In most sales teams, there’s usually a rep who, month-on-month, smashes their targets. And they do this despite having the same basic training as everyone else. So, what’s their magic?
The good news is, if you’re a sales manager or training professional, not a witch or wizard, there is no magic. Just a particular set of additional (mostly soft) skills that your whole sales team can master—with the right training. Yes, a few people might have some or all of those additional sales skills already. But most haven’t.
Here’s where the training comes in. To convert your one highly successful salesperson into a team of highly successful salespeople you need to elevate your sales skills training.
What makes a great salesperson?
You’ve probably got lots of good salespeople in your organization.
The hiring process will have filtered out those who aren’t suited to the role. Your successful hires will have been given the essential sales skills training required for the role. And now you have a team of capable and motivated sales reps who are good at their job. So far so good.
But is good, good enough?
To consistently and confidently meet (or, ideally, exceed) your sales quotas and, in turn, your business goals, good isn’t quite enough. Good needs to become great.
And, if an enhanced package of sales training moves your reps up to that level, then settling for good really isn’t an option. Particularly when that next-level sales training is so easy to source and deliver.
Makes sense, right? So what should your next steps be?
Before you rush into creating a list of courses, it helps to understand what the qualities of a great salesperson are compared to those of a good salesperson. The list could go on indefinitely, but here are what we consider to be the top 10 qualities to help guide your training program.
Into long-term relationships, not one night stands
A successful salesperson won’t complete a deal and then move on to the next one. A successful salesperson will keep in touch with customers, nurture and maintain a good working relationship with them, and proactively follow their journey.
Looking to the future not stuck in the past
When it comes to successful sales, it pays to be one step ahead. A good salesperson will identify a customer’s current needs and provide solutions. A successful salesperson will go one step further by researching and anticipating future requirements and demonstrating how those can or will be met, too.
Experts in their field
And the future-focused approach doesn’t stop there. As well as keeping up-to-date with current best practices, a successful salesperson will proactively track industry developments and future challenges.
So, for a SaaS sales rep, that would be looking into advances in technology, for example. For someone working in manufacturing, it could be finding out about next-level prototypes or products edging into the market.
Interested and informed
With sales, the devil is often in the detail. The more you find out about a customer’s challenges, aspirations, and business model, the more you can help them. Even if they don’t actually think they need much help.
Sometimes, for example, a throwaway comment could present an opportunity to solve a bigger problem. A successful salesperson will ask a lot of (the right) questions, listen properly and deeply, and take detailed notes.
Working with others in mind
Nobody works in a silo. A successful salesperson understands the impact their approach has on others in their team and beyond.
Take account managers, for example. A great salesperson will appreciate how valuable detailed, up-to-date, and well-organized customer communication logs are for account managers in the team. So, they’ll make sure their notes are thorough and organized in such a way that makes it easy for colleagues to find and use.
Hungry for knowledge
Knowledge is power. Particularly in sales. An engaging personality is powerful too but, without any substance behind it, it won’t be enough to close a deal.
A great salesperson will be curious and go to great lengths to become an expert in every aspect of whatever it is they’re selling, whether it’s a product or a service. And, if they can’t answer every question a customer asks, they’ll go off and do their research ready for the next time.
In balance and on point
For many sales reps, the buzz of closing a deal can become almost addictive. And, working in a competitive environment, fuelled by a drive to perform better week on week, month on month, can lead to exhaustion, burnout, and stress.
A successful salesperson understands that to perform at their best and achieve their targets, they need to feel well and focused. Which means looking after their mental and physical wellbeing. Not working crazy hours. And getting the balance between work and personal life right.
Always on time
Time management represents so much more than punctuality—or making a meeting on time. Time is reputation. Time is trust. And time is opportunity.
A great or successful salesperson will not only know how to manage their time but understand why it’s important on all of these different levels. And it’s that understanding that will drive their success.
Keen to connect
One of Steven Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people is that they “Seek first to first to understand, then to be understood.”
Highly effective (and successful) salespeople demonstrate empathy by putting their energy into understanding a customer’s needs and viewpoint, over their own impulse to sell or make a point.
Turns problems into opportunities
Sales reps hear “no” a lot. They send emails that never get answered. And leave voice messages that don’t receive replies. A good salesperson will take this rejection in good grace and move on.
A highly successful salesperson will rise to the challenge. They’ll keep going, exploring creative ways of turning a “no” (or the cold shoulder of an unanswered email or phone call) into a “yes.”
10 skills a successful salesperson should master
Now that you know the qualities of a successful salesperson, it’s time to train your team. But how do you translate those qualities into training courses?
Core sales training usually focuses on sales-specific challenges or objectives. There’s the networking and behind-the-scenes prep such as customer research and building a pipeline. The engagement stage (delivering convincing presentations, keeping prospects hooked in, selling solutions, and ultimately closing a deal). And, of course, the follow-up admin.
And, yes, these are all absolutely essential sales skills that should be included in any basic sales training package. But it’s the less standard, mostly soft skills sales training we’re interested in here. Because it’s this training that will build you a team of consistently high (rather than predictably good) performers.
And the good news is, all of these skills are transferable. If one of your team moves over to another area of your organization, your training won’t have gone to waste.
So, what should you focus on? Here’s our, rather eclectic (but effective), top 10 list:
1. Digital marketing
Yes, you’ve got a marketing department to create leads and generate customers. But a successful salesperson should be a lead-generating, frontline marketer too. Developing a so-called “professional online presence” will help them better represent themselves and your company.
2. Persistence and resilience
To keep going in the face of rejection is hard. Particularly if that rejection is constant and repetitive. Give a good salesperson the right skills and they’ll rise to the challenge day-in, day-out (and not just for the first few months).
Resilience training nurtures a change in mindset. So they can learn to let go of what they can’t control, make the most of what they can change, and reflect and learn when the going gets tough.
When you’re dealing with people (and this is pretty much what sales is), it’s impossible to know what situations and emotions you’ll be presented with. And this can cause stress, a lack of confidence, and uncertainty.
Self-regulation skills offer good sales reps the skills to stay calm, positive, and focused. Which, in turn, drives success and high performance.
4. Being curious
A successful salesperson asks questions. Lots of them. Questions lead to knowledge and solutions. And the discovery of what might be possible, instead of just what’s feasible. This is why learning to be curious should be an essential tool in your successful salesperson’s tool kit.
But can it be taught?
Absolutely. From expanding the curiosity to challenging ideas, proper training will give your team the skills to troubleshoot difficult sales situations more effectively.
5. Listening not just hearing
The easiest way to make a sale is to give customers what they want and need. And that requires active listening skills. Not quite as easy as it sounds. Most of us take shortcuts during conversations—predicting what we think someone might say or cutting them off during a sentence.
Active listening builds mutual trust, leads to fewer mistakes, and enhances product and customer knowledge. Which is why successful salespeople are well-trained listeners.
6. Email etiquette
A convincing sales pitch doesn’t start and end with a phone or video call. The introductory and follow-up comms are important, too. Sending emails may seem like a no-brainer. But there’s an art to it that isn’t normally reflected in the traditional sales course program. And it’s that art that will move your good sales reps up a level.
Help them make the best possible impression on existing business contacts and customers by fine-tuning their email communication skills.
7. The three Es (empathy, ethics, and emotional intelligence)
The difference between an average sales rep and an outstanding successful sales rep? Their level of emotional intelligence. Which, summed up, is a combination of empathy and ethics.
Empathy enables sales staff to understand and share their customers’ feelings. Once they know where their customers or prospects are coming from, your sales team will be better positioned to help them.
Selling ethically helps customers develop a more positive impression of your sales employees, so they’re more likely to build great customer relationships, which leads to more sales. Providing training in emotional intelligence means they can offer a mature, sensitive, thoughtful, and appropriate approach that stands out among the competition.
Staying productive means living a healthy, balanced life. But this can be more challenging in the competitive, target-driven world of sales. Training your sales reps in the art (and it is an art) of wellbeing brings benefits to both them and your business.
By supporting a balanced and sustainable existence you can help them meet their fullest potential, both personally and professionally.
9. Communication skills
Communication is at the heart of sales. A complex and multifaceted process, it covers everything from soft skills such as persuasion, negotiation, body language, and tone of voice to harder, more tangible skills such as knowing how to draft a compelling email or deliver an effective presentation.
It’s an art that many think comes naturally. But, in fact, it takes skill and consideration to perfect all of its many different elements. Time spent training your sales team in the art of communication will be time well spent.
Effective collaboration has a direct link with sales quota attainment, increasing it by 21%.
Often dismissed as being “just another form” of communication, collaboration is actually a skill in itself.
While good communication facilitates the flow of information, collaboration takes that information and creates something from it. And it’s an essential part of a sales team’s continued success.
Stand and deliver
Every business is, of course, different. And the sales skills package you design to elevate the success of your sales team will depend on the unique nature of what you do. But, once you’ve decided what to include in your enhanced sales skills training package one more decision still remains… how to deliver it?
As with most things, the content will determine the delivery. When it comes to ticking off all the universal sales skills, ready-made courses designed and delivered by experts work really well. For the remaining skills, try a customized approach based on your unique business and customer needs.
And, finally, what about your quotas? Get ready to see them rise. No magic required.