Director of Sales
We’ve all heard about “what it takes” to be a good sales rep: be aggressive, assertive, a good talker...
But a lot of the advice we hear tends to list off what sounds like inherent character traits rather than learned skills. (Plus, they don’t even begin to cover all the bases.)
Apart from a naturally convincing and people-oriented personality, a good sales rep is constantly working to build and hone a broad range of skills to master their job. These involve both soft and hard skills.
Soft skills are the types of daily life skills that we tend to learn over the course of our lives, and hard skills are the more specialized and technical skills we usually study in a formal learning environment like school or training.
Let’s look at some of the key skills that every sales rep needs (and yes, there will be some tangible advice and tips for how you can work on these skills today):
1. Research skills
One of the greatest skills you can have as a salesperson is being well-versed on all the elements that go into the sales mix. These can include:
- Intel on your prospect, their role, and how they do business
- The prospect’s company, its recent news, and how it’s performing
- Current trends in the market
- Your competitors and their key selling points
When you enter the sales process with these key bits of information, you can earn your seat at the table by showing your prospect that you’ve taken the time to understand their situation.
Thoroughly researching your prospect and their company can also help with lead qualification (aka. the process of weeding out leads who aren’t a very good fit for your offerings). In the end, this can save everyone a lot of time and resources.
Your CRM can be a great start for this research. Dive into any records of your prospect, the company they work for, or even their competitors.
Pro-tip: Of course, for this to work, your team needs to be diligently taking sales notes and actually using the CRM. This is a habit that you will have to help them cultivate.
After your CRM, try research and competitive analysis tools like Owler, Siftery, and Voila Norbert. And of course, don’t forget your classic Google and social media searches.
Be a CRM pro.
Learn about all the different tasks a CRM can take off your plate with the free guide.
2. Active listening
There’s a huge difference between actively listening versus waiting for your prospect to stop talking so you can have the floor again. (Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the way a lot of salespeople do things.)
Active listening is the kind of skill you can hone for a lifetime—and it will always pay off, both in personal and professional relationships. It shows that you’re really paying attention to the needs and desires of the person you’re communicating with, and that you’re looking out for their best interests.
In the world of sales, this leads to building trust, which will go a long way in helping you close deals.
Here are some tips for practicing active listening on a daily basis:
- Be neutral and nonjudgmental while the prospect is talking
- Ask open-ended questions that show interest and get clarification if needed
- Summarize and reflect back what they’ve said instead of offering unsolicited advice or opinions
- Never interrupt—practice patience until they’ve completed their thought
3. Collaboration with your team
Every organization and sales team will differ, whether it’s the way they prefer to pass leads along the pipeline or their style when communicating directly with prospects.
Regardless of these details, efficient and timely communication is critical for every sales team if you want to keep things flowing smoothly.
The best way to ensure this is to use a CRM with specialized collaboration features, so that everyone can stay on that same page in just a few clicks.
For example, Copper lets your team:
- See real-time updates of every single customer moment, across every member of your team
- Ensure that everyone stays in the loop on what’s most relevant through direct @ mentions
- Create detailed notes and rich histories so that there’s no lag or silo when others need to take over or chime in
4. Time management
That old saying “time is money” wouldn’t be so cliché if it weren’t so true.
After all, from a sales perspective, time spent closing literally translates into money: profits for the company and commissions for the sales team. The faster you can land a deal, the faster you can move on to the next. And so on, times infinity.
That’s why many sales professionals are constantly feeling pressure to manage their time wisely and get things done quickly. This urgency for efficiency is multiplied when your prospect enters the equation—they’re busy too.
Here are a few tips and tools for better time management:
- Be well-versed and active in your company’s CRM so that it’s a well-oiled machine
- Track your time on each task using apps like Toggl and RescueTime
- Try the Pomodoro technique: four 25-minute work increments with breaks in between.
- Batch your tasks, like all calls in the same block of time.
- Limit email-checking to three times a day: morning, after lunch, and before the workday ends.
- Work with your team to automate as many administrative tasks as possible. (Not sure what you can automate? Here are a few ideas.)
- Create your day’s to-do list the night before, so you start the day with a clear game plan.
5. Collaboration with buyers
While there may only be one key decision-maker at the organization you’re pitching, it’s common for larger purchases to involve a team of several buyers.
It’s important to be able to communicate, build rapport with, and collaborate with these individuals who’ll ultimately have the final say in the company’s decision to buy. Building and strengthening these relationships will prove to be one less roadblock on the way to closing the deal.
To keep track of who you should be collaborating with and how it’s going so far, try making an account map with an app like Lucid Chart. An account map can help you visualize the path between the team, helping to keep you organized and on-task.
6. Post-sale relationship management
Gone are the days when reps could close a sale and never speak to the customer again.
In this Relationship Era, it’s critical to serve or keep in touch with customers long after they’ve made a purchase.
Are they satisfied? Has their experience with your product left them looking for additional products or alternatives? Post-sale relationship management can provide you with answers to these and other key questions. Here is how you can build trust, increase customer retention and leverage the existing relationship to close even more business:
- Show the customer how to effectively use the product/service
- Offer a loyalty membership or discount on their next purchase
- Make it simple for customers to access their account information
- Cross sell by letting customers know that you’re looking for other ways to help them
- Personally follow up after the purchase (for ideas on what to say, check out this blog post).
Your brand-new customers are waiting and ready to become fans, and you can use these tactics to help them get there a little faster. The best part? Effectively managing your post-sale relationships has an oversized impact on your business—satisfied, loyal customers are more likely to add or upgrade purchases and are less likely to cancel.
7. Objection prevention
Objections are an inevitable part of the sales cycle. How you deal with them, especially in today’s complex sales landscape, will determine your ability to close or negotiate a deal. While you can never truly know how a prospect is going to respond to your pitch, you can predict what their objection might be and prepare a response.
Many objections (like higher prices) are universal, while some might be specific to your company (e.g. you’re new in the market or have released a product with basic or low-grade features).
Regardless, it’s possible to be proactive and deliver a fitting rebuttal to the customer’s objection so you can get one step closer to finalizing the deal. Here are some tips.
- Compare the “one-time” cost of your product to the amount of money it’ll save or earn your prospect down the road
- Highlight your product’s durability, reliability and value (all the things that make it worth the investment)
- Point out to price-conscious prospects that bargain-hunting may help keep costs low initially, but the compromise in quality will cost more over the years
- Reassure your prospects that you have their best interests at heart, and share testimonials from current buyers that show how your product or service has changed their lives for the better
In addition to all that, ask your prospects open-ended questions like what’s bothering them, how much do they normally spend on a product like yours, and what would convince them to change their mind. Pay close attention to the responses they make for clues on how you can move forward in a mutually beneficial way.
Sales reps are expected to be proficient with a bunch of software and tools.
For example, your sales team may be using a CRM to manage all of your company’s prospects. It’ll be a lot easier for you to learn how to use this tool for selling if you’re tech-literate. (Of course, it helps if your CRM has a shallow learning curve.)
Because Copper is designed to mirror the G Suite UI, it’s easy for reps to use it effectively (as the interface is already familiar to most salespeople):
Aside from adapting to your company’s sales toolkit, a good rep should have their own stack of tech tools (like Slack, video-conferencing software for demos, and so on) that they use to be as productive as possible.
Do you have any of these sales skills?
High-performing sales reps possess most, if not all, of these skills. They’re clear about their goals and show up every day to lead their team from the front.
If you can measure up, you’ll have the chance to improve your sales performance, inspire your teammates, and gain the respect of the entire sales team. A confident rep is an excited rep who’s empowered—and ready—to close.