When months of hard work and persistence are punctuated with the phrase, “sounds like a deal,” there is arguably little more satisfying than closing a sale. It’s the result of late nights, countless emails, and long conversations with prospects – but it always feels worth it in the end.
A career in sales can be a truly rewarding one, provided you have the skills, training, and available resources to do the job well.
With heavy competition, strict sales goals from management, and difficult prospects, sales isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Nowadays, if you don’t engage customers properly, you’re only missing out on a world of opportunity. Here’s a look at several skills sales pros need to develop to engage customers more efficiently.
1. Become a Great Listener
Listening is obviously the most basic skill even a novice salesperson needs to have. If you go beyond the basics, however, it’s likely that even the most seasoned sales professional will tell you that this is one skill that should always be fine-tuned and improved.
There should also be a distinction between listening to someone and hearing them out. This means being forceful when necessary, and knowing when to back off in order to be sensitive to their specific needs.
More importantly, listening is also about knowing how to steer the conversation. By carefully listening for specific signals from a prospect or customer, red flags should be going off to help guide the discussion. Whether it’s letting them voice their dissatisfaction or venting frustrations about a problem you know your product can solve, you have the keys to move your conversations in the right direction.
But listening is also the cornerstone of relationship building. By remembering key personal details about your customer, you’ll be able to connect with them on a whole new level.
2. Become a Student of Psychology
Sales is all about appealing to the needs of a rational individual, right?
Because the human brain is evaluating so many details unrelated to something’s actual worth, the perception of something can be drastically skewed as a result. Our individual experiences and mental well-being impact our decision-making so much that it can be hard to overcome.
But salespeople can definitely use psychology to their advantage when trying to engage a customer. There are lots of tactics which can help during the sales process, but never use psychology to manipulate your customers — it’s simply unethical, and they may eventually realize that you’ve attempted to manipulate them.
3. Embrace Your Curious Side
As we all get older, there are certain aspects of our personality that we tend to let go over the years. Perhaps it’s just a side effect of growing older and reaching maturity, but curiosity is often one of those things we tend to have less of as time carries on.
Curiosity is ultimately the driving force behind advancements in science and technology, and our world is infinitely better because of the curious nature of scientists, engineers, and so on. Applied to the world of a salesperson, curiosity not only shows a general interest in the concerns of a prospect, but it also forces you to ask the right questions.
By embracing your curious side, a sales pro will find themselves in a perpetual state of trying to understand more about their world, their product, and their customers.
4. Become Unpredictable
We assume that life should be about controlling what we can and preparing for things that we can’t. And while that is definitely a safe way to live, life in this regard can become predictable — but we know that life can be far from predictable.
In the business world, we expect a similar level of predictability, but humans have inherent flaws, and we believe that “unpredictable” can be a bad thing. For a salesperson, a client or customer has certain expectations about them, which is perfectly reasonable. But what if this salesperson never fell into a rut and always went above and beyond?
Some customers have unreasonable expectations of salespeople, which is why it is critical to be managing these expectations from the start. But from there, if you exceed those expectations time and time again, a customer will have no idea what to expect — except of course the quality of service they get. This principle will have them coming back for years to come, so always keep them on their toes.
5. Learn How to Tell a Story
Sales and marketing teams are becoming more intertwined every day, but not every sales pro has the luxury of leaning on such a collaborative effort. The truth is that salespeople are often the perfect storytellers when engaging customers.
They have conversations with prospects every day, so they know their pain points, the problems they need to be solved. Sales teams are inherently more capable of talking to customers in a language they can understand, and marketers can often be quite isolated from these customers.
One of the big trends over the last several years has been in the area of content marketing; the strategy of creating content which engages audiences far beyond how an advertisement could. Content is just another way a person tells a story — whether it’s in a video, a blog, or a whitepaper, the purpose remains the same.
While sales professionals don’t necessarily need to become content creators overnight, one way they can embrace visual storytelling is through whiteboarding. As opposed to the standard PowerPoint presentation, whiteboarding can be a next-level way of demonstrating your product while also keeping their attention.
6. Hone in on Persistence
One of the hardest things for any salesperson is maintaining persistence after qualifying a potential customer. It should be noted that there is a difference between persistence and bombarding prospects since we all have dealt with salespeople who were just “too pushy.”
Provided that the line of overly aggressive sales follow-ups is never crossed, continued follow-ups have a tremendous opportunity. Consider that 63% of people requesting information from a company one day will not become a buying customer for at least three months. Even more surprising is the likelihood that 20% will take more than 12 months to buy.
Persistence is a great skill to have, but don’t let that persistence translate into desperation. Follow-ups are where many salespeople easily give up at the first sign of friction. It just requires examining different approaches and having conversations at times which suit the customer.
7. Tech Savviness
Having a knack for picking up new technology is another really important skill for almost any salesperson to have nowadays. While some folks are just naturally more tech-savvy than others, having a propensity for technology is only one way to be tech-savvy.
Going back to embracing curiosity in sales, committing to learning about how something works or embracing a new tool is all about having an innate desire to understand it better. Fueling this desire to comprehend new tech can also be applied to having a deeper product knowledge. Not only that, but it will make it easier when adopting new tools that could potentially improve a part of the sales process.
Refining Skills Into the Future
Sales at its core is all about having immense social intelligence and the ability to communicate thoughts in a coherent manner that neither patronizes nor confuses. What sets an exceptional salesperson apart from a mediocre one are a few skills which enable better customer engagement.
In the long-term, an engaged customer will always be one who feels good about doing business and comes back for many years. These skills can be picked up by almost any sales pro, but it does require the desire to become better salespeople.