Yes, there are sales skills you can learn. (Just as there are sales skills that can’t be taught—but that’s the topic of another post.)
Today’s post focuses on what you can do to make your sales efforts more effective, with a tip of the hat to Dan Ross, former SVP at Salesforce, for his article “The 7 Sales Skills that CAN Be Taught.”
Those of us who have never sold before may consider the sales process mysterious and ultimately unknowable, practiced by those who know tricks of persuasion the rest of us don’t. Selling, though, is not really esoteric, but like so many things in life, success requires self-discipline and the ability to apply what we’re taught.
Mr. Ross breaks down the teachable sales skills into seven elements, summarized heres:
Filling the pipeline
Here, you evaluate an existing pipeline for cross-sell and upsell opportunities. If your mom ever bought Avon or Mary Kay, I’ll bet the sales person was a master of both. I mean, how can you buy moisturizer when you also really, really need cleanser and toner? You can also go back to what Mr. Ross refers to as “dead opportunities,” because there’s a good chance they can be resuscitated.
Managing your time
Calendar time to get organized. At Salesforce, reps are trained to spend 15 minutes at the end of the day planning what they will do tomorrow. If you’re a mother, I bet you’ve got this one down. Reps also learn to schedule time to work current accounts. After all, repeat sales aren’t guaranteed, and the competition is probably calling on your accounts too. And, then there’s self-development. If you don’t calendar it, it may not happen.
Developing business acumen
As Mr. Ross says, “I love when sales professionals have the business acumen needed to understand all lines of business within their customer’s organization, understand the biggest challenges and priorities, and speak executive language.” (I believe storytelling builds business acumen.)
Developing sales acumen
Sales is a multistep process, and you must master each part. The scenario of the cub salesperson stepping into a big account and selling a big deal in minutes is Hollywood. I add that I dreamed of that as a young, dumb sales rep, because—despite teaching us that sales is a process—the higher-ups were always pressing for fast results.
Winning big deals
Mr. Ross reminds us that “Larger, more complex sales cycles require additional sales skills that go beyond general sales acumen.” Amen to that. Probably explains why organizations have pre-sales people, sales engineers, etc. With more people involved it the process, it’s likely that you won’t overlook important influencers, relationships, or organizational politics that can trip you up.
Knowing your product
When I worked at Dictaphone, product knowledge reigned supreme. Why? Our products were relatively small and lightweight, “relative” being the operative term here. We were expected to check a machine out of inventory and demonstrate it to the customer. We learned a specific protocol, but it was critical to be prepared for any questions the prospect threw at us. Mr. Ross says, “If you do not understand the value of each of your products, it is very difficult to sell the value of the product and you will definitely miss out on opportunities within your territory.”
This is all about looking at your pipeline and determining if you’re on track to make quota. Mr. Ross uses the expression “goals,” but I think “quota” is the better term. Quota is an inexorable force there’s no escaping. He believes, and I agree, that forecasting helps you prioritize, know when to ask for help, and when to walk away from a deal.
This article, which will take you five minutes or less to read, is all about sales. But because I believe we’re all selling in one way or another, I think it applies to real life. And on that note, I leave you with his real-life focused quote: “The best sales professionals know when to walk away from a deal.” Substitute relationship, potential high-ticket purchase, and you’ll know what I mean.
Antonio Guillem — 123rf.com