Key selling skills for sales success

9 Key Selling Skills for Sales Success

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What are the skills of selling?

1. Communication Skills

2. Prospecting Skills

3. Social Media / Social Selling

4. Active Listening

5. Sales Negotiation

6. Relationship Building

7. Time Management

8. Domain Knowledge

9. Planning, Patience & Persistence

Critical Selling Skills to help you sell more

Many people take selling skills for granted and believe it’s easy to sell.  For some people, selling products or services is easy as they have great communication skills. 

However, even great communicators can run into difficulties when they have to sell even the simplest of B2B solutions.

Every B2B sale will include multiple decision makers, from different departments which invariably then uncovers different needs and different preferences in terms of the final solution. 

Whilst the natural born communicators will always have some degree of success, losing just one deal in the business to business environment may cost your organisation dearly. 

For the rest of us who are not natural born communicators, developing our key selling skills can mean the difference between having a career in sales or not. 

Identifying and honing the sales skills you need is incredibly valuable and will serve you well over the length of your career.

Even for those not in front line sales such as Founders, Exec VP’s Directors, Marketers, Engineers, Consultants, Service Staff, in fact anyone that has any form of contact with customers can benefit from a basic understanding of selling skills. 

Even those with no customer contact may have to sell projects and ideas internally so it’s more of a core business skill, rather than a nice to know for salespeople only.

Sales Skills can boost your earning potential remarkably and will also look fantastic on your CV if you should ever decide to move on.

With over a 100 hours of sales training material we’ve put together a starting point based on both our experience and included some extra thoughts for you at the end that are not so obvious.

1. Communication Skills

Communication is one of the most essential sales skills. People have different communication styles and we naturally gravitate towards those people with similar styles to us. 

The challenge for every salesperson is to be able to communicate with buyers who have a different style to their own. 

Once you have mastered this part of communication, you’ll find it easier to sell to a hugely diverse range of people.

If you can communicate well, you can develop meaningful relationships with your clients and uncover and then address their pain points effectively.

Whilst traditional face to face communication was one of the most important sales skills, it’s easy to argue that online communication skills are now equally, if not more important. 

You’ll need to interact effectively not only over the phone and in-person, but over email, social media and Teams/Zoom calls too.

2. Prospecting Skills

There will forever be jobs for those salespeople who can open doors.  Prospecting is another one of the most important sales skills you will need to develop.

Prospecting is all about contacting cold leads in order to generate sales opportunities. To make your prospecting endeavours more effective, you’ll need to create a strategic approach for identifying fresh business opportunities.

You’ll need to research potential buyers in order to identify these opportunities and gain a rich understanding of your prospect’s needs, challenges and priorities before you even talk with them.

Furthermore, it’s not enough to know everything about your customers, you should also know everything about your customers, customer.   

You can do this by doing as much research and asking as many questions as possible on both groups. 

Key selling skills

3. Social Media / Social Selling

A great deal of sales activity now takes place on social media. If you do want to achieve sales success on social media, you’ll need to educate yourself on what is and isn’t generally acceptable. As everyone knows LinkedIn is the natural home for B2B selling.

However, there is no doubt that the period around the 2020/21 lockdown, whereby every Field Sales person seemed to move online and the number of companies offering LinkedIn specific lead generation has dulled the response rates. 

Whereas previously a LinkedIn Inmail was 7 times more likely to get a response, we’ve seen more recent studies showing response rates as low as 2 times more popular than cold email. 

The best success our clients are having continues to be by positioning themselves as Though Leaders in their industry and creating and sharing valuable content. 

For obvious reasons we suggest you don’t simply cut and paste the same sales pitch and send it out to numerous potential clients.

4. Active Listening

As obvious as it sounds many people struggle to listen when they get in front of a sales prospect.  The urge to talk and tell is not the best way to sell.

Part of this is often because the sales reps are not following a sales process, and have not planned and prepared any form of intelligent questioning before the meeting. 

Everybody wants to be heard and there is nothing more off putting than a salesperson who isn’t listening.   

Active listening has two parts – first it’s the skill of using your body language to demonstrate you are listening to the prospect.  This doesn’t mean you get your “jazz hands” out and do the hokey cokey. 

It’s much more subtle and intelligent than that. Secondly active listening means the vast majority of your questions should be influenced by what your potential buyer has just told you.

Needless to say, you should avoid posing follow-up questions before they have finished talking.  Role-play is the best way to help sellers improve their listening skills.

Many training courses include a substantial amount of role-play as it allows sellers to apply information to real-world situations.

5. Sales Negotiation

Most people think of Sales Negotiation solely as the part towards the end of the sales process where they are discussing costs with the prospect.  The best salespeople negotiate from the very outset as they use both position and leverage to their advantage. 

If you think of the money part of the conversation being the last 10 percent of the sales process, and the only part you think to negotiate, you will be missing out on lots of deals and leaving money on the table. 

Effective sales negotiation starts at the very beginning where you are positioning your solutions and services.  Part of negotiation is leveraging everything at your disposal that the prospect may want. 

A simple example could be negotiating to get additional decision makers into a product demo rather than simply agreeing to do a demo to the contact immediately in front of you. Anyone who wishes to become a great salesperson needs to learn how to negotiate effectively.

Although discounts and special deals can be very effective for turning potential customers into confirmed ones, offer too much and this can be detrimental to the business and harm your profit margins considerably.

Role-play can also help salespeople improve their negotiation skills. In a typical role-play scenario based on negotiation, a rep could demonstrate how to trade items that are high value to the customer but low cost to the vendor.

Sales Training for Key selling skills
Sales Training – Choose Growing

6. Time Management

Everyone in sales is always busy, because there is always someone they could call, some prospects they could research, a networking event they could attend, there is always something than needs to be done. 

It’s really easy to be busy in sales, but busy doesn’t mean effective. 

The more experience a salesperson has, the more adept they become at time management. This means focussing less on activities and prospects that are unlikely to deliver results, and more time on those that will.

Great salespeople are also happy to give up some of their free time in order to get results as sales is never a 9 – 5 type of job.

This can mean attending networking events, conferences and more outside of the normal working day.

7. Relationships

It’s vital to think long-term if you’re to become a successful salesperson. Rather than simply focussing on individual sales, a quality salesperson will seek to build long-term relationships and ensure customers come back for further solutions in future.

There is no reason that the business people you are talking with today (even if you don’t sell to them) cannot be potential customers, or referrers of customers in 10, 20 or even 30 years time. 

Once you make any sale it’s essential to follow up with customers and ensure they are completely satisfied with the solution you have delivered. Many sales reps fail to do this, and this can harm any ongoing relationship as the prospect feels used.

Where possible you should continue to offer in-depth knowledge and advice to your customers.  This will help you stand out from the crowd and cause your customers to recommend you to others.

8. Domain Knowledge

The best salespeople all know their industry inside out. They know everyone and everything and are always fully up to date with all the latest developments in their sector.  This include keeping up with what their competitors are doing in the market.

This means they can answer questions confidently no matter how difficult they may seem and provide valuable insight to their customers. It’s vital to keep up with the latest industry news and to constantly update yourself with any legislative changes affecting your sector.

What strategies are your competitors using to win new business and how can you counter them?

Are your competitors offering anything that you’re failing to deliver?

9. Planning, Patience & Persistence

This isn’t a so much a key selling skill, more of a mantra we share with all our clients.  Our three P’s are always obvious to everyone but well worth reminding if you are in the tough environment that is B2B sales.

Planning is about planning for success and we’re continually surprised by the number of businesses that don’t have a sales plan and individual reps who don’t have any form of account plan/territory plan.  Without planning how do you know where you are going, let alone measure your progress through the plan. 

Patience or rather the lack of patience is an absolute killer in sales.  Companies and individuals start off down and path and when they don’t get an instant win they immediately want to change course.  This is never more so in the field of prospecting where people launch into a new activity one week and then immediately stop.  Think of yourself as a farmer sowing seeds.  The farmer doesn’t turn up the next day expecting a harvest. They spend months feeding, nurturing and caring before they get any return. 

Persistence or maybe it’s resilience, more likely a combination of the two are essential if you are to survive the inevitable ups and downs of professional selling.  In sales you will always receive more No’s than Yes’s, more “failures” than wins.  It’s easy to give up given what can often be a high pressure environment and you will need to persist in order to succeed. Our own belief is that there is no failure as long as you

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Author Bio

Iain Swanston has spent over 30 years in B2B sales selling, training and leading teams both domestically and internationally.  In addition he serves as an Associate at Strathclyde University Business School where he has delivered the sales content for the Masters in Entrepreneurship since 2015.

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