What skills do you need to really be successful at sales? I recently had a conversation on this subject with Duane Sparks, author of the bestseller Sales Strategy From The Inside Out: How Complex Selling Really Works. He says that there are five -- and exactly five -- that must be in tip-top shape, if you're going to climb to the top of the heap. But I say there's one more skill that's just as important as his five skills.
What skills do you need to really be successful at sales? I recently had a conversation on this subject with Duane Sparks, author of the bestseller Sales Strategy From The Inside Out: How Complex Selling Really Works. He says that there are five -- and exactly five -- that must be in tip-top shape, if you're going to climb to the top of the heap. I say there's one more that's just as important.
Here is Sparks' excellent list:
- #1: Relationship Skill. 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.
- #2: Planning Skill. Most companies today lack a well-defined sales process. Very few have documented the sales practices that lead to strong 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.
- #3: Questioning Skill. 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.
- #4: Presenting Skill. 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.
- #5: Closing Skill. 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.
- #6: Business Skill. 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.