Sales can be an exciting and lucrative field — if you have what it takes to succeed. With the right combination of hard and soft sales skills, you can delight customers and bring in a steady stream of business.
Listening is the most important sales skill to master, whether you're selling multi-million-dollar equipment or tiny electrical components. Paying close attention to what a customer says does two key things. First, listening helps you identify and understand the customer's pain points, which makes it easier to create a compelling pitch. Second, it helps you determine the best solution for the customer's needs. For example, the customer might think they need one item, but you might have another product in mind that would do the job better for less money.
Emotional intelligence, or the ability to recognize and manage emotions, is an often-undervalued sales skill. Mastering this concept can make you a more sensitive and effective salesperson. When you notice subtle emotional responses to a conversation, it's easier to adjust your delivery to make the customer feel more comfortable. You might sense that an "I'm not interested" response is motivated by fear and respond with empathy, for example, or you might use a gentler pitch when you recognize that a potential customer is overwhelmed. Even if the pitch doesn't end in a sale, the person walks away feeling supported and positive, and he is more likely to come to you when ready.
Most sales professionals juggle multiple customers at varying stages of the sales pipeline, so excellent time management is a must. This sales skill helps you dedicate the appropriate amount of effort to each step, from cold calling to relationship management. If you don't take this seriously, the sales pipeline becomes unbalanced, leading to problems down the line. For example, if you don't spend time on prospecting, leads dry up. If you don't follow up with customers after a sale, repeat business might drop. Great salespeople spend time tending to each part of the pipeline on a regular basis, even when it's not a pressing concern.
The sales process is constantly evolving. To keep up with new tools, technologies and current events, salespeople should master a key sales skill: learning. At a bare minimum, you must have expert-level knowledge of the products you sell. Prior to the sale, you might be a customer's only company contact. An in-depth understanding helps you answer questions, spot potential challenges and explain how the product benefits the customer's specific situation. In addition, it's important to spend time educating yourself on current events and industry shifts that impact your company and the customer.
Sales is a nuanced, human-centered field that requires both interpersonal and organizational abilities. By shoring up your critical sales skills, you can build a responsive, targeted strategy that makes customers feel confident about buying from you.
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