5 Key Sales Skills Every Rep Should Master

Do you know what the most valuable skill in the business world is?

Well, we will tell you what it’s not. It’s NOT being the best at analyzing data or writing the most complex reports. It’s NOT creating the best or most creative business strategies. These skills can develop and improve over time, but cognitive abilities and skills can only take you so far.

Sales is a people industry. To achieve personal success, forming relationships with customers and coworkers is beyond necessary! Therefore, communication and “people skills” are in high demand.

From developing a client base to making sales calls to navigating business negotiations, to working on a team, mastering relational skills (emotional intelligence) will lead to improved relationships and better results.

So what are the key skills every sales rep should master? Here are our top 5:

1. Effective communication

Learning how to effectively communicate is vital both in and out of the workplace. This skill will help you articulate your thoughts, feelings, or ideas in a way others can easily understand. This becomes extremely important in the sales industry when making sales calls or pitching ideas. You will only have your potential clients’ or coworkers’ time (or attention) for so long, and learning how to effectively communicate your product or idea will keep you from wasting time.

Asking the right questions is an easy way to effectively communicate. If you are looking to continue the conversation, ask an open-ended question. If you want to hear more about a certain topic, ask a prompting question: “Can you tell me more about…?” Prompt questions to show your listening skills and interest in the other person. Lastly, if you are looking to end the conversation or take it in a different direction, ask a closed-ended question.

Improving your communication skills is the first step in improving your relationships and your performance in the workplace, but developing these skills takes practice. One way to improve is to practice your presentation, elevator pitch, or whatever you might be preparing for, in the mirror! Although it might be uncomfortable, watching and listening to yourself will likely increase your comfort level with the material and boost confidence in yourself. Another way to improve is to ask for feedback. Asking peers or coworkers for honest feedback can bring attention to distracting habits you might have (using filler words like “umm” for example), or reinforce positive habits you are working on (making strong and consistent eye contact).

2. Active listening

Effective communicators are also active listeners, and the best salespeople need to be able to listen more than they talk. Making deals and negotiating with customers requires listening to what they want. If you are only focused on the sales pitch you are expressing, and not listening to the customer’s needs, chances are they will go somewhere else. Inactive listening is communicated clearer than we might think.

Some common signs of inactive listening you might want to be on the lookout for when communicating with others include:

  • Checking your phone or watch
  • Rolling your eyes
  • Yawning or signing
  • Interrupting when they are speaking

Being aware of what not to do can immensely help your listening skills during conversations. Actively listening to someone else is easy, and it all relies on your nonverbal communication. Some examples of this include:

  • Making consistent eye contact
  • Nodding as you listen
  • Relaxing your body position
  • Watching for their nonverbal behaviors (tone of voice, facial expressions)

Actively listening can help you effectively communicate, giving you the knowledge to ask the right questions. Your active listening skills will also keep you sharp and informed with important client information and details. Active listening will communicate your interest and respect, which is a strong foundation to grow and build a successful client relationship.

3. Agility

The best salespeople are agile, they can think quickly and effectively on their feet. Although you might retreat to the comfort of a script when making a sales call, you need to have the skills to quickly adapt to any curveballs or unexpected situations a client might throw your way.

If you are so used to speaking from a transcript, you will lose your authenticity, so instead, use your active listening skills to build a deeper understanding of the situation. Once you can gauge what’s going on, you will be able to effectively communicate with your client. When things don’t fit perfectly into what you learned in sales training, use the skills that you have within.

Investing in ways to improve your listening and communication will help you become more agile in tough situations. All of these key skills are interconnected!

4. Empathy

In the sales industry, having a reputation of hardhead negotiations, stubbornness, and only caring about making the sale, empathy might seem like an unexpected key skill to master. But, times have changed.

Leading with empathy is the foundation to building deep trust and relationships with clients. Showing a customer that you understand where they are coming from, will increase your ability to influence and guide them in the right direction.

Empathy is growing within the workplace and influencing how we conduct business with others. This Forbes article states, “This form of ‘professional empathy’ ensures that co-workers feel supported, while not invading their privacy.” This “professional empathy” is a good balance between communicating interest and support to your customer while also respecting their boundaries.

5. Persistence

Persistence is one of the most important skills you can have as a salesperson. Once you develop confidence in your “people skills,” persistence will keep you motivated and moving forward even when business is down and you can’t seem to make a sale.

But never let a few rejections prevent you from pursuing future sales opportunities. Being persistent with customers might look like sending an email, making a phone call, dropping by in person, or sending them a personal note. Mix it up!

You are bound to encounter setbacks and obstacles on the way to reaching your goals, so make sure your response will keep you moving forward.

Remember, the most important skills you can have not only as a salesperson, but as a human being have nothing to do with computer or technology skills, writing, or presentation skills, but rather how you interact with others and respond to different situations.

Companies and organizations are on the lookout for people who are effective communicators, empathetic, and motivated. So now is the time to begin honing in on your skills. Start practicing your listening skills with a close friend or family member, see how it changes the conversation. Start learning how to “ask the right questions,” and practice talking in front of the mirror. It might seem silly at first, but you won’t regret it when your sales begin to increase!

If you are looking for professional help or guidance as you prepare to take these next steps in your career, check out John Costigan and the different services, tools, and tips he offers that are guaranteed to improve your results in sales!

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