No matter the type of business, sales and marketing are the heartbeat of growth and development. This makes sales representatives one of the most important members of a business’s team. Some people have innate abilities that make them good sales representatives, but the best sales reps have spent years honing their skills. Sales development skills come with time, experience, and training from qualified coaches and leaders. There are so many facets to sales and marketing skills, that up-and-coming reps often struggle with the wealth of information they need to internalize.
Whether coaching a team of new sales reps for business purposes or otherwise, grasping the basics helps to break down these sales development skills into an easier-to-understand and teach format. Here are eight must-have sales development skills every sales rep should have.
1. Excellent Grasp of Core Values of the Business or Product
Good sales reps know exactly what they are selling, but they also understand the ‘whys’ of what they are selling. Pretty much anyone can walk up to a customer and offer a product, but the best salesperson will be able to offer that product and tell the consumer why they need it. Sales reps who fully comprehend the core values of the company have the best ability to this.
Take, for example, Apple’s brand slogan ‘Think Different’, which sales reps often feed off when selling Apple products by explaining how they can see something familiar in a different way with their products. This inside-out method of sales creates an almost instantaneous acceptance in the mind of a consumer of something they can relate to.
2. Ability to Build Rapport with Clients and Customers
Clients and customers don’t like handing over their hard-earned money to—or negotiating a deal with—someone they don’t trust. One of the easiest ways to generate a basis of trust in communication with a total stranger is by building rapport. Sales reps who have the ability to build rapport quickly see a higher yield in sales volume. While focusing on numbers and business is great, sales reps should also be taught to improve sales skills simply by building rapport.
Building rapport happens in two ways. General rapport starts before a customer speaks with a sales rep and is generated when a company, product, or business provides a positive community or consumer-area. The most fundamental rapport, however, stems from those initial interactions with a sales rep. While general rapport can set the tone of an initial interaction, sales reps must be trained to maintain this familiar, trustworthy impression throughout interactions with their customers and clients.
3. Precise Time Management Skills
Time management frequently comes into play in the life of a sales rep, and could even be deemed one of the most important factors. These professionals need to know how to divide their time between cold-calling and paperwork to achieve the most in a day’s time, for example.
Time management can always be improved with experience. A good example of this is the difference between a senior sales rep and a new sales rep. The senior sales rep knows when reaching out to customers, it is the most effective use of time to contact the most promising leads first, while the novice sales rep may simply call everyone on the list.
There are three primary ways to get a better grasp on time management as a sales rep, including:
- Staying organized to prevent wasted time looking for lost files or contacts;
- Analyzing daily production activities using time management software, and
- Understanding the large scope of the sales funnel and how immediate results can sometimes downplay an end outcome.
4. Skilled Communication
Skilled communication comes in at every level of client/customer relations, whether it is face-to-face, over the phone, or less concrete like in marketing and promotional materials. Sales reps need the ability to communicate a message in a precise manner that leaves little room for misjudgment or skepticism.
At the same time, a sales rep should know how and when to intercede and ask posed questions to keep a buyer interested and connected to what they are saying. Consider some of the most effective marketing campaigns and why they connected so well with consumers. As an example, California Milk Processor Board‘s ‘Got Milk?’ campaign helped boost sales of milk 7% in the state of California in just one year.
5. Effective Listening Skills
Sandler Sales Training is perhaps the go-to reference for sales reps looking to amp up their skills. One of the takeaways from this training program is this: To be a good sales rep, you have to be a good listener. Sandler Rule #14 states that the sales process is more of a conversation than anything else. A sales rep should not be the only one doing the talking in rep-customer interactions.
Reps should follow a 70/30 rule of doing more listening and answering questions than offering product information first. When a customer feels like the sales rep is listening, they feel engaged in the situation and feel like they are more in control of the situation than simply being targeted as a consumer. As an added advantage, a customer who feels listened to and appreciated will have an easier time gaining that impression of trust and rapport that is so important in business.
6. Ability to Cultivate Prospects
Not every prospect will immediately come across as a potential sale. In fact, to an untrained sales rep, many prospects can seem like a total dead end. However, the best sales reps know that in a lot of situations, even prospects that seem dead in the water can be nurtured and eventually cultivated to be a successful sale. Some buyers just need extra coaxing and encouragement. Some buyers are of the ‘not-right-now’ variety but can be revived later with a new communication that ultimately results in a successful sale.
Additionally, sales reps must know how to track down prospects on their own. This is accomplished through product or service education and knowing consumer demographics, pain points, and needs. With this knowledge, a sales rep can take strides to locate prospects on their own without being provided with leads by a sales manager or team leader.
7. Easily Handles Objections and Rejections
Regardless of what is being offered to a buyer, there is always a chance that there will be objectifying statements or even outright rejections. These objections and rejections to a product or service usually come from a core idea the buyer has, which in some situations, can be totally unclear to the sales rep. This is why it is important for sales reps to develop their sales skills by learning to handle blatant resistance gently and with grace.
It’s not uncommon for a skilled sales rep to start an interaction with a customer who is completely complacent about buying anything and end with the customer having a conflicting outlook about the product or service. Even if there is no sale, this gentle handling of a situation can mean later success with that same customer or client.
8. Product/Service Demonstrations Skills and Capabilities
The most successful sales reps are so familiar with the product or service they represent to a buyer that demonstrating its value is a seamless process. Too many new sales reps place emphasis and focus on what is said during a sales or marketing interaction and do not inherently understand the value of demonstration.
Demonstrations are harder than they sound because there is a fine line between monotony and the portrayal of features or attributes that will ‘speak’ to a buyer. Every sales rep must be trained to work with their physical demonstration techniques until they are as close to perfect as possible.
Even though the process of developing sales skills can seem overwhelming or even intimidating at first to a new sales rep, a little direction with the fundamentals does help. With these eight sales development skills, a new representative can easily grow into a well-rounded professional.