"The Navigator" News Blog

Which Sales Skill Should You Focus On Improving?

I’ve had some interesting conversations lately with business owners and sales leaders who know that something is wrong.  They just don’t know what.  They haven’t kept their sales teams abreast of the way that selling is changing, they haven’t retrained and developed their people, and because of this, they are feeling a little lost.  And they want to change their results – NOW.

When people feel lost and want to change results, they look for the “magic button” that, if they can just find it and press it, will fix all their problems.  So, instead of, “Can you assess my issues and perhaps retrain my salespeople to update their skills,” they ask, “Can you teach my people how to (close/prospect/present/etc.).  In other words, they’re looking for the one piece of the skillset of successful salespeople in the current environment – and if their people can learn that ONE THING, they’ll return to success.  So, I’m writing this article to help them – and you.  I’m going to tell you what the most important skill that salespeople can possess is.

The answer is – all of them (sorry).  Salespeople need to be competent to excellent in every phase of the Buyer’s Journey, and if they’re not, sales will fall away.

First of all, salespeople need to understand what the Buyer’s Journey is, and what their role is in navigating it.

Then, the salespeople must be good at Motivating their prospects to enter a Journey, because without good Motivation skills, they won’t have anyone to sell to.  We used to call this skillset “Prospecting,” but I seldom use that term anymore.  What we called “Prospecting” is now elevated, and Motivating is really a better description of the salesperson’s role in this phase of the Buyer’s Journey.

Salespeople must be skilled at helping their Buyer through the Investigation phase, where the Buyer defines his or her needs and sources of dissatisfaction, as well as the Buyer’s Desired Future State.  Only by understanding the Buyer’s needs, dissatisfaction, and definition of success, can the salesperson deliver a targeted presentation of a solution.  If you can’t master this phase, you’re spraying and praying.

Presenting the customized, tailored Solution, using your expertise, is what guides the Buyer to the success that they are seeking – that’s why they began a Buyer’s Journey in the first place.  Salespeople need great presentation skills.  Not only is the presentation of Features and Advantages important, but salespeople should be skilled at illustrating the solution through customer success stories that engage, entertain, and show the Buyer why their solution is the best.

If your Solution works for the Buyer, it’s time to navigate the buyer through the Evaluation phase by presenting your price and terms in a fashion that is both definite and easy to understand.  The more complicated your proposal, the more fear the buyer will have.  The less definite you are in your presentation of price and terms, the more you invite negotation – and move farther away from the sale.

Finally, your closing skills help the buyer with the Decision phase of the sale.  Even today’s empowered buyers still need and want to be asked to buy – and if you forget this part of the Journey, all your work to this point will likely be for naught.  Part of this phase is the ability to handle and resolve objections, and to remove the Buyer’s fear.

My point is this:  Being a “great closer” or a “great presenter” is worthless if you don’t have the other skills.  That wasn’t always true; in pre-Internet days, if you were a great closer, you could browbeat your customers, make them bleed from the ears, and close enough business to get by.  Great storytellers and rapport-builders could also get enough business.  Even the old “hunter/farmer” sales mentality is obsolete now; salespeople have to be able to both initiate and maintain relationships.  Buyers are more empowered now, and that’s changed the landscape. Today’s salespeople have to be great all-around players.

Is that a lot of work?  Yep, it is.  I didn’t promise that it would be easy.  The best professional salespeople are tuning and improving their skills on a weekly basis.  Here’s a tip for both salespeople and managers:  Focus on one skill every week, and work to improve it.  Try things out, watch to see how customers respond, and use that feedback to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  Your customers are the best focus group that ever existed!

That’s a lot to improve.  I’m not quite done yet, though.  Today’s environment requires additions to the old skill sets.  To maximize your opportunities today, you need to be skilled and ready to use communication platforms that include phone, email, text, video, social media, and IM.  Can you write a persuasive text in 240 characters or less?  If not, you’re going to lose business to salespeople who can.  This is one place where AI (something else you need to be good at) can help you.  Type in what you want to say, and ask your AI app to condense it to 240 characters.  It works.  Just beware of “Chat crap,” and refine your result to eliminate it!

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is.  Let’s be honest.  The job of being a winning salesperson is more complicated than it used to be – and it’s not going to get any less complicated in the future.  This is a moment where you really have an opportunity to differentiate yourself, if you put in the work, learn new techniques and technologies, and keep yourself not only relevant, but vital.  My opinion?  It’s one hell of a fun time to be in sales.