The internet has changed the lives of professional salespeople in a big way. Recent reports suggest more than 70% of the buying journey is done anonymously online. Combine that with more competition and information that is so easily accessible for the buyer, buyers are far more empowered and educated than they were only a few years ago.
All this raises the stakes for B2B salespeople. In this article I’m sharing what I believe to be the top 10 skills for a successful salesperson, and offer some additional resources about them.
#1 – Qualify your buyers early
The best salespeople are ardent qualifiers. They understand what makes a qualified buyer, they know what questions to ask and how to ask them to get the right information, and they know how to say “no”. Successful salespeople qualify early and often, and they devote their energies to only qualified buyers.
In our sales training classes we speak about the BARTS method for qualifying buyers. B – do they have the budget, A – do they have the authority, R – is there good revenue potential, T – will they make a buying decision soon, and S – does my solution truly add value.
#2 – Resilience to overcome rejection
Most successful salespeople are eternal optimists, thinking that most situations will turn out positive. When problems occur, you lose a sale, someone says “no”, and other negative situations occur, top salespeople are able to set these rejections aside knowing they are inevitable in the world of selling. Here’s a good article about how to become more resilient.
#3 – Research your buyer and their competition
The internet makes this pretty easy and the impact this makes on your buyer is meaningful. In the sales process, the buyer has to buy you first. Only after they buy you, will they even consider buying your company and your product/service. Becoming a trusted advisor is the first objective you have with any buyer (see #7 below). Don’t stop with just learning about the buyer and his company. Check out his competition as well, and try to identify competitive differences that may be a gain or pain point for your buyer.
#4 – Listening skills are the most valued trait
In our research we found that buyers place listening skills at or near the top of the most valued traits of a salesperson. Salespeople should be talking 30% or less of the time with the rest of the time asking great open ended questions and listening closely. Learn more about the importance of listening and how to become a better listener.
#5 – Able to handle and overcome objections
Studies say you have a better chance of closing a sale when the buyer raises an objection and you successfully handle it, than if no objection was raised at all. The first step to successfully handling objections is knowing what the typical objections are. By doing so, you can prepare how to overcome them. The next step is to follow a process for acknowledging, validating and then overcoming the objection. Learn more about overcoming objections.
#6 – Presenting information about your company and solutions
Short, simple and straightforward are the characteristics successful salespeople use. Our research suggests that you shouldn’t spend more than about 5-10 minutes telling a buyer about your company. The use of printed sales materials and powerpoint presentations are good but make them simple, short and straightforward. Buyers want to talk about them and their challenges, not listen to long presentations about you.
When developing proposals, format them as talking points. You’ll be much more successful using the proposal as a means to educate the buyer about what you can do for them, then presenting thousands of words that will cause your buyer’s eyes to glaze over.
#7 – Become a trusted advisor
As a successful salesperson, the first persona you should assume is that of a trusted advisor. As stated earlier, before the buyer can buy your product or service, he must buy you first. Trust with your buyer is achieved in the following ways
- Have knowledge about the buyer’s business and industry so the buyer trusts that you can effectively apply your products and services to it
- Actively listen so the buyer knows you are correctly interpreting and understanding what he is telling you
- Convince the buyer you won’t do anything that is not in his best interest, even if that means you won’t sell as much as you can
#8 – Get referrals
“Warm” referrals are great for any salesperson. The best way to get referrals from existing customers is to serve them well. After that, develop a good way to ask for referrals and practice it so it comes natural and non-threatening. Here’s a way to do ask for a referral…
- “I’m thrilled that you are pleased with how we’ve served you. If you know anyone else that you think we can bring value to, warm referrals are always appreciated. Can you think of anyone at this point?”
#9 – Case studies and examples
Having case studies and stories are effective ways of informing your buyer about how you do things and the results you can get. Most buyers don’t mind talking about conceptual things, but when you can back things up with real examples and stories, your credibility and relationship with your buyer ascends to a new level.
#10 – Closing Skills
Closing the sale is not an event in and of itself. Rather, it is a series of steps that lead you to the right time to ask for the sale. It starts with trial closings, a series of open-ended questions that enable you to know where your buyer is in the buying journey. After that it becomes a matter of picking up on buying signals. When you’ve responded satisfactorily to your buyer’s questions and objections, and you are picking up the right buying signals, it is time to ask for the sale. Learn more about asking for the sale.