One of my favorite questions to ask sales managers is, “How good are your sales reps?” I get responses about tangible metrics, such as deals closed, revenue attainment or opportunities in the pipeline. But what I don’t hear is how well their sales professionals perform when interacting with buyers.

It’s a shame, because the quality of a rep’s interaction with a buyer becomes the key factor in building relationships -- more so than technical knowledge, marketing materials, or value propositions. At Richardson Sales Training, we have identified six critical skills essential to developing and expanding rep-client relationships.

6 Critical Skills That Lead to Sales Success

1) Presence

This is a salesperson’s ability to project confidence, conviction, and interest through their body language and voice. Strong presence is essential in gaining credibility, and it helps opens the door to continuing the dialogue by demonstrating authority to a client. A common body language tip is to keep good eye contact when answering a client’s question as well as an open posture while keeping your back straight and arms uncrossed.

2) Relating

Relatable sales reps use acknowledgement, rapport, and empathy to connect with clients. Although most sales professionals feel they are already strong at relating, it is one of the toughest skills to master. Strong relating skills can help differentiate sales professionals from competitors.

3) Questioning

Reps who are good at questioning explore needs and create dialogue using open-ended questions. This skill furthers the conversation as new information is revealed. Questioning is important because a client’s answers provide the foundation for reps to position products and services to meet the client’s needs. Try some of these open-ended questions in your next sales meeting:

  • “Who do you think will benefit most from this initiative and why?”
  • “What do you see as the biggest challenges to this approach?”
  • “How will you know this solution is being effective?”
  • “Why isn’t your current solution working for you?”

4) Listening

This is the ability to understand both the content and emotional message being communicated by your prospect. Active listening lets the client know they are heard. It demonstrates that the sales professional is fully engaged in the dialogue.

5) Positioning

Positioning is presenting information in a way that differentiates products and services and leverages client needs to be persuasive. This is done using the right words to shape client perceptions, while encouraging them to listen and remember.

6) Checking

Checking is the ability to elicit feedback to make sure both parties heard the same message. By checking for client agreement and understanding key themes, sales professionals can keep the dialogue on track and interactive.

If your prospect offers an idea or problem, repeat it back to them in your own words to make sure you are both on the same page. You can lead into this by saying, “I want to make sure I fully understand before we move forward.”

How Managers Can Coach Critical Skills

To begin the process of coaching the six critical sales skills, and to help sales professionals be better in the moment with clients, focus on the following areas: 

  • Preparation: Preparing thoroughly for client interactions, from setting an objective and questioning strategy to preparing to handle possible objections that might be encountered.
  • Needs-Focused Dialogue: Learning to ask questions to better understand client needs, objectives, and challenges versus reciting a monologue or pitching products.
  • Interactive Discussion: Practicing a natural, conversational tone and actively listening to responses instead of following a script and focusing only on the points you want to make.
  • Customization: Positioning solutions that are tailored to the client’s situation and needs, rather than pitching the same idea to every client in a generic manner.
  • Action Close: Asking for the business or next steps to maintain momentum on sales opportunities.
  • Follow-Up: Keeping lines of communication open by providing useful insights over time, from market trends and the latest research to new perspectives and the views of peers and competitors.

By focusing on critical selling skills, and following a regular coaching cadence, sales managers get a much clearer picture of how their sales professionals perform. These are the managers who know just how good their salespeople are now -- and what they need to be better in the future.

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Originally published Mar 4, 2016 7:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


Sales Coaching