Selling is considered to be one of the most vital skills you can develop these days. Even if you’re not a salesman, sales skills are essential for your career success and for your general life as well. Selling is a complicated idea, but basically it involves a transaction between you and potential buyers. This doesn’t always mean that you’re trying to sell a particular product, you might just be trying to convince someone to buy into an idea you have. Basically, if you’re selling you’re trying to convince someone else that you’re right and they should do something to support that idea.
This concept involves a number of sales skills. These are the techniques, skills, and qualities you use to convince other people. There are a range of sales skills, some of them more valuable and useful than others. And building these skills can have benefits in every aspect of your life. In fact, author Danny Pink claims that sales skills are essential to almost every career path as well as to life itself, and that success isn’t possible without them.
If you’re good at selling, it basically means that you can convince other people of the value of your ideas as an entrepreneur. It means that you can talk about how your combination of skills and qualities will suit a company you’re interviewing with. It will even help you convince your children to eat certain foods, or adopt positive behaviors. And in your friendships, it will help you negotiate the often tumultuous times when differences of opinions and taste can get in the way.
Do you have good sales skills? How would your life change if you developed these skills?
The Myths of Selling
Unfortunately, lots of people have misconceptions about selling that prevent them from developing their skills. The first and the biggest barrier is the idea that selling is an innate skill. This belief claims that people either have it or they don’t, and if they don’t have the skills then they can’t be developed. This is completely erroneous. Though you may not have the traits that are traditionally associated with selling, you can work on them in a way that fits with your personality and needs. If you’re not naturally adept at selling, this won’t turn you into a world class salesman, but it will allow you to develop the skills in the way that’s most natural for you. And that will pay back better dividends than trying to be something you’re really not.
A second myth surrounding selling is the idea that you have to be the pushy salesman of legend to be a good seller. This is an old model that doesn’t work and has no real place in today’s society. When you’re selling something, you shouldn’t be the person trying to trick others or rip them off, and you definitely shouldn’t act smarmy to get a sale. Today’s salesmen need to use a range of skills and approaches. They need to connect with their audience and engender trust. And most of all they need to be authentic in the way they approach other people, because nothing is more off-putting than a salesman who lies or pretends to be something they’re not.
The Benefits of Learning to Sell
Sales skills can be used anywhere, and will help you in a range of contexts and situations. Some of the most important benefits you will enjoy when you learn to sell are as follows:
Improve your communication skills
Lots of people think that communication skills can and should come naturally but this just isn’t the case. Communication is a complex and ever changing issue, and learning how to do it better takes time and ongoing learning. Your communication skills and how and when you use them are a big part of selling, so you will improve them a lot when you’re working on your sales skills.
Increased earning capacity
Many bosses and business leaders count sales skills as the most important contributors of their business success. So when you can bring this skill to your workplace, you’ll be able to attract higher rates of pay.
Learn to negotiate
Negotiation skills are essential not only in business but in life as well. They will help you to negotiate with your spouse over the big choices in life, with your children over what they want versus your rules, and with friends over holidays and leisure time activities. In fact you will probably never get any of the things you want if you can’t negotiate those needs with the people in your life.
Improve your self-confidence
No matter who you are or how successful you are, you probably need to work on your self-confidence. This quality is the key to work success and to life success. It’s also absolutely essential if you want to be happy, because it makes you capable of pursuing and achieving the things you really want from your life. Building skills in general gives you self-confidence, and building sales skills means you need to use that confidence if you want others to believe in you and in what you’re selling.
Learn to persist in the face of failure
Failure is a part of life and learning to cope with failure and keep moving forward is perhaps one of the most vital things you will ever learn. As a salesperson, you will confront failure all the time. You will meet people who don’t want to listen, aren’t interested in your idea, or just don’t want what you’re selling. And to be a good salesperson you will have to move onto the next prospect without falling apart after each failure.
Dealing with your Sales Hate
Despite the obvious benefits, many people hate the idea of selling. They think of smarmy sales men with more teeth than morals and bragging about themselves when they’re not comfortable with it. If you keep thinking about sales in this way, you’ll never be able to sell, so you need to leave this old mindset behind. The idea of sales being manipulative or pushy isn’t really applicable in today’s market, and if you act this way you’ll probably find that you’re less than successful. Your real job as a salesperson is to connect with customers, to understand them, and to help them find what they need. And reframing your mindset according to this definition will be far more helpful in your learning efforts.
Another key concept of selling is your focus. You have to make sure you understand the product, but focus on each individual. This can overcome one of the biggest misconceptions about selling, that the only goal is to sell the product no matter what. But potential customers can sense this kind of myopic and insulting thinking a mile away and it will put them off. Instead, you should be focused on the individual customer. What do they need? How can you help? This will help you develop a personalized approach that will be far more effective than a one size fits all mindset and approach.
The Basics of Sales Skills
Most modern and older sales techniques are based on 5 basic stages of action. They were first introduced in the 1950s and still underlie most of the techniques today. The five stages are:
- Attention: using advertisements to draw the customer’s attention to the product.
- Interest: using various techniques to build customer interest.
- Desire: build customer desire by letting them touch and try the product.
- Conviction: prove the worth of the product with data or reviews.
- Action: encourage the customer to act, usually ‘before it’s too late’.
The Most Vital Sales Skills
There are a number of different sales skills that you can work on depending on your needs, your dreams and your position in life. Some of the most useful are as follows:
If you can’t convey your ideas properly, if you struggle to explain what you’re thinking, or if your communication style is somehow off putting or isolating, you will struggle to sell. There are a lot of different elements to good communication including body language, tone, timing and the words you use. So there’s always an element that you could improve to make your selling more effective.
Communication shouldn’t just be visual. In fact, giving people something to look at, something that engages their other senses, can be essential in keeping them interested. They can also help people remember the information you tell them, clear up misunderstandings, and overcome language barriers.
Selling isn’t about talking so much that the customer gives up just to get a moment’s peace. If you want to be successful, you need to hear what your customers are saying. You also need to be able to identify the pain points they want alleviated and discover how you can help. Developing the ability to do this through active listening will allow you to gather the knowledge you need to make a sale, and customers will usually be able to tell if you don’t have this skill.
As a salesperson, you need to be able to encourage your customers to trust in you and in your product. This means building rapport quickly, over the phone, or with hostile clients, and making a sale through the sense of connection and trust you create. Building rapport is probably the most difficult, and the most rewarding sales skills you can learn.
Usually, you have only a limited time in which to connect and to sell. This reality will teach you time management skills and how to get to the point when you really need to.
When you’re a salesperson you need to be able to swap between different techniques and approaches depending on your client, the product and the situation. Learning how to do this will teach you how to think on your feet and how to be flexible in how you interact with others, and this can benefit your life in unexpected and wonderful ways.
Are you good on the telephone? If you’re talking to a stranger for the first time on the telephone, can you build rapport without ever seeing their face? This is more difficult than you might think, and is an essential skill in sales.
You need to learn better teamwork to be a great salesperson. This means that you need to have the ability to work in a team, to learn and to teach others what works and what doesn’t.
Learning about Sales Techniques
Some of the most important sales skills you can learn are sales techniques. These are methods and approaches you practice and refine throughout your life that allow you to build rapport and close the deal. There are a number of different sales techniques, some more effective than others. But what’s important is that you find the approach that works for each. These techniques won’t work for everyone, they may not fit with your business, your personality, or with your clients. They may not even work on a particular day when you’re in a strange mood. That’s why you need to learn about a variety of sales techniques so you can tailor your approach to whatever situation you find yourself in.
Some of the most common and effective sales techniques include:
- Challenging the status quo
- Telling stories
- Finding your real value
- Trial offer
- Time driven close
- Science based selling
Bad Sales Techniques
There are also a number of negative sales techniques that either don’t work or are underhanded or even slightly illegal. You need to avoid these techniques if you want to be a good and ethical salesperson. Remember that, in the end, you have to be able to live with what you do with your life and with your business. And if you spend your time ripping people off, manipulating them in a way that harms them, or acting against your own ethical beliefs, it will take a toll on your happiness and life satisfaction.
This may be the old standard for salespeople, but it doesn’t work. All this technique does is make customers feel angry and trapped and it takes a toll on the salesperson too. This technique is probably responsible for all the bad stereotypes about salespeople and needs to be left to die.
Bait and switch
This is a very underhanded technique that’s been popular for a number of years. The salesperson gets your attention with a great deal on a product and then lists all the reasons why a more expensive product is better. Before you know it, you’re walking out with the more expensive product.
Checking with the boss
You probably encounter this one a fair bit at car dealerships. If you want extra services, or a discount, the salesperson always has to check with their boss. This consultation is just for show of course, but unfortunately it still works to a certain extent. It makes you feel as if you’ve won the exchange, even though the salesperson is probably just making a coffee while they’re in the office.
Challenging the Status Quo in Sales
Most people seem to think that there are two ends to a sales situation. Either the customer will buy your product, or they will buy your competitor’s. But there is actually a third option. Your customer could stay with what they already have. This is rarely addressed in sales, but it could also be the key to your sales approach. Instead of focusing on the competition and bad mouthing them, which destroys any rapport you’re trying to build with your customer, focus on challenging the system or solution that your customer uses now. This focus on the perils of inaction can strengthen the value of your solution and make the situation feel more urgent, important and untenable.
To use this technique, you need to start by asking your customer some questions related to the consequences of remaining with the status quo. For instance, if you’re promoting an accounting program, you would ask about how the disadvantages of the program affect the workers now and how that might change into the future. You could also ask about the projected losses if the current situation is allowed to continue.
This approach isn’t without its problems. Focusing on the negative like this can alienate customers and decrease the rapport they feel with you, making them more reluctant to make the sale. They may also think that you’re being aggressive or pushy. That’s why this technique takes practice and a consultative approach. You need to present yourself as someone who’s discussing the problem with the aim of creating the best outcome for their business. When you do manage to convey this impression, you will be able to avoid the potential pitfalls of this approach and work with your customer to avoid the problems your questions uncover.
The Telling Stories Sales Technique
Telling stories is one of the most natural ways that humans communicate and it can also be one of the most effective sales techniques as well. Human beings are wired for stories. Stories help people retain more information, they engage the emotions and the logic centers of the brain and they’re just plain interesting. Everything needs a story for it to have impact and to be plausible, and if you try to convince someone of something without using a story you’ll probably struggle. Who could forget Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream’ speech? This may not seem like an example of selling, but in reality it’s one of the best examples possible of using the story telling technique to convince a generation of one man’s vision and mission.
How you use this technique will depend on your product and on your own skills. For example, if you’re selling an accounting program you could paint a picture of what your customer’s day will be like once they have the system set up and running properly. You could also tell the story of a previous client who enjoyed great benefits and greater success through your system. This technique is extremely flexible, which means that it can be used in a variety of ways and for a variety of products. And that’s why it’s one of the most valuable selling techniques that you can learn.
Finding your Real Value in Sales
No matter what you sell or who you are, there are probably other similar products and similar people. For example, if you’re applying for a job, you’re probably doing so along with 100 other people who have very similar qualifications and backgrounds. And if you’re selling a vacuum cleaner, well there are a hundred others on the market that can suck up dirt as well. This is a tough position in which to find yourself, but there’s also a way out and an opportunity in this dilemma.
No matter how similar things might seem, there will be differences, and your real value in in these differences. That’s why you need to fully understand this distinction. Before you start selling, accept that fact that your product is similar to others, sit down and explore all the ways it’s different. This will probably take some research and thought, but make a list. And in your sales pitch, make sure that you focus on these differences rather than on the similarities. Talk about the things you can do that others can’t, or the needs your product can meet that others don’t. This will differentiate you from your competition and clearly outline why your product should be chosen above the others.
Learning sales skills may seem like a waste of time if you’re not in the business, but in reality it can teach you a number of skills and techniques that are useful in any career field. And if you don’t learn them, you’ll always find yourself trailing behind those who do. So choose one of these skills or these techniques. Study them carefully and create goals about what you want from the skills. Make sure your goal reflects the end that you’re looking for, the advantages and skills that you want to see. Set out a plan for practicing them in your daily life and in your work. And once you’ve finished with the first goal, you can move on to one of the other techniques or skills that you want to develop.
Have you had the experience of learning a sales skill and improving your life? Share the experience with us in the comments below.