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Selling skills for a changing market
With greater demands now being placed on salespeople, the need for improved selling skills has never been higher. Typically, as organisations look for ways to remain commercially competitive, many try to strip costs out of their business. Overheads are usually the first place they start, and unfortunately, the inclusion of selling costs within this category means that sales resources are often the first to feel the pinch.
With added pressure put on individual sellers to perform, the best way for sellers to deal with these pressures is to ensure that their selling skills are at the highest level possible.
The selling skills required by a high-performance seller can be broken down into two categories:
1. Skills needed in a conversation with the client
The selling environment is changing. One thing that remains constant, however, is that people still make decisions based on emotional reasons – and consistently buy from people they like.
Therefore, in a conversation with a client, the first thing that sellers need to do is establish rapport. After all, it makes sense that a prospect faced with competing but similar options is likely to give preference to someone they have a good relationship with. Therefore, a seller who can effectively engage with a client has a significantly greater chance of achieving success.
The second thing that a seller needs to be able to do in a client conversation is to set an effective agenda. An agenda facilitates the selling process by setting up the meeting as an important event, and lets the clients know why the seller is there, and the direction that they would like the meeting to go. But it also positions the seller as somebody credible. Think about it – a seller who sticks to their word is a trustworthy seller. And credibility and trust are crucial in a buying situation.
Once the seller has set the agenda, they then need to establish the gaps in the client’s business, by identifying – and highlighting – the underlying problem that the client needs solved. As my colleague Hugh Macfarlane says, people that have a need will invest time – but people that have a need and a problem will invest time and money. In other words, people that only have a need stop short of investing money – and waste your time trying to define that need. Finding pain is an important part of the selling process, and the seller needs to have a highly developed sense of structuring questions in order to highlight this pain.
After this crucial step, sellers need to perform a trial close. As a traditional component of selling, most sellers are already familiar with this step, but nonetheless, it’s important to establish the customer’s intent to do business. Sellers must put their product training to use, to demonstrate how the prospect can use the solution to take their pain away.
Finally, the last essential skill needed in a customer interaction is to obtain agreement to proceed. This will either be closing the sale, or obtaining agreement to proceed to the next stage of the customer’s journey.
2. Skills needed to plan for complex opportunities
The second category of selling skills relates to a seller’s ability to plan selling campaigns for complex or important opportunities. Here, the seller needs to be able to analyse the various influences of multiple buyers. A complex sale will be made up of several different buying influences – some with more influence than others, and some at different stages of the buying journey. It’s also important to note that some will be more acutely aware of what the problems are, while others will be somewhat more complacent about those problems. Some might not even believe that there’s a problem at all.
A seller needs to be able to manage this complexity, and tailor their conversations with these individuals to suit where they are in the buying journey. In addition to this, a seller must be able to gauge how much influence each individual has, and identify whose solution they are supporting. Ultimately, a seller should be skilled in reading and analysing each of the influencers, and understanding what they seek in a solution.
Once they have a detailed understanding of the buying influences, the seller needs to be skilled in diagnosing his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Out of this, they will need to plan an execution campaign that makes the best use of their strengths, and eliminates as many weaknesses as possible.
Market conditions change dramatically from year to year, and selling skills need to change in accordance with these. A seller needs to embody more than just a keen understanding of their product or service. Selling skills that help sellers engage with their clients, and allow them to plan for complex opportunities, need to be embedded in the skill set of every high-performance seller.
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Eddie Smith is the Founder of Sales Schematics Australia, and an accredited MathMarketing Funnel Coach. To read more of his insights, go to the SSA Technical - Sales Insights blog.