There are a lot of different ways to approach sales, but they all tend to rely on the same skill set. Note that these are skills, not talents: talents are inborn, but skills are learned. Anyone can learn to be an effective salesperson, and good sales people can become great ones by honing the following
This is the most important skill a salesperson can cultivate.
Why? Because all the other skills are based on persistence. If you have every other sales skill listed below, but you give up at the first hint of a “no,” then you'll never have a chance to use those skills. The first time you speak to a prospect, they might not want to talk to you because they're having a bad day... but if you call back a week later, they'll be eager to buy.
Self-confidence doesn't end with persistence; if you believe in yourself and your product, your prospects will be inclined to believe as well. Self-confidence will also incline you towards a more assertive closing approach, which is vital to your selling success.
Most salespeople are natural talkers. Unfortunately, even a great speaker will only get so far without a little listening. Taking the time to ask your prospect questions and listen to the answers shows respect for them, and gives you a clearer idea of what they want.
So how can you tell if you're doing enough listening? The next time you cold call a prospect, ask an open-ended question and then hit the mute button and leave yourself muted for at least a minute (or until you are sure the prospect is finished). By forcing yourself to be quiet, you will notice right away how strong your urge is to jump in and say something before the prospect has stopped talking.
How to Improve Your Sales Skills, Even If You’re Not a Salesperson
At some point in your career, even if you’re not a salesperson, you’re going to have to sell something — whether it’s your idea, your team, or yourself. So how can you improve your sales skills, especially if you don’t pitch people often? What should you focus on first? And what should you do if you lose a sale?
Getting comfortable with sales requires an “understanding of what selling is,” says Edinger.
“Selling is not about putting undue pressure on and talking incessantly,” all while “wearing a light blue polyester suit,” he says. Rather, selling “is persuading, inspiring, and leading.” Your goal is “to work in collaboration” with a client or colleague “to drive change.” To get into the right mindset, Steenburgh recommends reflecting on your past positive experiences as a customer.
Put yourself in your counterpart’s shoes
“People buy for two reasons,” says Steenburgh. They either have a business problem that needs to be solved or they have a personal need, such as a desire to move up in the organization” that your idea helps accelerate. It’s your job to figure out your customer’s motivations: “What would it take to get your boss to sign off on a project or to get your clients excited about what you have to offer?” says Edinger.
Plan and practice
Crafting your sales pitch should not be a solo endeavor. Edinger suggests enlisting “a trusted peer or manager” to “role-play” so you can “see what works and what doesn’t.” Your goal is “to understand how the flow of these conversations feels and sounds.”
Stay calm and don’t brag
Even with meticulous preparation, pitches can go awry. Your adrenaline is surging, so you may end up talking too much or failing to get to the point quickly. There is no easy solution, says Edinger.
Close the deal
Being good at selling means you both “understand the ‘customer’ and understand the path they need to go through to buy,” says Steenburgh. It’s rare that anyone will immediately bite upon hearing your pitch — no matter how brilliant it is. Your counterpart “might need to assess the financial impact of such a purchase,” review competitors, or check with a higher-up before signing off. Regardless of what that next phase may be, you should “ask permission to move forward.”
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