[Last updated 14 January 2020]

We all know the stereotype of the pushy salesperson: they’re aggressive and flexible with the truth, talk a lot, and only have one agenda: to sell to you, regardless of your needs and requirements.

That description is, admittedly, a bit of a cliché (and has probably never been particularly true for good salespeople). But we’ve all met at least one of them in our lives. This one-dimensional method often costs sales, even when the product is an easy sell as described in this informative blog post on improving your sales techniques.

The world has fundamentally changed. Whacking customers over the head won’t cut it anymore. Today, information is readily available and customers are more demanding than ever. According to Salesforce research, 57% of shoppers are double-checking products online via mobile devices while in store. Additionally, platforms like forums and social media mean they connect with each other and are well aware they have options. 

These new information dynamics demand much more subtle sales skills, and a new type of sales personality: specifically not someone who’s simply an expert at selling. Instead a person who can draw on their complex body of knowledge to help solve a prospect’s specific issue is what’s required.

 

A good thing to remember is to make sure you’re always helping the customer. This can happen at any stage of the sales process, from helping them learn more or come to a decision or by helping them find the right item for them. The modern customer needs to meet a modern, connected salesperson – so here are seven of the most important skills for you to work on.

 

The 7 most important sales skills for modern salespeople

 

1. Staying on top of trends and new ideas

It all starts with knowing what you’re talking about. Prospects today might sometimes even be better informed than salespeople themselves. Today’s sales conversations start much later in the information gathering process than they used to – by the time customers first talk to a salesperson, they are already overwhelmed with information.

Instead of a hawker, they need an intelligent advisor who has taken the time to upskill and make sure their sales pitch is informed and detailed. Rather than just sell, salespeople now need to be able to filter the information consumers already have towards their own product.

 

2. Adaptability: tailored sales representative skills and abilities

You need to know the market and your prospects’ pain points as well as you know your own product. You’ll only ever be truly good at it if you have a genuine interest in developing this knowledge. 

Modern sales skills demand spending more time researching prospects and learning about the market than other traditional sales techniques. This can inform every interaction you have with a prospect from first contact and nurturing to your sales pitch and closing the deal.

The good news is that you now have the tools you need to do this. For example, CRM software allows you to gather insights on sales prospects you never would have had access to in the past. By taking advantage of these new tools, small businesses can understand and therefore sell to customers better with a more tailored and personal approach.

 

3. Emotional intelligence: connecting with customers

It’s “the age of social” – that doesn’t just refer to social networks, but also to a social skillset. If the salesperson of the past was a talker, the modern sales representative shows skills of a listener, who is sensitive to customers’ needs and preferences

Good modern salespeople spend a good deal of time researching prospects on social networks – to learn about their professional role and issues as well as their personal interests. Whether it's on LinkedIn as mentioned, or even on Twitter, it helps get to know your prospect as an individual, and establish a personal, meaningful connection. The pushy salesperson’s attentiveness is, at best, cosmetic. A great salesperson’s interest is sincere. And customers appreciate that effort, even if you get it slightly wrong, as evidenced by the fact that 78% of buyers seek someone that isn’t just a salesperson, but also trustworthy.

 

4. Customer collaboration skills: Working with the customer

As the sporting cliché says, teamwork makes the dream work. This applies too to sales where the modern purchasing experience has shifted to a more collaborative model. As a salesperson, you want to make the shoppers feel empowered in their decision to buy your product.

For example, it can be tempting to show your customer a range of options from lowest price point all the way to the most expensive. However, if you know your customer and are working towards a solution with them, you will already know their budget and needs. Perhaps you can skip the lower-end items and the most expensive options, and go into more detail when discussing the mid-range products. This will let your customer know you are taking into consideration their requirements and feel as you’re on their team.

 

5. Confidence and motivational skills

Salespeople have always had to be confident – but there’s a big difference between confidence fueled by ego and confidence backed by facts and research. Rather than feeling pushed towards buying a product, consumers would rather feel motivated into making the decision to buy for themselves. In some cases, closing a sale is as simple as telling the customer they’re ready and sealing the deal with a persuasive, yet not so pushy approach.

According to studies from Marc Wayshak, 61% of salespeople say that selling is harder today than it was 5 years ago. Today’s informed buyers don’t want to be sold to – if they sense empty rhetoric, they’ll put up their defenses. Solid facts and personal relevance will earn their respect, as well as motivate them to make the purchase you’re driving them towards.

 

6. Upskill to team selling and knowledge sharing

The best way to learn what moves prospects is by talking to the people who know – other salespeople. Where “the lone wolves” of the past had their own secret pitch, businesses now understand the value in a strong workplace culture and team environment. 

A strong sense of community means best practices and advice are shared across the team and everyone benefits from this organic knowledge hub. As Salesforce research shows, a successful team is an engaged and co-operative team. It’s simple, teams that sell together, succeed together too and this is easier now than ever. Cloud software enables customer data, team updates and other important information to be shared faster and more efficiently than ever. There’s no excuse not to work together!

 

7. Storytelling skills instead of sales techniques

Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have for engaging with people. Experienced salespeople are an incredibly rich source of real-life anecdotes that can demonstrate use cases, issues and possible complications. No two sales conversations are the same – but the ability to draw upon experience and selectively present relevant stories is a highly creative skill that helps establish a real connection with prospects.

Few people will admit to like being sold to, but we all welcome an intelligent partner – a fully rounded personality that’s not just selling but connecting with us, empathising and helping us solve a problem.

 

Stay up to date with the help of the experts

Great salespeople have always instinctively known and practiced these things. But it’s the connectedness and information saturation of today’s world that make these once simply desirable selling skills imperative today. 

As seen here, the skills required to be an effective sales representative change with the needs of the market. What worked 5 years ago might be completely irrelevant today, due  to the speed at which technology and consumer expectations grow. 

Check out the 4th Edition of our State of Sales research report and learn even more about sales skills and techniques from leading sales teams from around the world.