How to Boost Your Sales Skills: 7 Surprising Tips
The sales skills many professionals are using may surprise you. We lift the lid on five sales skills that most are missing.
To hit their quotas, salespeople need a wide array of skills. From time management and people management to product expertise and value propositions. These skills are increasingly becoming crucial for even non-sales personnel.
If you’re looking to upgrade your sales skills, you may need a sales readiness strategy. Training and coaching can support the development of critical sales skills to close more deals faster. Here are seven insider tips that may seem unconventional for boosting your sales skills.
Lead with Your Flaws
Rather than leading with why your product or service is the best, sometimes it pays to lead with your product or service’s flaws. If a flaw is going to lead to there being an elephant in the room, it would be better to address the issue head-on. Flaws that your customer doesn’t put too much of a premium on are safer bets to highlight.
Great salespeople and buyers understand that nothing in this world is perfect. Brands each have their strengths and weaknesses. Imperfections aren’t something to be ashamed of.
If you allow your customer to be first in voicing your flaws, you’ll be on the back foot, and they will have scored a point against you.
However, if you share a flaw, immediately you’ve raised yourself above the competition by disclosing what most would avoid. Your strengths are now more believable, and you’re more likely to be regarded as a trusted advisor. Transparency sells.
Flaws can be Attractive
You might also be able to use your brand’s unique quirks and unusual characteristics as part of your value.
For example, the footwear brand Crocs enjoys massive commercial appeal even though most people think of the footwear as ugly. The quirky look of Crocs gave birth to a proud and loyal subculture that most of Croc’s competitors can’t match. Embracing your flaws builds trust, makes your brand more human, differentiates you from your competition, and in effect, increases conversions.
It may sound like something you only do in training, but role-playing should form part of your preparation routine. Practice your sales pitch and brainstorm how to overcome objections.
If you’re a member of a team, work with colleagues to act out the roles of different customer archetypes. Role-playing can work to prepare you and your team for the unexpected.
Role-playing can bolster your preparedness by:
- Learning conflict resolution: You develop solutions for problems that may be raised by dissatisfied customers.
- Building empathy: When your team performs as customers, they develop a connection to the customers’ pain points.
- Creating familiarity: You get to know different types of customers, questions customers may ask, and product or service uses or details you may not have thought of yet.
Praise the Competition
It’s so easy to point out the flaws in your competitors. Too many fall into the trap of highlighting their competitors’ failings while also highlighting their superiority. Yet, in most societies, bad-mouthing the competition only serves to make you look bad.
Today’s marketplace has little space for negative energy. Salespeople can achieve so much more by saying positive things about their rivals. By saying positive things about your competition, the customer sees you as someone who is:
- Confident: You know your worth and the value of your products.
- Successful: Successful people see no need to tear down others.
- Honest: Your prospect is more likely to come to you with questions about your offering and those of your competitors. You’re also more likely to be trusted.
- Safe: Your prospect gains confidence that you will treat them with the same open and fair respect that you treat your competitors.
Buy and Use Your Competitors’ Products and Services
For some, it may seem like a crazy idea or even a betrayal to spend money buying the competition’s products or services. Yet great salespeople realize that knowing your rivals can boost your competitive advantage.
A competitor could be anyone offering a substitute product or service that makes yours redundant. Buying and using rival products informs you of possible threats posed by current competitors and new entrants.
Buying the competition’s products or services can provide deep insights into their offering and their buyer’s journey. You get invaluable first-hand data to possibly make your products, services, and marketing stand out. Buying rival products and services can enable you to set competitive prices and respond better to their marketing campaigns.
Raise Funds for Charity
How would you like to practice your sales skills without putting your job on the line? Getting involved with a local charity can be an excellent way to boost your sales skills. Charities are always glad to have more people on their fundraising teams to raise money for a great cause.
Though fundraising typically doesn’t have the same profile or all the same steps as traditional selling, the two use very similar skill sets. In his book Born to Raise, Jerold Panas identifies fundraising skills as transferable to sales and marketing. Some skills you can enhance through fundraising include:
- Gaining concessions without having to trade.
- Reading non-verbal cues, such as body language and patterns of speech.
- Cultivating impeccable integrity.
- Having empathy and showing concern for people.
- Having patience and perseverance.
- Nurturing active listening skills.
- Motivating colleagues, stakeholders, and users of your service/product.
Reverse Engineer the Buyer’s Journey
Most salespeople guide their prospects through a set buyer’s journey. Yet, in today’s information age, buyers now seek the brand with the best customer experience from pre-purchase to post-purchase.
With so many phases in a set buyer’s journey, and with more departments getting involved in business purchases, it’s easy to lose your prospects’ attention. To avoid diverted interest and loyalty loss, the salesperson has to reverse engineer how they go about creating positive brand experiences.
Reverse engineering needs the sales force to take apart the buyer’s journey and understand the customer decision-making processes. You can then drop what doesn’t work and improve what does work to deliver fresh, engaging experiences. The steps for reverse-engineering the buyer experience include:
- Understanding the customers’ pain points, needs, and wants.
- Assessing your position from the customer’s perspective. Which parts of your marketing are most effective? Is your communication reaching the right people, at the right time with the right messages?
- Realigning your organization’s processes and dismantling any departmental silos that previously delivered disjointed communication.
- Creating new processes that support cross-functional alignment.
- Streamlining your marketing processes. At this point, you may choose to revise your manual messaging and replace it with integrated solutions to create exceptional and repeatable customer experiences.
- Looking for opportunities for your marketing team and messaging to dovetail more closely with your sales and operational teams.
- Tracking and testing the effectiveness of your new processes using analytics and AI (artificial intelligence).
Celebrate Disqualifying More Prospects
It hurts losing a possible sale. Do you know what hurts even more? Wasting your time and resources on a deal that has no chance of ever happening. The best sales teams practice proactive disqualification as part of their sales process.
Think about it. When you get wrapped up in negotiating a deal that has no chance, you are wasting time that would be better spent with a customer who will buy.
Even worse, you are drawing in your sales team and other departments in your organization to support a dying cause. These actions have hard costs beyond the missed sales revenue. So how do you identify the red flags that signal a lead is ready for disqualification?
- Your prospect has an incumbent supplier who they’re happy with.
- Your prospect stops responding to communication.
- Your prospect is speaking with too many vendors. This indicates that the prospect is yet to narrow down their needs and wants. They may be only casually looking at what’s there with little intention of moving forward.
- Your contact lacks the authority to make decisions.
- Your prospect’s timelines make the deal difficult to impossible to implement.
- There is no budget allocated. Avoid pulling strings to cut corners to accommodate a prospect with little or no budget allocation for your product.
Nurture Your Sales Skills
Whether you’re new to sales or a veteran, there’s always room for growth. There are many opportunities to learn new skills and brush up on old ones.
In today’s dynamic market, salespeople need to keep upgrading their skills to keep up with trends. Keep an eye on your competitors while collecting feedback from your prospects. Practice and improve what works, and continually replace what doesn’t work. Above all, be kind in how you talk to others and about others. Positive relations usually lead to positive customer experiences and higher sales conversions.