But in addition to book knowledge, sales skills require a lot of practice if your team hopes to improve. Sales skills are of lot like athletic skills in that way.
But practice can only come by getting out there and actually doing the job.
That does not mean, however, that there is nothing to be learned in advance of the first sales call.
In fact, some things are better assimilated at the beginning of the learning process than tacked on at the end. Bad sales habits are particularly hard to unlearn. Fortunately, it is not impossible to undo the damage from poor sales training. But if you want to get the most from your future sales associates, teach them these five things from the start:
- Put the Customer Ahead of the Dollar
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They’re not marks, leads, dupes, roll-overs, or even prospects. They are people. And if you don’t learn to think of them that way, they will never become customers.
When we think of customers as prospects, all we see is the dollar. We see a prospective sale. It is as if the person across the table from you has no value whatsoever until you convert them into cash. That is putting the dollar ahead of the person.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps to facilitate a relationship with a person. It can be the difference between merely making a sale and building a lifelong relationship with a valued client. Know the difference between CRM software leaders like Salesforce, and Sugar to see which is a better fit. There are hundreds of other CRM platforms to choose from if they don’t work.
So, from the beginning, teach your team to value the person on the other side of the table more highly than the sale you are trying to get them to make.
- The Value of Practice
How do you learn to hit a curveball? You practice. Sales skills are also honed through the art of deliberate practice. But, here’s the thing: practice is the least fun part of the process of gaining expertise at anything.
Trainees are often taught to study, watch others, and memorize scripts. But that is not the same thing as practice. Trainees can practice having sales conversations with coworkers, family, and friends. They can practice maintaining a professional demeanour in the face of diversity. And they can practice the art of having traditionally challenging conversations, but without the confrontation. Study is good. But practice is better.
- Teach benefits over features
How many times have you heard the expression “sell the sizzle, not the steak”? This strategy is manipulative and should be abandoned. People want steak, so don’t avoid selling it.
Thing is, your competitors are also selling steak. That means you have to tap into the other motivation people have for shopping your product, by focusing on the benefits and not the features. Features address the question of what; benefits answer the question of why. And why is a much more powerful sales question to answer.
- Identify the Real Objection
Enthusiastic new sales people tend to waste most of their efforts on overcoming the wrong objections. You will never make the sale if they are attempting to overcome the price objection while the real objection is that the product does not come in their favourite color. Learn to identify false objections early. And you will increase your close rate exponentially.
- Accept No for an Answer
Some people enter the sales arena convinced that they can never take no for an answer. That is a classic example of putting the company’s needs over those of the client. Your product or service may not be what’s best for the client, at that time. They will be better served by being heard rather than being pushed into a bad fit.
Doing these things faithfully will not always get you a sale. But they will always lead to a better sales relationship. And that relationship does not have to end with that first encounter. But it almost surely will be your sales team does not learn to put the client first, and the sale second.
Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.