Business Skills

Sales Skills: 20 Sales Skills Every Salesperson Should Master

Sales skills | Sales coaching

To be a successful at sales, I have tried to lay out the 20 important skills chronologically, i.e. in order of when you will need them during the 'eight-step sales process':


- Knowing the product

- Prospecting

- Approaching using phone/sales proposal etc

- Assessing their needs/pain points

- Preparing and giving a demo/presentation

- Handling objections

- Closing the sale, and

- Following up.)


1. Know the product/service: So that you can explain to prospects how the product/service works, what business value/explicit benefit it offers, as well all appealing things about them. Some sales people actually use the product/service themselves and it is big help during product demos, and it also makes you and your product more credible.


2. Know the customers: Who is the prospect? Where are they? What do they do?


Research online. Google 'Industry X customers/clients', 'Industry X database' etc. Use online groups to now more about your target customers (if they are online) - Linkedin group, Google group, Facebook group. Or, just Google 'Industry x forum/blog' etc.


Other methods of prospecting: Ask for referrals, approach past customers who haven’t purchased from you recently, sell related stuff to existing customers, and conduct cold calls.


Also ask existing connections for referrals (they call it 'maximizing your referrals').


Or, go back to prospects who had refused/ or, things hadn't worked out favorable that earlier time.


Don't let go of any opportunity to meet new prospects - industry conferences, on your own blog, industry associations, networking events, business lunches etc.


Prospecting activities should take up a good chunk of your weekly activities.


Becoming an expert is a great way to prospect. Once you use 'Personal branding' techniques to establish yourself as an 'expert' in your industry, people will come to you instead.


Also put up a 'lead generation form' (email/phone, requirement) on your web page and bring traffic to it (use Search engine marketing). Offer people some free stuff to get their contact details.


Five reasons people will not buy from you:

- They feel they do not need what you are selling.

- They do not have any money.

- They are in no rush to buy.

- They do not want what you are selling.

- They do not trust you.


3. Make the most of your time, and organize the work

Prioritize. Complete the most important task first. For a sales person, the most task is 'prospecting'. Sort through leads to find the most promising ones. Don't waste too much time on a deal that isn’t going anywhere. Be in constant touch with your top customers/clients. Also use industry databases and analytics to get the best prospect lists. Use technology to stay productive (reminder apps, calendar/scheduling etc). And don't forget to connect all your daily activities to achieving your sales quota.


Focus on one sales call/meeting/proposal at a time - Determine the key objective for each sales call/meeting/proposal and then focus on meeting those objectives.


Manage your 'pipeline' (list of prospects) like a portfolio: Track the performance of each opportunity (with a prospect), and also the total performance of your complete prospect list (pipeline) on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Finding who the top 20% prospects are. And, which prospects to target next, to meet your quota.


4. Use content marketing: Create useful guides, videos, walkthroughs, webinars (online training), FAQs (frequently Asked Questions) ...anything that helps your customers/clients make the best decision, and also make the best out of your product/service.


5. Communicate briefly, clearly and consistently: Control the tone/volume/speed of your voice (real, on phone). Share personalized/customized information (sales proposal, sales literature etc) with prospects/customers. Build rapport with customers by mirroring their voice and tone. Find common interests.


Be likeable: To get someone to do what you want, they have to like you.


People will like you because: They have a good feeling in your presence; you have repeated interactions with them; you show you like them; your share a common ground/interests (rapport); you have a pleasing/smiling personality and you make them feel good (praise, help etc).


Change your language away from 'sales speak' to natural language that connects with people.

By using phrases like 'would you be open to' instead of 'would you be interested in', you immediately set yourself apart as someone who is patient, open minded and willing to listen.

- Ari Galper


6. Be extremely responsive with the prospect: Give the buyer what they want, when they want it. Understand (use empathy) what the buyer/prospect just said, know what they actually mean and then do something to 'help' (not close) them.


What builds credibility in the market

- Expertise: Selling skills; knowledge of your products, your industry, and being self aware (knowing who you are, what you want etc).

- Contribution: Help the customer reach their important goals and objectives.

- Representation: Commitment to the customer’s interests; ability to provide objective advice, counsel, and assistance.

- Trustworthiness: Honesty, reliability, consistency in actions, and overall ethics

- Compatibility: Match between your communication style and the personality traits of the customer.


7. Write clearly, plainly and persuasively: Don't write generic stuff. Be specific.

Focus on the relevant (personalized, preferably) benefits, not features.

Use bullet lists (with parallel structure - i.e. all in the same style.).

Make your document easy to scan and understand.

Start and end your sales document with a specific Call To Action (CTA) - what do you want them to do next? (Call toll free, click button, etc)


8. Active Listening: Understand (and make them you understand) the prospect's pain points - repeat what they just said, no head in agreement, summarize in end etc.


9. Sell effectively over the phone/video conferencing: You should listen closely over the phone - the tone of the buyer's voice, whether the buyer/prospect is satisfied or not. Speak clearly, slowly. Try to build a rapport with the person - common interests in sports, college or hobbies are best places to start.


A quick guide to cold calling

Cold calling is traditionally the most challenging part of the selling process. Cold calling is the art of approaching someone, professionally, openly and meaningfully, with a sensible proposition.


Use of cold calling: It helps the salesperson to,

- Supersede existing supply-distribution chain

- Pre-empt the competition

- Identify and create huge new business possibilities

- Become indispensable as someone who can make things happen and - create new business

- Build (your) personal reputation beyond job title and

- Grade establish relationships and a respect (for you) beyond normal sales responsibilities and be an entrepreneur.


How sales people typically see cold calling

Fearful - boring, repetitive - unpleasant - pressurized - unimaginative - rejections - thankless - confrontational - unproductive - demoralizing - unhappy - numbers game


How customers see cold calling done poorly

nuisance - unwanted - indiscriminate, unprepared - pressurizing - tricky, shifty - dishonest - reject, repel cold callers - shady, evasive - contrived - insulting - patronizing - disrespectful


What successful cold calling should be like

Honest/open - straightforward - interesting/helpful - different/innovative - thoughtful/reasoned - prepared/informed - professional/business-like - efficient/structured - respectful - enthusiastic/up-beat - informative/new - thought-provoking - time/cost-saving - opportunity/advantage - credible/reliable - demonstrable/referenced


Basic cold calling techniques

Preparation: Know all about yourself self, market environment, knowledge of prospect, and who you represent/what you sell

Introduction: Practice the key phrases explaining and positioning yourself and your purpose (elevator pitch for your offering). Never start to push forward during the start of the customer interaction. Look for what the prospect is thinking right now.

Ask and answer questions: Help, facilitate and enable rather than assume, sell and push. Help your prospect, instead of referring to features and benefits.

Be objective: The mark of an adviser is that she/he does not sell/but focus on the benefits and seriousness of problems - Listen and interpret - Inform and educate - Involve and coordinate - do not sell. Creating trust with your prospect is your primary goal - not making the sale.

Keep in touch: Keep notes and keep the prospect informed of latest product updates etc


(Source: Alan Chapman)


The cold call sequence

- Get their attention: 'Good morning Mr/Ms...Do you (say the most important benefit of your product)?'

- Identify yourself: 'My name is...and my company is..(explain what it is most well known for).'

- Tell them why you're calling: Give the main problem statement in a normal language, and ask them if they also face this problem, and tell them you have helped many people solve this problem.

- Qualify them: E.g. 'Do you have a time frame in mind to solve problem X?'

- If they are qualified: Thank them and ask if you can continue the conversation face-to-face.


10. Start with an 'agreement': Which outlines expectation of both sides - how you will start and then complete the process, basically. 'I will first need to know more about your business, so I can give you a better demonstration of the capabilities of my product/service...'


11. Questioning that help you know more about the prospect: First, ask qualifying questions that help you know the prospect's 'pains' better, before you get on with your product benefits.


Ask questions that help you know the prospect's 'budget, authority (are they the main decision maker?'), need, timeline (meetings - demo - sales proposals etc), competition (Has anyone else talked to them? Are they aware of other products?) and buying process/approval process etc.


Ask questions that help you know more about the prospect's needs: Their goals, challenges, loss caused by problems, personal impact on the person, potential obstacles etc.


Ask about them, don't ask whether they have heard of you, and such.


12. Prevent the objections: Be proactive and address common objection/s before they even ask about them.


13. Handling objections: The Key to Closing the Sale


Always make sure that you are talking to the decision maker.


LAARC: Listen, Acknowledge, Assess, Respond, Confirm.

LAIR: Listen, Acknowledge, Identify objection, Reverse it.


Listen--Really Listen: CHEF Method for reading body language

- Cheeks/Chin: When they touch them it is a good sign.

- Hands: If they massaging palm against palm, or palm against the back of the other hand it means they have assumed ownership and are ready to buy.

- Eyes: The wider the eyes the better.

- Friendly: Always a good sign.


People listen more intently to things said in a low voice.


Always deal with objections ASAP.


(Source 'Closing the sale' by Zig Zagler)


When they say, 'Too pricey'

- Add benefits of quality

- Subtract disappointments of cheapness

- Multiply pleasure of having something good

- Divide cost over a period of time


How to deal with different types of prospects

- Gullible: Tell lots of human interest stories and go slow not applying pressure.

- Skeptical: Ask them to repeat the question and thank them for asking.

- Hostile: Say, I know how you feel. Others have felt this way in the past. They found when they had all the facts they were persuaded.

- Indecisive: Move to his side of the table and demonstrate empathy. Inner pressure is the key factor.

- Bargain Hunter: They want assurance they are getting a deal. Tell them the beautiful thing about your company is you treat everyone the same and no one will get a better deal than her. Tell them you will give them a special intangible you normally do not offer like personally taking the order and shipping it.

- Obnoxious: Give them lots of attention and challenge them. Tell them what they are buying compliments their greatness.

- Big shot: Let him know you are a high caliber sales person worth of working with them.


Objection-handling techniques and methods


- Pre-empting: Handle objections before they happen. 'Many of our customers said it was very expensive, but they bought it and saw their profits rise three-folds within six months.'

- Deflection: Avoid responding to objection (e.g. they just want to know the price, just letting it pass. 'Yes, I see what you mean...mmm...Now let me show you the range of colors you can have...'

- Boomerang: Bouncing back the objection 'Yes, I agree. It is expensive, but I don't think you would want to buy your wife a cheap present.'

- Reframing: A variety on 'boomerang method'. You change the point of view on the product. 'I can see that this is not within your budget, but let me put it another way. Yes, you can't afford it right now. But it will help you get a promotion in double quick time.'

- Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD): A negative but effective trick - e.g. running down competitors' new offering, or, saying tha tnot buying right now increases chances of infection.

- Feel, felt, found: Making them change their stand by giving them examples - 'I understand you feel about that. Many others have felt the same way. And what they have found is that...'

- Objection Writing: Write down and cross out objections. Show them you are writing down the objections, and the one by one you take up each objection, discuss it again, and then cross out each objection, in their full view. It helps weaken their resolve somewhat.


(Search Google for more 'objection handling techniques').


14. Demonstration/Presentation skills

Product demonstration: Start by finding the exact benefits that the prospect will get from your product. Focus on the personal/business value of those benefits (brought by the features). Just focus on the most important (and relevant) benefits and features.


Make your presentation short, simple (simple words, simple structure), and effective (focus on relevant benefits).


15. Storytelling

Tell stories customized to various kinds of customers (think them up before hand, after researching the industry) and situation. 'Imagine you are a designer who has to...but problem X has happened...' Make it an emotional story.


16. Building trust

From start, establish your cred as an expert on the industry/product/important problem. Then, also show them how you want the best for their company/themselves. Help the prospects with enough information (they call it 'actionable intelligence') to reach at a decision. See 'content marketing' above. Finally, when you make a commitment, keep to it, and follow through - see how they are doing with their new purchase.


17. Gaining commitment: Always make sure that the right people (with the right approval power) are involved, or are brought in at a later stage. Also, as you keep explaining the relevant benefit to the prospect, ask for their acknowledgment ('Does this solve a problem?', 'Is this useful to you?') for the actual value you are providing. This will surely help get a commitment at a later stage.


18. Closing techniques


Train your voice to close sales

- Learn to use a voice recorder to hear your own voice and critique your on sales presentation. This is very important.

- When you talk and listen to the sound of your worn voice, the primary source of sound is coming through vibrations of the bone. When you make a recording and listen to it, the sound comes into your eardrums through the air.


- When some one tells you that your price is ridiculous, you repeat what they said as a question: This forces them to defend their statement as opposed to forcing you to justify the price.


- Verify that price is the real objection: Ask ‘If I could show you that the price is more than fair and the product is worth every dime we’re asking, would you go ahead and take advantage of this offer today?'


- Response to an objection on price: 'Mr. Prospect, your going to be concerned about price one time. That’s the day you buy. Your going to be concerned with the quality for the life of the product itself. With this in mind, let me urge you to think along these lines: Wouldn’t you agree that it’s better to pay a little more than expected, that a little less than you should?'(Wait for an answer) 'If you pay more than expected, we are talking about pennies. If you pay less than you should and the product won’t do the job which you expected it to do, then you will lose everything'


- Many people are trained to say the price is to high automatically.


- Use the price objection as a selling point by using it as a segway to discuss the benefits which more than justify the price, or explain why the product is vastly superior to its competitors - 'We decided it would be easier to explain price one time than it would be to apologize for quality forever. Aren’t you?'


- If you are told that you just have the answer to everything and every objection, rely that this is not the case, which is why you are so excited that in their specific situation you do have the answer.


Words that sell

(Their name) - Understand - Proven - Health - Easy - Guarantee - Money - Safety - Save - New - Love - Discovery - Right - Results - Truth - Comfort - Proud - Profit - Deserve - Happy - Trust - Value - Fun - Vital - You - Security - Advantage - Positive - Benefits


Words that Unsell

Deal - Cost - Pay - Contract - Sign - Try - Worry - Loss - Lose - Hurt - Buy - Death - Bad - Sell - Sold - Price - Decision - Hard - Difficult - Obligation - Liable - Fail - Liability - Failure


Do not say 'you know' or 'do you understand what I mean' - Paint word pictures that allow your prospects to visualize the benefits of using the products


Selling and Courting simultaneously

- Always get your prospect to sit down when considering making a large purchase.

- Visualize the positive response of your prospect.

- When you deal with two or more prospects in an office or at a restaurant, be careful not to sit in-between them.

- Always try to move the prospect to the kitchen table when in the home.


How Prospects Think

- Appeal only to a prospect's reason and you may have no appeal at all.

- Familiarity breeds business. Spread your word however you can.

- Take advantage of the 'Recency Effect'. Follow up brilliantly.

- The best thing you can do for a prospect is eliminate their fear. Offer a trial period or test project.


Types of closes


4 Questions close: Tell the prospect that there are only four questions that they need to ask them self. Do you like it? - Do you want it? - Can you afford it? - When do you want to start enjoying the benefits?


'Cost' Close: Explain to them that price you pay once but cost is the maintenance fee for the life of the product. Cheap products have a higher cost because they break and require maintenance


Conditional Close: Make closure a condition for resolving their objection. 'You say you wanted a blue one. If I can phone up and get you one, will you take it today?'


The '1902' close: This is where you break down the purchase into price per day over the life of the product. This enable the customer to minimize the cost in their mind.


Get people out of a corner. If they have said they will 'never' do something, turn breaking their vow into a positive.


'Marriage' Close: Sell the customer on the fact that your will offer comprehensive service for the length of time that they own/are using the product service. People do not buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.


The 'Look and Listen' Close

- If a customer goes back for multiple looks at the product it is a good sign.

- When the prospect says no 'but', you know you have a prospect.

- For every sale you miss because you are too enthusiastic, you will miss ten for not being enthusiastic enough.


The '3 Questions Close'

- Can you see where this would save you money?

- Are you interested in saving money?

- If you were ever going to start saving money, when do you think would be the best time to start?


(Source 'Closing the sale' by Zig Zagler)


- Many people who say they will think it over, actually do not intend on doing so. A 'no' today is better than a no tomorrow.


- Daily Cost Close: Reduce cost to daily amount.

- 'Never-the-best-time' Close: For customers who are delaying.

- Assumptive Close: Act as if they are ready to decide.

- Balance-sheet Close: Adding up the pros and the cons.

- Shopping List Close: Tick off list of their needs.

- Similarity Close: Bond them to a person in your (sales) story.

- Yes-set Close: Get them saying 'yes' and they'll keep saying 'yes'.


(Search Google for more 'sales closing techniques').


19. Post-sale relationship management

It is not over when the sale is done. You will build trust when you ask the customer how their experience has been using your product/service. You will build trust by showing them how you appreciate their faith in your/your product. You will build more trust and deepen the relationship by being helpful with post-purchase support and guidance. It is also a good idea to remain in touch with buyers in customers-only events etc. And follow up with them occasionally with updates etc.


20. Persistence: Successful sales people need persistence more than any other skill. You have to work at it - becoming great at sales that is Finding new ways to find prospects, how to show the benefits in the best light possible, without taking too much of their time, how to be better at cold calling, introducing yourself (elevator pitch), getting an appointment, doing product demo etc.


Please also read the guides to 'Persuasion', 'Negotiation' and 'Communication' for more tips.


Related idea: SPIN Selling

This ideas was given by Neil Rackham and is applicable in Business -to-Business (B2B) selling, where large orders are at stake, and the normal objection handling and closing techniques won't work, unless you can show to them you understand their business process and problems completely.


Thus the 'SPIN' style of questioning.


Situation questions: Ask questions to show them you understand the buyer's main business situations/scenarios. 'Yes, I understand. Summer temperatures in the warehouse can be killing.'

Problem questions: Ask questions to find related probable problems your product/service can help solve. If you are selling them soft skills guides, ask them how many workers can actually write business emails properly.

Implication questions: Ask questions that look into the fallout of the problem. E.g. 'How many people have fudged up their appraisal forms because they can't write properly?'

Need-Payoff questions: Ask them how their pain can be resolved. For example, how have their competitors dealt with the problem.


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