Selling for the Non-Sales Professional: 3 Key Skills You Already Have
For some people, the word “sales” comes along with its own set of baggage and negative connotations. Your point of reference may relate to your personal experience with an overly aggressive “sales pitch” while going on a timeshare tour on your vacation. Or encountering manipulative “fear tactics” to purchase an extended warranty when you purchased your dishwasher. Unfortunately, this connotation can also find its way into business-to-business sales situations where companies get push back from their sales engineers and solution consultants who say their job is to help customers solve a problem - not to sell them more services.
But this view is based on a limited frame of reference. If we think about, all of us are selling every day - to our boss, to our team, and to our family. But we don’t think about it as selling because we are simply explaining the VALUE we provide. When we engage with customers this dynamic shouldn’t be any different. Our success is based on creating value for the customer by helping them solve a problem or improving their situation. Sales professionals who focus on value become trusted advisors who customers rely on for their expertise and advice.
There’s no secret formula to add value into your conversations. In fact, you likely possess these skills already, and didn’t realize that they were the foundation for successful sales professionals.
1) Actively Listening
When your employee enters your office, you give them your complete attention. They may be sharing good news, voicing a concern, providing valuable insights, or just looking for extra validation. Whatever the situation, a good manager starts by listening intently to what they are saying, including body language and facial expressions.
In a sales situation, you are doing the same thing. The question isn’t, “How can I convince you that you want what I have?” Instead, your orientation should be “What do you need, and can I help you address that need?”
2) Asking Great Questions
Understanding needs isn’t always obvious because the presenting need (i.e., the one they state first) may not reflect their underlying needs. As an example, when a family member says “I’m fine” with a very concerned facial expression it’s a pretty good bet something more is going on. The best way to understand their needs, is asking questions that help them articulate the real problem.
It’s likely you already do this in your day-to-day life. You are constantly figuring what your boss needs, what your team needs, what your family needs – by asking good questions. This skill is equally effective when speaking with customers. Sales professionals who ask clarifying questions get their customers to express their true needs, which then becomes the basis to determine if there is a problem they can help their customer solve.
3) Responding Well to Objections
In a perfect world, we would say something, and everyone would agree with us. We would ask our boss for a raise, and they would say, “How much would you like?” We could ask a member of our team to take on a project that will require 10 hours of overtime per week, and they would ask, “Can I do it from the office or should I do it from home?” Of course, life doesn’t work that way, and we often encounter objections.
The key to responding to objections is acknowledging the objection as a legitimate concern since it expresses how someone feels. As an example, the person we are asking to work overtime, may not have the band-with to take on more work. By taking the time to acknowledge the objection and seek clarification, we can provide a thoughtful response that makes the other person feel understood.
A sales situation is no different. When you present a solution to a client, they will likely have some objections. In most cases, these objections are driven by a legitimate concern or lack of understanding. By acknowledging the objection and seeking clarification, you will not only be able to better respond to the objection but also create greater receptivity to that response.
On a daily basis, we listen, ask questions, and respond to objections in a variety of personal situations. So, the next time you are asked to help sell, remember it isn’t about a “pitch” but instead how you can use skills you already possess to create the most value for the customer.
About Norman Behar
Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.