If you’ve been in the sales game for awhile, you already know these, and practice them instinctively. So this will be a refresher. But if you’re new to the sales profession—or know someone who is—take a look at this breakdown of basic selling skills, and why they are important.
As Daniel Pink and others have said, “we’re all in sales now.” Sometimes you’re selling yourself to someone in an interview to get a job. Or selling yourself to someone you are attracted to, to get a date. Or you sell a product or service to pay the rent. We all sell, but do we consciously know how to do it?
Through training and practice you can master the following six fundamental skills. There are many more, of course, but these are foundational, and can apply to any situation—in business or life. (As a handy reference, I’ve linked each of these to some of our courses on the subject.)
Start with Prospecting. This is the beginning of any sales process. Whether you’re cold calling, looking through classifieds for a job or going to a social gathering to meet people, it’s all about prospecting. This is where you engage people, really listen to them, and try to find a common interest. For example, at a meetup, many people will not be really interested in what you do. In sales lingo, those are your “suspects.” Others may show some interest, which makes them “prospects.” Keeping track of who’s who—without making it obvious that you’re doing so—is an art form that requires lots of practice. In reference to actual sales situations, prospecting is the widest part of the sales funnel, with the largest number of opportunities.
The next step in any sales funnel is Discovery. There are different theories and implementations of how to do this, but the objective is always the same. Does this person want or need something I have? Discovery is a two-way process. It allows the prospect (there should never be discovery with a suspect) to understand who you are and what you do. When you become proficient in the discovery stage, you’ll understand what the need or want is—and how you can fulfill it.
Presentation is a very important stage. If you’ve gotten this far, you know there’s a need, a willingness, and an ability to buy. You’ll know who to present to. Increasingly, this means committees, not individuals. With enough repetition and practice, you’ll be able to present smoothly and effectively. This is more than just a great PowerPoint, but the ability to confidently articulate why a prospect needs to buy from you with profound professional communication skills.
If you are a new to sales, this may sound counter-intuitive, but Objections from prospects are a good thing. They’re good because it means the prospect is interested and engaged. He or she has already made the determination whether you’ll be able to solve their problem and whether they want to partner with you. Once mastered, objection handling will help you understand where the prospect is—and where you need to go. In the words of Wayne Gretzky, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”
Closing and prospecting are the two skills people usually associate with sales. However, the only way you’ll actually close deals is by skillfully navigate ALL the skills that precede closing. You need to be able to find the right people, understand their need, provide valuable insights, present how you fulfill a need, and handle all objections, just to get the opportunity to close. Once you get here, the most important thing to remember is to ask. Ask for the deal. This requires confidence in yourself, your product and your ability to understand your client. If done correctly, you’ll be able to make more money, meeting the right people, do more of what you want to do.
Building Relationships is listed last here, but if you have gotten the sale, you have already started building the relationship with your new client. By excelling at this, you set the foundation for future referrals, opportunities and partners—expanding your funnel naturally as part of your sales process.
These skills are basic, but no one can do them just by reading about them. Even the rock star sales people you know have to practice. There’s always something to learn—and enjoy learning.