How to Improve Your Sales Skills

Businessman holding card with sales growth chart

There are two images that often come to mind when you think of the word ‘salesperson’. One is that of a woman with heavy makeup and perfectly-coiffed hair who loves spraying unsuspecting customers with perfume; the other is that of the excessively charming but incredibly deceptive Jordan Belfort, otherwise known as the Wolf of Wall Street (aka the role that should’ve gotten Leonardo DiCaprio an Oscar).

But there’s more to sales than pushing products and following up leads. It’s an essential skill that can help you get ahead, not only in your job but also in life.

So, if you’re ready to take the next step and move up, then here’s how to improve your sales skills.

1. Build Your Resilience

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about people who work in sales is their unlimited enthusiasm for life. Rain or shine, you’ll always find a smile on their face and even when they’re shunned, ignored or flat-out denied, they still manage to pick themselves up and forge ahead.

Salespeople face rejection on a daily basis, which makes them some of the most resilient workers on the planet. They’re fearless in the face of ‘no’s and epitomise the old saying: if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Their integrity and positive attitude towards life are admirable traits that most employees should possess, especially in today’s volatile work landscape where job requirements are constantly changing.

2. Don’t Be Plastic

The most effective salespeople succeed not because they’re pushy but because they genuinely believe in the importance and impact that their products create. Whether it’s something as simple as a dish cleaner or a new technology that they’re trying to promote, the ones that get to close the deal are the not those who try to fool the consumer but those who want to make customers choose (what they sincerely believe to be) the better choice.

From YouTube reviews to lengthy blog posts, there’s an excess of readily available data on today’s products, which is why it’s no surprise that most consumers already know which products to buy way before they even enter a store. In the same way that you’ll only forgive an ex if they show that they’re completely sincere about changing, the only way a client can be convinced of switching to another brand is if it appeals to them emotionally – and that can only happen if the salesperson truly believes in his or her product.

3. Practise Authentic Communication

Oftentimes, people like to talk not because they want to listen but more because they want to be heard. It’s a phenomenon that’s become more common, especially in today’s modern workplace where a significant portion of conversations is done online. Without face-to-face communication, it’s easier to talk over each other in threads until someone who has the last say wins. But it’s a slippery slope that can lead to condescension – and in sales, that’s most definitely a no-no.

There’s nothing worse than receiving a cold call or email where the consumer is made to feel stupid. And there are instances when salespeople, and sometimes even sales managers, get on a client’s nerves because of poor communication. While it’s all well and good to try and help a client, you should draw the line between being friendly and being too familiar.

For example, if you’re trying to sell a product to someone from an older generation, judging them for their lack of knowledge in technology can immediately turn them off. Saying things like ‘That’s so old school’ or ‘You know, there’s already an app for that’ may sound harmless, but without practising authentic communication, it’s so much easier to offend people since you’ve had less training seeing how they react face to face.

4. Grow Your Network

Door-to-door selling may very well be a tool of the past, but if there’s one thing former Avon and Tupperware saleswomen knew it’s how to build lasting connections.

Long before LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media apps were ever created, salespeople already knew the importance of networking. They knew that brand loyalty was never really about how innovative or ground-breaking a product was, but rather how well you maintained your relationships with clients.

While the tools have changed, there’s no denying that this sales technique is what keeps brands alive. Every salesperson should have a strong and reliable network that they can constantly tap and get insights from. It’s a key component in getting ahead and making sure you’re never out of the game.

5. Stop, Collaborate and Listen

Before you think this is another reference to Vanilla Ice, this part of the article is actually very critical. It refers to the relationship between marketing and sales, and how one is vital to the development of the other. Where before they worked in silos, both departments now must work together to produce the most effective results.

Marketing is expected to build relationships with clients and to produce leads. They can do this through a plethora of tools – from out-of-home advertising to more modern ways such as programmatic or search engine optimisation. Meanwhile, it’s sales duty to follow up on the leads that marketing creates to make sure that they generate the maximum amount of profits for the company.

While they have two different functions, it’s incumbent upon sales to understand not just what the customers want but also provide them with what they need, not just from a profit-generating standpoint but from a psychological point of view, too. And the simplest but most effective way to do that would be to (stop!) collaborate and listen with the marketing team.

6. Constantly Innovate

Rather than shun the new tools available to help sales, learn to embrace the change and be the first to get on the innovation bandwagon. Much like any profession, it’s important to keep learning, so that you don’t end up being obsolete.

To stay ahead of the curve, take short courses and learn more about the online tools that can help you reach or even raise your bottom line. Most companies today also use data-driven solutions such as adopting a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to help them streamline the entire sales cycle. It would be helpful if you have a general idea of how these new tools work. After all, every salesperson could always use a new bag of tricks.

7. Master the Art of Closing the Deal

At the end of the day, being an effective salesperson is all about closing the deal. It’s a delicate balance between getting what you want without actually showing how much you want it.

For example, one of the most popular ways to reel in a customer is through the ‘limited edition’ or ‘limited time only’ technique. Often used by infomercials, this strategy creates a sense of urgency which entices consumers to buy a product because they feel like they’re bypassing a great opportunity, or what kids call today as FOMO (fear of missing out).

Another important technique is by asking questions to pre-empt whatever doubts or notions your customers might have. A couple of examples of this include: ‘Is there any reason why you think you won’t like this product?’ or ‘Do you think what I’m offering will be able to help you?’ Anticipating your customers' needs and answering them efficiently are key elements in winning negotiations.

Lastly, you can always throw in a free trial period. Once you have your customers engaged, it’s just a matter of convincing them to buy the whole package – and if you follow all the tips listed above, then closing the deal should be a piece of cake.

Whether you’re negotiating a raise or pitching to a client, having a strong set of sales skills will always come in handy – whichever stage you are in your career.

How have your sales skills helped you get ahead? Let us know how through the comments section below.