Nisha and Pratik are both new recruits in the sales team of a sportswear brand. While each of the two brings a number of impressive sales skills to the table, neither has yet managed to learn the full range of technical and foundational skills required to be the perfect salesperson.
Nisha, for instance, has excellent ideas, is good at creating campaigns and knows social media strategy . But she’s a reluctant public speaker and struggles to listen to customers.
On the other hand, Pratik is a natural communicator and people open up to him quite easily. He can read customers well and understands what to say to seal a deal. But Pratik, too, has his shortcomings. He has little to no knowledge of handling social media while his accounting skills can definitely do with an upgrade.
As an organization, if you had hired Nisha and Pratik, which are the skills you would work on the most to improve their performance as salespersons? To answer this question, let’s first look at the most important skills that organizations must seek in their sales teams.
What Is Sales All About?
Organizations have grown in complexity over the last decade or so, resulting in salesperson skills evolving to include a whole range of functions. These functions consist of core areas such as:
To perform consistently across all these areas, sales skills need to offer a perfect combination of skills. This will help convince customers with specialized knowledge and emotional understanding.
Technical Skills Required For A Salesperson
Technical skills are the formal and technical abilities without which no set of sales skills and techniques can be complete. Usually, technical skills are acquired through academic courses and programs, internships and work experience. Technical skills required for sales are:
If you don’t know your product, you can’t sell it. Product knowledge is the single most important thing when it comes to sales skills. But knowing a product doesn’t mean just knowing its physical attributes, target audience and selling points. It also means knowing the product’s weaknesses and making sure that those shortcomings are adequately covered during a sales pitch.
Prospecting is one of the first skills required for sales. As an initial key step in any sales process, prospecting consists of identifying potential customers or “prospects”. The ultimate aim of prospecting is to create a steady pipeline of customers, which can only happen through systematic communication that converts potential customers into actual customers. To master prospecting, salespersons must learn to separate genuine customer interest from superficial customer enthusiasm.
If prospecting kicks off the sales process, closing skills round it off and complete the process. Many times customers seem interested in buying a product right until the point they need to confirm their purchase and make the payment. This is where closing skills can make all the difference. Even though customers may seem interested, a few of them are likely to hesitate or withdraw when it comes to opening their wallets. Good closing skills are all about persuasion without showing any element of vulnerability or desperation. If customers have proceeded till the final stages of a sale, they obviously have done so because of their interest in the product. An effective salesperson should then convince customers that their interest is legitimate and worthy of a purchase.
Understanding Business Software
Over the last few years, the sales world has moved past PowerPoint. Nowadays salesperson skills include a comprehensive understanding of the latest business software so as not to be left behind in terms of curating and packaging information. It’s not expected that a single salesperson will have mastery over each and every business software (including the ever-growing list of social media applications). But all salespersons must at least know the basics when it comes to handling technology and using it to convince customers about a product.
Creating an impactful sales campaign is one of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of learning sales skills. When it comes to campaign designing, salesperson skills must combine three things while pitching a product—simplicity, relatability and trustworthiness. Moreover, the campaigns that perform best these days often incorporate some amount of positive social messaging or commentary, something salespersons should work on if they want to further develop sales skills.
Foundational Skills Required For A Salesperson
The sales and marketing skills that are required for a salesperson to be consistently successful involve a series of foundational skills as well. These are more about interpersonal skills based on personality traits rather than technical knowledge or expertise. It’s impossible to develop sales skills without building important foundational skills.
The skills required for sales demand that salespersons develop a healthy relationship with their customers—based on trust, loyalty and mutual appreciation. Such relationships take time to mature and fail if a salesperson isn’t interested in understanding the mindset of a customer. The best way to build long-lasting relationships with customers is to get to know them better, to view them not just as buyers in a transaction but as human beings with needs, desires and commitments.
Building relationships with customers that endure means empathy is a must on the list of sales and marketing skills. Empathy means a willingness to put oneself in the shoes of another person, suspend judgment and attempt to understand what the other person is thinking and/or feeling. To empathize with customers, salespersons have to identify what it is that a customer really cares about and in what ways does a customer form an emotional attachment with the products they purchase.
All sales is essentially storytelling. This doesn’t mean that sales skills and techniques involve spinning narratives to trick customers. It means that a good salesperson is someone who can sell a product to fulfill the emotional needs of customers. Being able to tell a story around a product helps to locate the product in the context of a person’s life, and not just their shopping cart. Storytelling requires imagination and improvisation as much as it requires structure and style. But the most important thing to remember about storytelling in sales is simple—the story should be interesting.
Sales skills include a salesperson taking the initiative and doing all the talking. But an underrated aspect of learning sales skills is the value of listening. No salesperson, however intelligent and resourceful, can communicate effectively with customers unless they know what the customers want. The best way to find out what the customers want is to listen to what they have to say. Active listening doesn’t only mean letting customers speak without interruption; it also means following the trajectory of the customers’ thoughts to ask the right follow-up questions and gain more insights.
Anybody possessing good sales skills has a lot on their plate. Juggling different aspects of sales and marketing isn’t just desirable but necessary. This is why managing one’s time as a salesperson becomes essential to success. Time management doesn’t just mean the distribution of time among the different tasks one has to do. It includes integration of short-term goals with long-term objectives as well as the ability to adapt one’s schedule based on sudden fluctuations or circumstantial needs.
To nurture and develop competent salespersons, organizations need to spend considerable time and resources in optimizing their skills. This investment becomes a whole lot easier if the required skills can be refined under a single learning umbrella.
Harappa’s Impactful Sales Program does just that. It’s designed to help an organization’s young and promising salespersons upskill and mature into experts in their field. The program will allow salespersons to:
Sharpen value proposition and make compelling sales
Understand client needs
Identify appropriate persuasion techniques
Develop strong relationships to upsell, cross-sell and get referrals
Take ownership to establish brand credibility
Your organization can roll out this program and transform sales performance rapidly yet organically.
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