The Skills That Pay the Bills… For Salespeople

While anyone with an outgoing personality and the ability to deliver a high-pressure sales pitch might have succeed at sales in the past, that is no longer the case. The power balance has now shifted to consumers. With in-depth information just a click away, today’s customers have more information available to them than ever. They have researched the product, read the reviews, and learned as much as possible about the company before ever making contact.

All this doesn’t mean that salespeople can’t be successful in this new marketplace. It simply means that they must come to the job with different skills than in the past and the willingness to learn new ones as they go along.

More In-Depth Product Knowledge

Potential customers can find much of the information they want to know about a product online. They expect the sales representative they work with to have knowledge that goes much deeper than the basics. Part of having strong selling skills is the ability to explain how a product works just as easily as how it will solve a specific problem for the prospect. This helps salespeople develop greater credibility with prospects because they come to view them as product experts and not just someone trying to sell them something.

Develop Active Listening Skills

People who enjoy talking are often a natural fit for a career in the sales industry. Even so, not everyone starts the job with the innate ability to listen with thoughtful attentiveness rather than trying to formulate a response. The benefit of learning to listen this way is that it provides the salesperson with more information about the customer’s business and specific problem areas.

Although this type of intense listening might require the salesperson to pause rather than offer an immediate answer, prospects should appreciate the fact that this allows them to ask intelligent questions that seek to provide true solutions.

A Strong Set of Soft Skills

While skills that might fall under the category of emotional intelligence probably won’t show up on a resume for a sales job, they are just as important to success as so-called hard skills. Strong problem-solving skills, for example, are crucial in the face of repeated rejections from potential customers. Ambition to push beyond minimum personal and team goals is also very useful.

Since it can be more difficult to gauge sales skills such as these along with integrity, resiliency, and self-awareness during a job interview, it’s a good idea to ask questions about past behaviours on the job to get a better idea of the candidate’s inborn personality traits.

Form Personal Connections and Ask for a Commitment

A customer isn’t likely to follow through with a purchase from a salesperson he or she dislikes. Sales representatives can make themselves likeable by expressing interest in the lives of their customers. This allows the natural development of a personal relationship. It’s only after developing this type of relationship that most salespeople feel comfortable asking customers to express commitment that they’re truly interested in buying the product or service.

Sales managers need to be part of this process as well by offering ongoing coaching to help their direct reports develop to their full potential.