So many skills, so little time! This may be what you are thinking regardless of where you are in your journey as a sales rep. Since sales is continually evolving, there will always be new information and skills to learn.
If you seek ways to improve your sales skills, you may have typed “how to master the art of selling” in your browser. Unfortunately, a lot of the results were probably related to a best selling book by the same name written by Tom Hopkins (one of the greatest sales trainers) back in the 80’s.
Since this book was written about 40 years ago, sales has changed. The book isn’t as relevant as it once was. The basics apply, but buyers have changed dramatically. There is also more to modern sales than the art of selling. Selling anything today requires a greater emphasis on the science of the sale.
Instead of relying on your innate skills like the gift of gab and gut feel, you need to learn to:
- Understand your buyers
- Measure and analyze sales data
- Test and evaluate your market assumptions
So with that said, how do you master the art of selling?
Understand your buyers
It used to be that navigating the sales process when trying to master the art of selling was the only path to follow to close more deals. But, today, the focus is the buying process instead.
The buying process has become more critical than selling techniques for modern salespeople because prospects do thorough research online, and 70 percent of modern buyers define their needs before speaking with a sales rep.
This research makes buyers more informed than they used to be when sales reps were the sole source of product or service information. As a result, modern B2B buyers now have higher expectations of sales professionals.
The new buyer’s expectations include:
- Understanding their business, industry, and common challenges
- Excellent communication skills – written content, video, phone, and in-person
- Focusing on post-sale success
- Providing perspective and insights
Let’s take a look at 5 skills that are needed to meet these buyer requirements.
1. Do your research
Before speaking with a prospect, you need to do your research. Potential customers expect you to know their business, industry, and typical challenges that they’re facing.
It also helps if you also keep current with what is happening in the marketplace. And it would be best if you were up to date on your competitors’ product and customer support and how it compares to your company’s and customer support too.
2. Practice active listening
Sixty-eight percent of buyers agree that sellers that listen to them will influence their purchase decisions.
When practicing active listening, start by asking open-ended questions.
Then, listen more than you speak. This means listening to what the prospect is saying and the conveying feeling the potential customer shares with you.
Acknowledge and confirm your understanding of what the buyer has said by nodding or saying “um hum” so they know you are listening.
Be sure that you are focused on what the prospect is saying and that you are not thinking about what you want to say next.
Keep the prospect engaged in conversation by asking clarifying questions. Clarifying questions shows the prospect that you are interested in learning more from them.
Confirm your understanding by summing up what the prospect said and relaying it back to them.
Active listening builds trust and helps you develop a better relationship with your prospects.
3. Dig deeper
Whenever you are speaking with a lead, you must ask clarifying questions to gain a complete picture of the potential customer’s situation, needs, challenges, and goals.
These clarifying questions include learning how the prospect’s business would benefit from reaching their desired outcome and how the prospect would benefit personally as well.
And don’t forget to discuss money with the potential customer too regarding the availability of funds and their budget for the project. You don’t want to advance too far in the sales process to find out that the prospect cannot buy due to a lack of cash.
Uncovering more thorough information makes it easier for you to qualify or disqualify prospects, so you don’t waste valuable selling time on deals that are unlikely to close. These potential customers are not a good fit for your product and would not fully benefit from your solution.
4. Focus on the long-term
Don’t only focus on closing on a particular sale. Don’t force the deal if the prospect isn’t the best fit for your product or service. Instead, move on and spend your time and efforts on opportunities that match your ideal customer profile.
Your ideal customer profile defines the characteristics of prospects that will benefit most from your product. These are the potential customers who will be the most satisfied over the long term. Doing the right thing for the customer during the sales process is a win-win for you and the prospect.
And after you close a deal with customers, remember that they don’t disappear. On the contrary, they want you to maintain a relationship with them by continuing to support them.
5. Provide insights and solutions
The next step of learning how to master the art of selling is to guide the prospect through their decision-making process by arming them with insights. This goes against the usual advice on how to master the art of selling because we’re going to leverage science and data instead of anecdotes.
When you understand your potential client’s situation, challenges, desired end state, and personal and professional benefits to solving their problems, you know exactly what information is needed to complete the buying process.
You also can create the best solution and know confidently that the prospect will sign on the dotted line.
Measure and analyze
Top-performing salespeople, who reach 125% of their quota or above, are more likely than other sales reps to leverage data to improve their sales skills. This data can be manually tracked, accessed in a CRM, or come from any of the many technologies used by today’s top sales teams.
Data is valuable for mastering the art of sales to evaluate your progress toward goals, find more leads, and gain insights when testing and evaluating sales techniques.
Track sales progress
Let’s look at how measuring and analyzing helps you track your sales progress. If you’re not already tracking your sales progress you need to update your sales training.
If you are doing this manually, start with your sales goals. You want to determine if you will hit your target by the end of the month. Then, look at the numbers to figure it out.
- Are you connecting with enough leads to hit your number?
- Are you converting enough of those leads to prospects by scheduling a discovery call?
- What percentage of these prospects are moving forward with a demo and then a proposal?
- Ultimately, how many prospects are you closing? And what is the average deal size?
Armed with this information, you can analyze it and determine how many leads you need to connect with to close the correct number of deals to hit your monthly, quarterly, and annual goals.
Start doing this early and often so you can fine-tune your efforts to ensure you hit your sales targets.
If you measure everything you do, you’ll be able to identify vulnerabilities and work on improving those areas.
Improve sales techniques
Lets go beyond traditional, classroom based sales training. An effective way to use analysis to improve your sales techniques is by using call reviews. Call reviews are the act of listening to call recordings to measure your progress in improving specific elements of your sales call technique.
Call reviews can be completed alone or in a group of peers where the call is critiqued to discuss what went well during the call and what could be done to improve it.
Call reviews can also be done by sharing call recordings with a skilled peer or your manager and requesting feedback for improvement.
Sharing call recordings can also be used for skill building when listening to examples of best practices to model in your own sales calls.
Test and evaluate
A/B testing is a tried-and-true practice employed by marketing professionals to improve emails, landing pages, and marketing messages.
Sales reps can benefit from using this process as well to adapt and change the messaging you use. This will help you continually improve your results. Examples of what testing can be used for include:
- Improving email open rates
- Increasing responses to voice messages
- Improving close rates
Optimize facets of sales calls, scripts or emails with testing like:
- Subject lines
- General messaging in a call script
- Voice message scripts
- Call to action
- A closing question
- Which title you use
How to test to optimize
Whichever element you are testing, the process is the same.
Start by selecting what you want to optimize, such as your call script. Then use two different greetings or introductions such as a question versus a statement such as:
- Is this a good time?
- I’m sure you are busy, so I’ll keep this brief.
Test it by using the two scripts on a sampling of at least 100 calls or more. The larger the number, the more accurate the assessment will be.
To measure the effectiveness of the two scripts, you need to analyze the data. You can determine which option worked better by looking at the percentage of leads with the desired outcome. This is also known as the conversion rate.
To find this information, you might run a report in your CRM to collect all the call outcomes for the two groups of calls made using the two scripts. The one with the more significant number of conversions is the more useful script.
When learning how to master the art of selling to the modern buyer, you need to leverage scientific methods. You need to go beyond Tom Hopkins original book on the topic. You need some new skills and a williness to take on some analytical challenges.
It used to be sufficient to lean on your innate skills to sell anything, today’s sales reps require additional skills.
You need to understand your buyer so that you can give the prospect what they want. This builds trust and aids in the development of a longer-term relationship.
Monitoring your progress by measuring and analyzing key performance indicators makes it possible for you to fine-tune your performance along the way so you can meet your goals.
Testing variations of call scripts, emails, and voice mails leads to incremental improvements in the results of your efforts.
Leverage these scientific methods on a routine basis to consistently improve your sales skills.