As Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” No matter what stage you are in your sales career, as a sales professional, it is integral to your continued success that you stay “young” and continue to learn and keep your sales skills up to date.
Here on the CPSA blog we’ve written before about the critical skills you need for sales success, and while those tips are evergreen, here’s an update for 2017 with five more fundamental selling skills so you can continue to grow and hone your craft.
1. Goal Setting Skills
As Stephen Covey says in his best-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, to be successful you must “begin with the end in mind”. Nowhere is this more true than in sales. A study from Harvard University found that in a goal-setting experiment, those who stuck to a specific plan and monitored their goals ultimately performed about 30% better than those who didn’t. Start by looking at your sales compensation plan to help you set specific targets about the number of calls, emails, meetings and follow-ups you need to achieve for a set period and then monitor, monitor, monitor.
Unless you track your progress on a daily or weekly basis, it will be impossible to reach targets. If your company doesn’t make use of a goal tracking app or software, a simple spreadsheet that tracks goals such as # of calls, # of emails, # of follow ups, and # of meeting scheduled per week compared to your targets is a great place to start.
2. Social Selling Skills
Social selling involves using social media networks to research, connect, and interact with customers or potential customers. It’s quickly becoming a fundamental selling skill because it’s the 21st Century way of creating a relationship with your buyers by commenting on, liking, and sharing their posts.
Not only is social selling a great way of connecting with millennial demographics, it’s also a way of building your personal brand and positioning yourself as a thought leader or trusted expert in your field. Start building your social selling skills by creating and optimizing profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Next join relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups and set up Google Alerts so you can stay on top of developments in your industry. Finally, make sure you are posting interesting and relevant content regularly and seeking out prospects with whom to engage.
3. Prospecting Skills for 2017
Prospecting skills are invaluable to a sales professional. Investing time into creative a great qualified prospect list to work from will save you huge amounts of time and effort in the long run. You will likely be already making use of several strategies for prospecting and should already have a clear target market in mind.
As well as making use of referrals and building you call list, make sure you are prospecting through social media using the social selling skills above. It’s not about making unsolicited “salesy” comments on posts or in groups, rather you should be building your brand through social listening and the sharing of insightful content which will lead your prospects to connect with YOU. Depending on your situation, you may find it valuable to invest in LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, a monthly subscription service that makes use of their sales algorithm to help you quickly find prospects.
4. Consultative Selling Skills
What’s the difference between a consultative sales approach vs. product focused selling? It all comes down to a two-way conversation between you and your potential client. Today’s marketplace, with increased competition and a customer’s greater access to information, necessitates a shift away from simply hawking a product to focusing on a prospect’s needs. In order to be successful in such a climate, you need to ask more questions and use active listening skills to provide your prospect with customized solutions (rather than generic ones).
Hone your consultative selling skills by building a list of insightful discovery questions that will help you get to the heart of your potential customer’s pain points.
5. Problem Solving Skills
As a sales professional, you hear “no” on a regular basis. But, for the best sales reps, “no” doesn’t have to be the end of the conversation. Always think about potential objections before any interaction so you can be proactive when they arise. Importantly though, problem solving skills are vital to closing a sale. As mentioned above, you need to be actively listening to a prospect and offering a customized solution to their problem. Rather than just waxing eloquently, extolling the virtues of your product or service, you need to be able to think on your feet and explain how what you are selling will ease the pain of their very specific problem.
By honing and developing these fundamental skills, over time you will see a marked improvement in your ability to close deals and meet your sales quotas.
About the Canadian Professional Sales Association
Since 1874, we’ve been developing and serving sales professionals by providing programs, benefits, and resources that help you sell more, and sell smarter.
Contact us today at MemberServices@cpsa.com or 1-888-267-2772 to see how we can help you and your team reach new heights in sales success.
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