-by Shamus Brown
The following 7 sales skills are what I have found to be the most important sales skills for professional salespeople. Get good at these, and you'll be able to make a lot of money no matter how the economy is doing.
Do you chase after your prospects until they tell you yes or no? Do you ever tell your prospects "No", as in "No, I am not going to sell to you"? There are many things in selling that you do not and will not be able to control. The one thing that you do have control over is your time and how you choose to use it.
To qualify fast you must have a set of criteria describing who you will and will not sell to. You want to sell to the prospects likely to buy your products, and drop the prospects unlikely to buy (so that you can find more good prospects). Sounds simple, but too many salespeople let sludge buildup in their pipeline, constricting the total revenue that flows out.
KEY TIP: Develop a list of sales qualifying criteria that prospect's must meet in order for you to invest your sales time with them.
Qualifying goes beyond budget, authority, and need. You want to sell to prospects who *want* to buy from you. Finding prospects that need our products usually is not difficult. Finding those who really want our products though can be very hard if we wait for them to come to us.
Products sold by professional salespeople are more complex and offer more value than commodity products offered through stores, catalogs and brokers. Prospects generally do not know they need such products, until they first discover that they have a problem. This process can take seconds or years depending on the nature of the problem (and the prospect!). Prospects get motivated to work with you when you help them to discover that you solve their problem better than anyone does
KEY TIP: Determine which problems that you eliminate or solve for your prospects. Plan and ask questions to uncover and agitate those problems.
Most salespeople who are "people persons", already think that they are good at this. Let me ask you a question. When you last lost a sale, how was your rapport with the key person who decided against you?
You can't afford to look away and ignore people that you don't have natural rapport with. The good news is that people like people like themselves. All you have to do to gain rapport is stretch your behavior outside or your comfort zone until you become like another person.
KEY TIP: Match speech patterns with people to gain rapport outside of your typical sports or weather conversation.
There's two ways to make more sales. One is to close more of the prospects you do contact. The other is to get more prospects into the pipeline. When prospecting, you can look at voicemail as either your friend or your enemy. With 70% of your prospecting calls going to voicemail, it is time to make friends with it.
Although you will never get even close to getting every voicemail returned, you can get a significant number of your messages returned when treat them as a one-on-one commercials.
KEY TIP: Prepare 3-5 separate benefit-focused voicemail messages that you can leave over a period of days or weeks for a single decision-maker before you give up on her. Each message should focus on a single unique customer-focused benefit.
Let's face it, a lot of business presentations are really boring. Salespeople talk about why their product is great, why their company is great, and the history of their company. Prospects don't relate to this. That's why they look so bored.
Great presentations get the prospect's imagination involved. The best way to involve the imagination is through storytelling. Stories rich in descriptive detail get the prospect picturing them using your product and evoke that "I Gotta Have That" reaction.
KEY TIP: Study 1-3 of your best customers and develop detailed customer success stories that will put emotional power into your presentations.
Eliminate "Closing Cheese" from Your Vocabulary. You know what I am talking about: "Would you like that in gray or in black?" or "If I can show you how this will help you will you buy today?". Lines like these are why salespeople are down on the bottom of society's respect list somewhere near lawyers.
Learn the power of asking for incremental commitments from the beginning of your sales cycle. It is not an easy shift to make. First you got to get the prospect to show you what they most want (Hint: See Skill #2 above). Then you can negotiate incremental commitments in return for more of your time, information or resources.
KEY TIP: Practice asking for simple commitments once someone has expressed a clear want, pain, or desire.
Sales is fun when you are in control and closing deals. Selling is miserable when you are under pressure to close business.
Take the pressure off yourself to close and instead focus on qualifying and motivating your prospects.
KEY TIP: Shift the responsibility back to the prospect to solve his own problems, and the pressure to make the sale will be gone. Focus on selling at your best only to qualified prospects and you'll close more and have fun doing it.
When you are giving a presentation, selling on the telephone or one-on-one in your prospect's office, picture your prospect as having the words SO WHAT stamped on his forehead. Imagine that for everything you say, the prospect is asking "so what, why should I care?".
Remember, prospects only care about how what you are selling can eliminate a problem that they have or help make their business or life better. The answer to this question is always what your product does for them (benefits), not what your product is (features).
"This is one of the best and most valuable free newsletter articles I have ever read."
Vice President Sales
NewsBank, Richmond, VA.
"I have been reading your emails for about a year now and I find your tips and techniques the most beneficial and realistic of any other sales coaches."
Concept Air Systems
"This is a great newsletter! Your article on questioning was insightful and got me to thinking about my questioning techniques."
Senior Account Executive
"Thanks for the awesome sales site!