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8 crucial sales skills

(MoneyWatch) A while back, I posted a list of five critical sales skills based on a conversation Duane Sparks, author of the bestseller "Sales Strategy From The Inside Out: How Complex Selling Really Works." I then asked readers if they felt that there were some additional skills that ought to have been on the list. They identified three, and I identified one. Here's the complete list (with Duane's original skills marked with an asterisk *):

Skill #1: Building the buyer-seller relationship*. Salespeople need to develop a better understanding of the buying process that customers actually follow-the real decisions they make, and when they are made. Then salespeople need to match their sales process with the customer's buying process. When this is done, salespeople begin to walk arm-in-arm with the customer as they arrive at the best possible solution.

Skill #2: Planning the sales call*. Most companies today lack a well-defined sales process. Very few have documented the sales practices that lead to b commitments from customers. As a consequence, salespeople don't plan sales calls properly. For instance, every call should end in some kind of commitment from the customer-an agreement to do something that will move the process forward.

Skill #3: Asking the right questions*. Most salespeople do not ask the right types of questions, even if they prepare questions prior to the sales call, which most don't. The impact of poor questioning skills is enormous. It leads to resistance in the form of stalls and objections, bad presentations that offer improper solutions, failure to differentiate from the competition-and missed sales opportunities.

Skill #4: Business acumen. If you're going to help your customer become more successful you need to know how businesses work in general, how your customer's industry works, how your customer addresses their target market and how your firms offerings can help them better serve their own customers. Without business skills, you'll never have the credibility needed to sell

Skill #5: Actively listening. Sales pros miss important cues and information by talking too much themselves and their products. It's much more important to shut up and let the customer talk. Yes, you should guide the conversation, but then listen and digest properly we learn so much about what the customer really wants, so that you can position your offering appropriately.

Skill #6: Presenting meaningful solutions*. Most salespeople claim that this is the skill they are best at. In fact, we as managers tend to hire people who have "the gift of gab." In reality, quality is far more important than quantity when it comes to making presentations. When salespeople zero in on presenting only specific solutions to previously agreed-upon needs, they rarely fail.

Skill #7: Gaining Commitments*. If you really think about it, the only reason to employ salespeople is to gain customer commitment. Yet, when asked, most salespeople admit that this is their weakest skill. Research suggests that almost two thirds of salespeople fail to ask for commitment on sales calls. Any effective sales training program must have a solid solution for this problem.

Skill #8: Managing Your Emotions. The way sales pro explain to themselves the causes of their successes and failures is vitally important. Developing a style that sees adversity as temporary and isolated builds the mental toughness, emotional resilience and patience to bounce back from setbacks and be proactive when the time is right.

This post by Geoffrey James originally appeared on BNET.

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