The art of sales can be mystifying for the outsider. Some of the best salespeople seem to have a magic touch, finding clients and selling them products without seeming to break a sweat. How do they do it? Not by magic, but by developing their sales skills.
The people who started out looking at sales executive jobs became very good at it by honing and improving their skills. So if you want to know more about those skills and how to develop them: read on.
Understanding your company and your clients
Researching your prospects and your clients is vitally important because it allows you to communicate with them about the things they are interested in, to find ways of putting forward your product or service in a way that will solve their problems.
To do this, you need commercial awareness – knowing what makes your industry tick. You can improve your ability in this area by reading the trade press and industry periodicals. Absorbing news and views means that you will be able to pick out trends before the competition, and find hints about future opportunities.
Another way of trendspotting is by crunching numbers. Analysing sales figures can reveal valuable information about potential new prospects, and for this you need good IT and numeracy skills.
Modern software packages help sales executives to analyse potential clients because sales is not simply a matter of making call after call after call – you need to understand who is most likely to buy. The Institute of Sales and Marketing Management and companies like Salesforce run courses to help you improve these skills.
Talking is good, but listening is better
The stereotypical sales executive has the gift of the gab, but don’t confuse talking with selling. Interpersonal skills and communication skills are not only about talking. Advertising legend David Ogilvy put it more succinctly: “Don’t be a bore.”
If this doesn’t come naturally, then you should focus on improving your active listening skills. This means learning how to ask intelligent follow-up questions rather than sounding as though you’re just trying to steer the conversation back to the sale. Listen also to your client’s tone of voice and style of speech – subtly mirroring them can help build rapport and fosters trust.
Perseverance, patience and picking yourself off the floor.
Even if you’ve got the right prospective clients, and you have top-notch communication skills, you’ll need another important set of skills: perseverance and patience.
Before he founded one of the world’s most famous advertising agencies, Ogilvy was a door-to-door salesman – an extremely successful one. For him, one of the main things was to keep going, even if it meant straying away from the subject of your product.
The longer you stay,” he said, “the better you get to know the prospect, and the more you will be trusted
Sometimes clients might not want your product right now, but they’ll need it later. So even if you get knocked back, you need to have the resilience to not give up. Improving your resilience is about practice - always look for positives and try to learn from every sales interaction, whether it’s successful or not. Some psychotherapists and life coaches can also offer help in improving your resilience.
Sealing the deal
It’s important to remember that great sales executives are made, not born. Most people can develop their sales skills in whatever industry or role they work in, so there’s no reason why sales executives should be any different.
Remember that sales is a simple process: find people who need your product, then give it to them at a price that satisfies both of you. That way they’ll buy from you again – or recommend you to a friend. And if that happens, you’ll be meeting your sales targets in no time. Then it will soon be time for you to be promoted to sales manager and create the next group of great sales executives.