust can go a long way, I learnt this through a personal experience. I remember in one of my sales meetings, the client was talking about the tough competition in their industry. My manager suggested a new business model that our client could seriously consider. This made our client very happy as he had never thought in that direction and it seemed like a pathbreaking novel idea. Following this, the client developed great respect for us.

I have seen in many large sales organizations, the sales professional is supported by Presales, Marketing, Industry sales, Solution sales, Commercials team and so on. In those days, if a client asked a query for which the sales person didn’t have an answer, he could always respond that he would check internally and get back. The client also used to wait till the sales professional got back. Now, agility is the new normal. In this era of internet, most of the clients are well-informed. They aren’t given enough time by their managers hence they expect the sales person to provide solutions then and there. He needs to master the solutioning aspect. Remember, the clients expect solutions that need to be on long-term basis considering the investments he is making.

2. Storytelling

This is one skill that every current generation sales professional needs to master. If we recall our childhood days, the most important aspects that we are still able to remember or recall are the stories narrated by our parents and grandparents. Through stories, we were taught important lessons, morals, values and principles that shaped our lives to a great extent.  What is storytelling in sales? A story has different characters, twists and turns, an impressive climax and finally a good lesson. During the pandemic, there was no dearth of stories from different brands and professionals and this is why it was important to churn out a story that was unique and relatable. Everyone wants to listen to a good story.

 In sales, if the sales professional is able to craft a good story around his product or service and articulate well, most of the customers will show interest. You are ensuring that the customer visualizes his own scenarios during the process in his mind. If we can  build a robust narrative and finally end with a good customer business value, it will have a lot more impact on the customer. However, ensure that the story is genuine and not a cooked up one. The stories could be from your client success stories, and you should have the details ready if the client asks for reference. Recently, I experienced the power of storytelling at an important client meeting. The customer was in a dilemma about whether to invest in our training program or not. He was convinced of our capabilities, but he still had doubts on how it could be suitable for their situation, and bring them results. Fortunately, I was able to read his mind and body language and immediately narrated a client story where we were able to bring tangible and measurable results through our training programs. I ensured that he could mirror the service and visualize the results in his own mind. This won us the deal. Storytelling is such a powerful sales skill but it also needs to be authentic and relatable.

3. Technology

The onset of Covid-19 changed the entire market. There was utter chaos. During the initial phase of this pandemic period, there were many lockdowns and all offices shut down. Many of them started working from home and sales field was no exception. Sales professionals who could sell only if they met the customers in person, struggled a lot. They were denied the opportunity to build relationships as there were no office meetings. In spite of all these hurdles, there were some smart sales professionals who were flourishing. These people used technology to their advantage. They used virtual meetings effectively. They used whiteboarding instead of power point presentations. They used different tools to ensure that the customers were completely hooked on to their meetings. Going forward, technology will continue to play a key role in sales. If a sales professional doesn’t learn new tools and technologies to run the client meetings, he or she may not be guaranteed success.

Some of you might be wondering why I should learn new skills, when my existing skills are already fetching me the desired results. Well, the world is changing fast. If we don’t learn new skills, at some point of time, we may become redundant. Soon we will be left behind. The millennials and Gen Z individuals are already creating waves in the market. If we need to be competitive, we don’t have any other option but to learn new skills. Most importantly whether we like it or not, the customers expect new things from sales professionals. If we don’t meet their expectations, we will miss the bus.

It is clear that the present and future sales professionals must learn these and adopt themselves so as to be successful. However, the biggest challenge is not everyone can develop these skills on their own or from experience. Some are great at absorbing fast from their personal experience with multiple clients, while others should be open to seeking help from experts. Developing prospecting skills takes years and this is where sales coaching can expedite the process and help in ensuring customer success.

Remember, what got you to level X, won’t get you to level Y, if you don’t learn newer techniques and adopt to the ever-changing market conditions. There is no better way to learn newer techniques than by consulting experts for sales coaching. It is now or never.

Happy learning and happy selling!

Kumar Somayajilu is a Sales Director with over 30 years of B2B sales experience in the IT System Integration and People Enablement sectors. His passion for sales is only mildly surpassed by his love for sports. In a previous life, Kumar has also held the COO position and has experience in operations, management, mergers and acquisitions and P&L.
Chandrani Datta works as a Manager-Content Research and Development with almost a decade’s experience in writing and editing of content. A former journalist turned content manager, Chandrani has written and edited for different brands cutting across industries. The hunger for learning, meaningful work and novel experiences keeps her on her toes. An avid traveller, Chandrani’s interests lie in photography, reading and watching movies.

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