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4 Essential Sales Skills to Focus on Improving

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Sep 22, 2016 12:20:00 PM

As the competition gets stronger and the decision process more complicated, it’s important for sellers to get back to the basics of selling and concentrate on improving the skills needed to consistently reach and surpass their goals.

In 2016, the selling skills you should focus on refining are the ones that affect the buyer’s journey. While there are many sales skills needed for success, we’ve selected 4 of the basics that are essential to your competitive advantage.

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1. Prospecting

Prospecting for new opportunities is just the first step in the sales process.

Whether you’re finding your own leads or receiving inbound leads from your marketing team, there’s a lot to consider before making a call or sending an email.

A lot of sellers are looking for shortcuts and how to be more efficient, but oftentimes that can end up hurting rather than helping your chances of winning a sale.   

You can become a more efficient prospector by practicing personal marketing, using targeted templates, and tracking your ratios.

Practicing personal marketing means that you are actively sharing resources and information of value to your network of connections or participating in discussions and other industry related events. This works to your advantage because it helps build your network and establishes your credibility.

Using targeted templates means segmenting by each different buyer persona and then taking the time to learn something specific about the person you’re reaching out to in order to tailor your messaging. This helps establish a more personal connection because it shows that you’ve put in the effort of learning about the individual(s) and company you're reaching out to.

Tracking your work and ratios as well as understanding how much time it takes to go from one step of the sales process to the other will provide insight into where you are spending your time and how you can improve. 

2. Leading Great First Meetings

Have you ever had the experience of walking out of a meeting and thinking, “I should have said this instead…” If you said yes, you’re not alone.

Selling is a performance art and you usually don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

When leading a first meeting, there are three different components  to consider, which are: (1) Research, (2) The Starting Point, and (3) Questions.

Research is needed at every step of the sales process, especially before the first meeting. The research you do before you conduct the first meeting should be more extensive than just looking at the company’s website. Consider taking a deeper dive into the website, but also think about similar companies you’ve worked with on a project like this so that you can provide examples and case studies. It’s also crucial to look into the person or people you’ll be meeting with to discover any personal or business interests that you may have in common.  

The starting point of each and every meeting is what sets the tone and opens the relationship. You should know before you go into the meeting how you are going to open, what questions you’ll ask, and how you will move the deal forward to the next step.

Finally, the key to having great first meetings is asking the right questions and being prepared to answer difficult questions. Questions create the right conversation, which is why they are so important to think about in advance of every first meeting.

For instance, as the seller you should be prepared to answer:

  • What do you offer?
  • What makes you different?
  • What makes you better?
  • What makes your offer worth our budget?

And you should be asking questions like:

  • What are you trying to accomplish with this initiative?
  • How will you measure success?
  • What is your timetable?
  • Do you have a budget for this initiative?

And remember, you must continue to test and fine-tune both the questions you ask and answers you give in order to improve your skills and sales results. 

3. Presenting Your Solution

Once you’ve had the first meeting and have determined the prospect is the right fit for your solution, it’s time to have another meeting to present your offering.

Winning sellers focus their presentation on getting the prospect’s feedback about three main areas: the budget, the timetable, and the proposed solution.

The budget. Well, we know the prospect will eventually be alone with the proposal looking at your suggested price.  So if you proposed $X but they were thinking $Y, then that may delay the sale. However, you can give yourself an advantage by making sure you know their reaction BEFORE you put it in writing so that you can adjust on the proposal if necessary.

The timetable for delivery. Now, this is usually the least explored area of the sale but should be discussed early on in the sales process. Why? Because we need to understand their timing and communicate a sense of urgency to the prospect in order to prompt a decision. Typically, prospects will only make a decision when they have to but if you’re offering a solution that will move the prospect closer to solving their problem or achieving their goals, then you’re more likely to get a decision in a timely manner. 

The proposed solution must fit with the needs of the prospect and the goals of the individuals making the buying decision. They’ve looked into your service or solution for a reason and they want to make sure it’s the right fit for their organization. So, as you prepare your presentation, consider how you will tailor your message to resonate with your prospective buyer.

4. Negotiating & Closing

Negotiating, and eventually closing the sale, should not have to be some painful activity that comes up after you’ve already sealed the deal. Rather, it’s the culmination of the entire sales process.

When you get to this phase of the sales process, it’s critical to know what you’re up against so that you can anticipate the customer’s walk-away points as well as what the ideal solution looks like to them.

This is why the presentation meeting is so important. You must gain the reaction of the decision maker(s) so you know where you stand. The moment you can’t walk away from the deal, or sound desperate, you’ve lost. Always play from a position of strength so you can avoid negotiating against yourself.

The sales games has changed, and to keep up you need to continually be refining your prospecting strategies and tactics, leveraging the right questions to lead great first meetings, create the right reaction when presenting your solution, and play from a position of strength when negotiating and closing a deal. If you work on improving these skills, you’ll beat the competition in no time.

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Topics: sales, improving, sales improvement, sales skils,