According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics more than 14-million Americans are employed in sales, yet to paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, we can’t get no respect in pop culture. Nearly every movie about salespeople rely on outlandish, comical, or sometimes brutal stereotypes. Remember “Coffee is for closers”?
All kidding aside, from retail workers to highly specialized industries, your sales team is important for maintaining your company’s reputation and for increasing profitability. That’s why robust sales training programs that build sales skills and confidence are so important. At this point, you may be asking yourself, “What kind of sales training program is right for me?” Let’s take a look at the skills your team might need and the kind of sales training programs available.
Key sales skills for success:
- Identifying needs
- Selling benefits
- Consultative selling
- Presentation skills
- Closing the deal
- Encouraging repeat business
Avoiding the Bull
While an untrained sales person approaches a deal like a bull in a China shop, a skilled one focuses on the best way to help your customer. A salesperson should be able to interview a prospect without making it feel like an interview. Sales training that focuses on interviewing and questioning techniques that help your team drill down to the problem a customer is trying to solve is imperative.
Once a pain point has been discovered, your salesperson needs to help the prospect understand how your company’s product or service will help solve their problem. The idea is to offer training to turn features into benefits for your prospects. Let’s use the example of a car - something we’ve all purchased. An unskilled salesperson may talk about fuel efficiency, whereas a well trained salesperson will talk about how much money you can save when you don’t have to refill the tank every couple of days.
Building a Relationship
Whether your sales team member sought out the customer in a cold call or the customer submitted an inquiry on your website, closing a deal often hinges on how the customer feels when they talk to the salesperson. This may seem like a touchy-feely concept, but it’s true for everything from retail stores to highly specialized products. Unless you’re the only game in town, if a salesperson doesn’t know how to build relationships, they won’t be successful.
Consultative selling is another key sales skill. It is the ability to go beyond fixing today’s problem to build an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship. It’s the ability to woo a customer in the beginning, close the first deal, and wow them enough so they keep coming back for more. Your sales training program should go beyond the basics and teach about customer personality types, identifying sales cycles, and if appropriate, creating product or service bundles.
No matter how skilled your sales team is at building relationships, they’re going to deal with difficult customers. This can happen because the customer is unsatisfied, stressed, or just has a challenging personality (to put it mildly). Dealing with difficult customers can ruin your salesperson’s day and have them questioning if they’ve gone into the right line of work. By offering training that teaches how to deal with difficult customers, you’re proactively giving your sales team valuable tools and skills that will help them not take a customer’s bad attitude personally.
Getting a Prospect to Sign on the Dotted Line
I know, it seems like a no-brainer, but many times the reason a deal falls through is that the customer isn’t clearly asked to commit to the purchase. Hopefully, you haven’t accidentally hired someone who is too timid or shy to ask for the sale. Even the most timid can be taught closing skills.
Helping your sales team navigate the sales funnel is key to any sales training program. That sales funnel is different for every business. Some sales are very transactional, a customer walks into a store and makes a purchase, while others require longer lead times, selecting a learning management system for instance.
Your sales training program should include questioning techniques that get the prospect shaking their head ‘yes’ until the deal is done. Although a prospect knows they’re talking to a salesperson with the goal of closing a deal, they should walk away feeling good about their purchase.
Ya’ll Come Back Now!
The initial sale is important, of course, but as the old saying goes it costs less to keep a customer than to attract a new one. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. To gain a new customer, your sales team needs to identify qualified prospects, educate them about your products or services, and convince them that the benefits you offer will meet (or better yet exceed) their expectations. In order to help your sales team to achieve this, make sure you train them on the soft skills that can take them out of the pushy salesperson stereotype and put them in the trusted partner category.
A Comprehensive Guide to Key Sales Skills
Successful sales training programs include the sales skills I’ve mentioned above and much more. We offer a downloadable guide that details that explains things like:
- The basics for those new to sales
- Relationship building, a key to creating customer loyalty
- Advanced skills to engage experienced employees
Distance selling which has recently gained acceptance
- How soft skills complement sales skills
- And more.
- The Ups and Downs of the Sales Roller Coaster
- Guide to Building Sales Training Programs
- Selling skills training videos