19 February 2016
Sales has changed. It’s no longer simply a world of sharp suits and a few well rehearsed usp’s. Some glossy literature to accompany the ubiquitous powerpoint presentation.
The modern successful salesperson is a new breed and is using the digital age to leverage their position through innovation and collaboration.
We’ve looked at 6 of the key skills that we believe this new breed possess.
It all starts with knowing what you’re talking about. Prospects today are sometimes better informed than salespeople themselves. Sales conversations start much later in the information gathering process than they used to – by the time customers first talk to a salesperson, they are already overwhelmed with information. Instead of a SHOW UP AND THROW UP, they need an intelligent advisor who helps them filter the clutter of information they’re faced with.
You need to know the market and your prospects’ challenges as well as you know your own product. You’ll only ever be truly good at it if you have a genuine interest in developing this knowledge. Modern sales skills demand spending more time researching prospects and learning about the market than other traditional sales techniques.
It’s “the age of social” – that doesn’t just refer to social networks, but also to a social skillset. If the salesperson of the past was a talker, the modern one is a listener, who is sensitive to customers’ needs and preferences. Good modern salespeople spend a good deal of time researching prospects on social networks – to learn about their professional role and issues as well as their personal interests. It helps get to know your prospect as an individual, and establish a personal, meaningful connection. The pushy salesperson’s attentiveness is, at best, cosmetic. A great salesperson’s interest is sincere. And customers appreciate that effort, even if you get it slightly wrong.
Confidence: Led by facts!
Salespeople have always had to be confident – but there’s a big difference between confidence fueled by ego and confidence backed by facts and research. Today’s informed buyers don’t want to be sold to – if they sense empty rhetoric, they’ll put up their defences. Solid facts and personal relevance will earn their respect.
The best way to learn what moves prospects is by talking to the people who know – other salespeople. Where “the lone wolves” of the past had their own secret pitch, the most successful salespeople today are great collaborators: they share best practices and give advice to each other – and they understand that offering their own unique insight will get them something equally valuable in return. Think about your colleagues in marketing/finance/operations!
A knack for narrative:
Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have for engaging with people. Experienced salespeople are an incredibly rich source of real-life anecdotes that can demonstrate use cases, issues and possible complications. No two sales conversations are the same – but the ability to draw upon experience and selectively present relevant stories is a highly creative skill that helps establish a real connection with prospects.
Few people will admit to like being sold to. But we all welcome an intelligent partner – a fully rounded personality that’s not just selling but connecting with us, empathising and helping us solve a problem.
Great salespeople have always instinctively known and practiced these things. But it’s the connectedness and information saturation of today’s world that make these ‘renaissance’ selling skills imperative today.