The best reps are always acquiring new sales skills and improving their existing ones. To succeed as a sales professional, it’s essential to establish a program for continued self-learning. Don’t wait for training opportunities to arise at work—you need to pursue your own.
There are many ways to acquire new sales skills: books, podcasts, online training, in-person training sessions, blogs, and more. Try using a variety of self-learning techniques to see what works best for you.
Here are some sales skills you should focus on when establishing your self-learning plan:
1. Presentation skills
Sales professionals must give engaging presentations that address prospects’ needs. A good sales presentation or demo isn’t just a run-down of product features. It speaks to the prospect’s pain points and demonstrates how the product can help them achieve their goals. Storytelling is oftentimes an effective skill for sales presentations, so you should learn more about telling persuasive stories in a business context.
If you frequently give presentations through web conferencing, it’s worth learning specific techniques to engage audiences through this channel.
2. Writing skills
Prospecting emails, social media messages, and formal business reports all play a critical role in the sales process today. Even if you’re already a strong communicator, effectively delivering your message in a business context is different from writing essays in your school days. Many salespeople find it helpful to learn basic copywriting techniques and improving their overall writing skills.
A lot of people who write for business purposes make the mistake of using too much jargon. This is ineffective in today’s media environment. You want to learn how to write concise and easily understandable messages.
3. Active listening skills
Studies show that the most effective sales representatives listen more than they talk. Accordingly, developing active listening skills is critical for long-term success in sales.
Although the notion of learning how to listen may seem strange, it’s very possible to learn how to be a better listener. Active listening isn’t just about giving the prospect time to talk but parsing out what they’re really saying (and aren’t saying). Learn more about what active listeners do and practice, practice, practice.
4. Social media prospecting
Social media prospecting is an increasingly effective tool for sales representatives. Yet doing this effectively is much more complicated than signing up for an account on LinkedIn. If you really want to benefit from social media prospecting, learn the best practices.
There are many different skills that go into successful social media prospecting: identifying and researching prospects, laying the groundwork for a conversation, and communicating with prospects. Each platform has different tricks and nuances. Learn from sellers who have been successful with social media prospecting before attempting to dive into this method.
5. CRM utilization
You probably use a CRM system every day—but that doesn’t mean that you have a comprehensive understanding of the tool and how it can enhance your selling techniques. If you feel like you’re just scratching the surface of your CRM’s capabilities, invest in learning more. Most major CRM systems offer a wealth of resources for continued learning, including classes.
It’s particularly valuable to learn more about how to use the CRM for prospecting and forecasting. Talk to CRM super-users at your organization and ask for suggestions.
6. Qualification process
Sales representatives who excel at qualifying prospects tend to sell more because they’re using their time more efficiently. Instead of wasting time on prospects that aren’t a good fit, they are able to hone in on the best ones. However, acquiring this skill often requires more training than you received during your official onboarding process.
There are many different systems for qualifying prospects. It’s worth learning more about the method your organization utilizes if you use one of the established methods. Studying several different methods—and how to implement them—can also be useful.
7. Anticipating and handling objections
Great sales representatives don’t just know how to handle prospects’ objections. They can also anticipate possible objections and proactively address them in conversations. This is a skill that can be learned.
Of course, sometimes the prospect is going to raise objections anyway. In those situations, it’s important for the sales representative to manage the objection correctly. It can be a tricky balancing act between respecting the prospect’s concerns and posing an effective counter-argument to the objection. Since most objections tend to fall into certain patterns, it’s possible to learn effective responses to the different types of objections and practice possible scenarios.
8. Closing techniques
You’ve gone through the sales process, the prospect seems just about ready to buy…and yet they keep postponing the date of signing the contract. This is a common scenario in sales. Fortunately, it’s possible to successfully navigate these kinds of situations with strong closing skills. Oftentimes, you can lead a dawdling prospect to a close by demonstrating value in just the right way.
Learning best practices for closing deals can substantially improve your numbers and shorten the amount of time it takes to close a deal.
9. Relationship management
Many new sales representatives don’t give much thought to what happens after a deal is closed. But relationships don’t maintain themselves. It’s important to learn how to manage relationships once you’ve closed the deal. (Hint: It’s usually more involved than sending a holiday card!)
Your existing customers can be a great source of business thanks to upsells, cross-sells, and referrals. Learning how to do this while maintaining a positive relationship requires learning more about how customers think and what motivates them.
One of the most exciting parts about a career in sales is that there is always more to learn. This year, select a skill or two that you’d like to improve. Come up with a plan for how you are going to develop mastery and reap the benefits for a long time to come!