If you’re a recent MBA, marketing or economics grad and eager to launch your sales career, you’ve no doubt been told that it’s fiercely competitive. In this economy, you’ll need more than a sheepskin from a prestigious B school to make it in sales. You’ll have to pull out all the stops and dig deep to quickly acquire the key sales skills you’ll need to survive and thrive. Here’s what the pros recommend:
Learn to Build Relationships
Like most sales skills, this is one you may have an inherent talent for; if not, you’ll have to watch a pro and learn. In a recent article entitled The Art of Building Client Relationships, Tom Hopkins, author of How to Master the Art of Selling, equates building long-term business relationships to building long-term friendships. He reminds young salespeople that a company doesn’t make buying decisions, that it’s always a human being. And since sales is a people business, you must learn to make people feel important and cared about. Which brings us to the next sales skill.
Listen, Question, Listen
Knowing when to listen and when to ask questions is a delicate balance that most salespeople will have to acquire, though some do have a basic innate ability. Roy Chitwood author, trainer, sales consultant and president of Max Sacks International, likens a typical sales conversation to playing “hot potato.” The longer you hold the potato (the conversation on your end), the less chance you’ll have to listen to the prospect—what he wants, needs from you and your product or service. Chitwood advises new salespeople to avoid questions that elicit a simple “yes” or “no” answer, which puts the hot potato in your hands—asking more questions that reveal little or nothing in terms of information. He suggests asking open-ended questions that start with “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” or “how” to encourage a prospect to open up and speak freely.
Eye of the Tiger, Shell of a Turtle
To succeed in today’s dog-eat-dog sales game you have to be aggressive and fearless when it comes to going after prospects who may seem impossible to “bag.” That means getting used to the word “no,” “not interested,” “not now,” “it’s not in the budget,” etc., etc. Sales training guru Paul Castain, VP of Castain Training Systems, advises newbie salespeople to avoid a number of classic sales no-no’s: calling on the same day and time each week; using the same venue (e.g., phone) all the time; repeating the same robotic, weak sales message. You should care enough about your prospect to realize that your sales message is an interrupter, something he or she didn’t plan on, expect or look forward to. The burden is on you to make it impactful, interesting and informative.
Want to succeed in sales? Acquire, embrace and practice the above key sales skills.
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