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Selling in the New Normal: Why Sales Teams Need Even Better Selling Skills

Selling Skills | Sales Leadership

The COVID- 19 pandemic is creating profound changes in how sales professionals engage with clients. While some sales professionals will likely return to their offices, the way they engage with clients has fundamentally changed since most sales call will take place virtually. 

Additionally, the quality of sales conversations will need to improve since many sales reps became way too reliant on existing accounts and are now faced with the difficult challenge of rebuilding their sales pipelines.

In thinking about this challenge, I was reminded of a sales conference I attended several years back where the outlook for the sales profession looked very grim. I recall industry experts noting that the balance of power had shifted to buyers who would “engage” with technology savvy customer service reps as opposed to sales professionals.

While many sales organizations have leveraged technology to support the sales function, the notion that the sales function would resemble “customer service” was far from accurate. In fact, sales skills have become increasingly important especially as companies shift from selling products to delivering more complex solutions (e.g., solutions that include product, services, training…).

To help understand the importance of these skills, I went back to a study we conducted a few years ago with TrainingIndustry.com, The Salesperson's Perspective on the Impact of Sales Training, where sales professionals were asked to rank what skills they thought would be most important in the future. These skills are included in the chart below:

critical sales skills for future performance

What I found most interesting was that the skill they identified as most important, Building Relationships, is the foundation of the entire seller–customer relationship. This is highlighted in the model below which shows how sellers should align their sales process with their customers purchase process.   

purchase and sales process

While building relationships has always been foundational to selling, this skill was not nearly as important in a robust economy where sales professionals could rely on existing accounts. 

One common misconception of building relationships is that it is based on a sales professional’s likability or charisma. While likability and an outgoing personality are positive traits, they only scratch the surface of a strong business relationship which includes developing rapport (much more than just being likable), building trust, and demonstrating expertise.

While the virtual sales world poses new challenges for sales professionals, it also creates new opportunities for learning and developing skills. In fact, the “work from home” world has led to an increased reliance and comfort with virtual meeting platforms (e.g., Zoom, Teams, WebEx) which can be leveraged for virtual sales training.

Ultimately, those same sales professionals who many expected would become extinct are now more essential than ever to source new customers, expand existing relationships, and rebuild the sales pipeline.

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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.