The Top 3 Sales Skills Every Salesperson Should Have
Hybrid work is here to stay, and the new normal for sales professionals has become more apparent.
Gone are the days when salespeople were road warriors traveling to meet each customer. Now, a typical day may include a full day of back-to-back Zoom sales calls.
Today’s modern sellers must be proficient in face-to-face and virtual selling. So what top sales skills are the most important for today’s modern seller?
This is a tricky question since sales success requires such a broad range of sales skills, including pre-call planning, relationship building, asking discovery questions, managing objections, negotiations, and closing. Each skill is associated with different stages of the sales process, so it’s difficult to say that one skill is more important than another.
But if there are top sales skills that cut across all aspects of selling, it’s communication skills. The sales professional who communicates the best, whether in person or virtually, will consistently beat the competition.
Here are the three most important communication skills that you need to master to succeed in today’s new sales environment.
Skill #1: Presenting
When you think of a salesperson, probably the first thing that comes to mind is a professional speaking confidently and knowledgeably to customers.
For modern professionals, presenting your solution in a way that addresses the customer’s need is the essence of selling. However, remote selling has added a new twist. A successful salesperson today must be proficient in presenting a solution to a group, but they also must master the virtual meeting environment. That means being able to engage the audience and address their concerns when you can’t see them in person and “read the room.”
Giving a targeted sales presentation is an essential communication skill, regardless of whether you do this in person or virtually.
Skill #2: Writing
Ten years ago, in-person presentation skills would have been considered more important than writing skills by many sales leaders. Today, that perception has shifted.
Customers are talking on the phone less and spending more time on other communication platforms such as text, email, and social media. This means that excellent writing skills are more essential today for high-performing sales professionals than in the past. If a buyer has a tricky question for you or an objection, they may send you an email or text you instead of calling you. Similarly, prospecting has also changed, with high-performing sales reps spending more prospecting time using emails and social media and less time calling.
So, today’s modern sellers must be able to express complicated ideas through written forms of communication.
Skill #3: Listening
Listening is the building block of all forms of effective communication and the most underappreciated, but most important, selling skill.
Ironically, while we learn writing and speaking skills in school, we rarely learn good listening skills. Most of us think that we are good listeners, but research suggests that we only remember 25% to 50% of what we hear. That means we can miss up to 75% of what the buyer is saying. When a seller misdiagnosis the customer’s need or doesn’t pick up on who the real decision-maker is in the customer organization, chances are the root cause was poor listening skills.
One problem is that many of us confuse passive and active listening. Passive listening is the physical process of receiving sound waves transmitted to the brain (i.e., hearing). Active listening means that you are suspending your thoughts to focus entirely on understanding what you hear.
Active listening is a fundamental sales communication skill that is important for all aspects of selling. It makes the buyer feel important, understood, appreciated, and respected. Active listening also helps prevent misunderstandings and increase your knowledge of what is important.
Unfortunately, many sales professionals are poor active listeners. Sometimes they feel stress, anxiety, or that they need to do all the talking. And today, of course, we can get easily distracted by checking our cell phones.
Conclusion – Communication skills are key to sales success
Today’s new selling environment puts a premium on excellent communication skills. Your team can improve these top sales skills through ongoing training and coaching. During the hiring process, you should also be screening applicants based on the quality of their communications. If they are bad communicators during the hiring process, likely, they’ll also be bad communicators with customers.
About David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.