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sales communication 101, sales communication skills basics, and best practices

what skills does a modern sales
professional need that’s a great question let’s start by addressing the
modern part of that question today selling is different in the last 15
years the economy customers and technology have changed the game
products and services have been commodified and if that weren’t enough
there’s more competition than ever and customers expectations are higher than
ever so in times of extreme marketplace shifts hyper competition and consumer
fickleness what are the full range of sales skills you need to succeed
well they fall into two categories hard skills these are the technical and
formal skills that you likely learned in sales training things like product
knowledge CRM software management goal-setting and industry specific
skills and soft skills the relationship building skills the skills that
encourage your prospects and customers to know you like you and trust you while
the line between the two can get blurry they are distinct sets of skills and
you’re going to need both the good news is soft skills you can take with you to
any industry so let’s jump in here are the top five soft skills for today’s
sales professional empathy how well do you not only understand but feel the
challenges your customers are facing in other words can you see the sales
experience from your customer’s point of view
connection do you possess the ability to get along with and connect with people
this skill which you might also call rapport building is crucial as you
establish any new relationship listening most often this boils down to knowing
when to be quiet so you can hear what someone is trying to share with you
trying being the operative word here because sometimes a client’s challenges
aren’t clearly defined that’s why they came to you and that’s why you really
need to listen to uncover their true needs communication this is the ability
to dig deeper with great questions and eventually craft a message that inspire
your prospects and clients to take action simple as that relationship
building this is the long-term stuff following up continually assessing needs
and just showing you care both with clients and team members because success
today is a team effort and the more you invest in others the more they will
invest in you now we’re going to focus on hard skills in this course but I want
to briefly cover the top five hard skills if only to help you distinguish
these two sets of skills and see why they sometimes overlap sale systems this
means having a true sales process a consistent way you approach sales leave
quality this is the ability to define research and to find quality sales leads
the ability to track measure and adjust do you know how to learn from your Sales
System do you understand how to track your progress measure your success and
make adjustments sales technology this is an understanding of the tools and
technology you need to enhance your sales ability negotiation this is
knowing how to work with customers and prospects to find a deal that works for
everyone involved of any of the hard skills this is where
you’ll need the soft touch the most because by all means avoid the hard
close to master sales today you need to not only have exceptional hard and soft
selling skills you need to master the art of flawlessly integrating both sets
of skills you
think about this while you are taking this course completely engaged in this
information your future customers have already started the sales process right
now they’re online searching the web to learn about products services and
companies they’re going to an industry meeting and listening to experts
recommend a product or service they’re going to parties playing golf or their
kids soccer games while they are talking to others in their field about who they
work with and what they buy they’re even reading google reviews and using that
information to decide their next steps and if your name if your products if
your company is not coming up in those searches and in those conversations then
you are already behind the eight ball you have already lost the sale before it
even started these are very different economic times how our customers get
information make decisions and buy has all shifted your reputation in the
marketplace and the customer experience are what are building your business and
driving your bottom line this is not an economy that is up it’s not an economy
that’s down it’s an economy that’s different
radically changed and it is never going back to the way that it was think about
the world do you sell it think about the world you are competing it globalization
advancements in technology increased competition we could sit around and our
underwear for weeks on end and Google until our hearts are content and have
everything we want need and desire deliver right to our front door
everything we have become the kings and queens of Amazon Prime we can order food
products and services we can meet new people date make friends attend events
all online we can do almost anything we want without ever talking to or speaking
with another individual without ever having to leave the comfort of our own
home that fact right there changes everything everything it makes what we
sell or offer commodity but how we sell or offer it
that is now our competitive advantage and how we offer it that has everything
to do with our ability to deliver the soft skills sales professionals that
excel at the soft skills according to a study by development economics found
they outperform their competitors by more than 30 percent
I’ll perform them in areas such as close ratio size of sales and customer
retention success in today’s marketplace is all about the soft skills as a Sales
Professional you need to understand the importance of them in attracting new
customers the value of them in deepening and expanding existing relationships and
the role they play in helping you advancing your career remember this is a
marketplace where technically customers can buy anything they want to without
you so you need to give them a reason to engage you that reason has everything to
do with the soft skills you we’ve all suffered through that customer
service rep that would just not stop asking us personal questions or that
sales woman who just kept pushing us to close the sale right think about it
think of the last sales rep that really got on your nerves it’s subtle right but
it was just irritating enough to make you want to walk away from the sale in a
sales experience it’s the little things that make a big difference and those
little things are driven by a sales persons
soft skills in fact in today’s world I believe soft skills are the only real
competitive advantage we have left no matter how amazing unique or spectacular
you believe your product or service is to your customer it’s a commodity
something they believe they can buy anywhere anytime and from anyone so it’s
not what you sell but how you sell it that matters
those selling skills are the gateway to getting people to know you like you and
trust you because for your customers it’s you that they’re buying not just
the product but soft skills are tricky you’ll need to call on vastly different
skills with different customers and getting soft skills right is more about
knowing what your customer needs than selling a product you
when you connect with a customer you build trust and as I’m sure you can
imagine Trust is important when you’re buying something and really Trust is the
foundation of any long-term relationship so your ability to build a connection
with your customer and build it fast will determine not only if you get that
sale but also if you keep that customer for life so how do you start to build
that relationship or let’s walk it back one more step to how do you connect with
a customer well you have to get to know them really know them and that can be
tough when you don’t have a lot of time with them so here are four tips to help
you build connection with a customer over the course of just a few short
meetings number one drop the sales pitch stop worrying about how you’re gonna
open the call or get in the door stop focusing on how you position your
products as something your customers would want to buy in other words stop
thinking about your goals you would never start a relationship with a new
friend by telling them how great you are or by selling them on how much great
stuff you have right the same is true for sales so drop the pitch and simply
start a conversation number two get to know their world to do this you actually
have to slow the sales process down and rather than focus on things like getting
the appointment or closing the sale you have to ask questions to get them
talking talking about who they are what’s important to them and what their
challenges and opportunities are remember you can’t fully sell a customer
until you know them yes you may get them to purchase a product from you to
address an urgent need but you’ll miss out on a real sales relationship and a
lot of lifetime value if you don’t get to know their world okay here’s tip 3
forget about closing the sale yes that’s right forget about it when we
lose sales it’s often at the very beginning of the sales process and we
don’t even realize it and it happens because we’re thinking about the close
focusing on how to get the customer to buy our product and our customers can
feel it and ded try to find out if you’re really the
right salesperson for their needs and that’s the time to learn if you have
the solutions that can help and don’t be shy about giving them a referral your
customer and the person to whom you referred them will appreciate it so
that’s just good karma okay here it is the last tip tip 4 be one step ahead
part of being a sales consultant is not only identifying your customers problems
through a needs assessment but bringing them solutions they didn’t even know
existed if you know your customers world and you’re focused on helping them
long-term you can be one step ahead of their needs and give them that proactive
experience every customer loves the challenge with building connection and
relationship is it takes time it’s a lot of small subtle interactions that add up
but our customers do feel the impact when we make an effort and they feel it
even more so when we doubt you
listening being quiet it is one of the most powerful ways you connect with and
understand to your customers when we listen to our prospects fully two
amazing things happen first they will tell us exactly what they need which
tells us exactly what we need to sell when to sell it and how to sell it but
secondly and more importantly when we listen we send a strong message to our
prospect that says this relationship will always be more about you than about
me now grant it listening and presence are a lot easier to understand than to
implement so here are five steps to get you started
number one slow down we touched on this before slow the conversation down and
get to know their world believe it or not in sales patience is a virtue and
the need for instant gratification well it’s kind of a curse to listen
effectively you need to slow down and let your customer take the lead
number two don’t interrupt no matter how good or exciting and need your prospect
just shared do not I repeat do not interrupt them when they’re talking
jumping in and cutting a prospect off mid-sentence is not only rude it ensures
you miss out on important information that can help you make the sale number
three pay attention to the non verbal cues your customers communicate with
much more than their words their body language facial expressions and tone of
voice are all sending you clues so listening also means paying attention to
communication that’s not spoken number four ask great questions you’ve heard
this your goal is to have your customer talk 80% of the time and for you to talk
20% of the time the more your prospects talk the more you’re able to listen
great questions fall into two categories open-ended questions these are questions
that let your customers speak freely and they can’t be answered with a simple yes
or no response and then you have drill down question
questions that help you clarify what the customer said or dig deeper for more
specifics so come ready with those thought provoking open-ended questions
and be prepared to use an occasional drill down question if you need to find
out more about something your customer already said a number 5 take action to
show your prospect that you heard what they said you need to take action even
if it’s just clarifying what you heard and telling them your next steps your
customer is waiting for you to make the next move and it will tell them whether
or not they were heard and that’s the power of great listening it gives you
the opportunity to position yourself as a true Ally you buying is always emotional our customers
can think they make logical decisions but at the end of the day it’s how they
feel that drives the decisions they make so as a Sales Professional the better
equipped you are to understand their emotions the better position you’ll be
to appeal to them and influence them that in essence is emotional
intelligence and having it is one of the most sought-after soft skills the term
emotional intelligence EQ or AI was coined by researchers Peter Sal avoid
and John Mayer and popularized by Dan Goleman in his 1995 book emotional
intelligence why it can matter more than IQ essentially a I is the ability to
recognize understand and manage our own emotions and recognize understand and
influence the emotions of others the higher your emotional intelligence the
higher your chances are of connecting with your customers the better you
connect the stronger the relationships and the higher likelihood you get the
sale in fact a study of Fortune 500 companies found that salespeople with
high emotional intelligence outperformed those with medium to low emotional
intelligence by more than 50% pretty good argument to increase your emotional
intelligence right so what are some ways you can work on it
tune in to self-awareness understanding your strengths and weaknesses especially
as they relate to client relationships that means being honest about what you
do well and not so well consider asking around about what trusted friends and
colleagues think about your communication style and how you come
across to prospects and customers exercise self-control practice
recognizing not only your strengths and weaknesses but engaging them or
overcoming them as it relates to relationships with your customers for
example when a deal goes south maybe being able to take a breath before you
make a comment or if you land a big deal being able to make yourself move with
rapid speed to deliver what you sold when perhaps that’s not your greatest
strength be socially aware understanding the emotions and personality types of
your customers and prospects starts when you do that with everyone in your life
paying attention to how different people communicate what they value and what
emotions they experience in the moment will come in handy big time as you
attempt to recognize your customers state of mind in the heart of the sale
make social adjustments this is the highest of the steps in emotional
intelligence it’s being able to adjust your style or emotions to better mirror
or connect with that of your customers we all like people like us the more
people communicate like us move like us or react like us the more easily we
connect with them you can practice this by mirroring others emotions this is a
particular size especially when someone is angry or upset now those are all
external ways you can practice building your emotional intelligence but what
about internally here are some great steps to help you increase your
emotional intelligence all by yourself take time for self-reflection take the
time just to get in touch with your emotions I know it sounds a little weird
right I get it as salespeople you are busy and taking the time to reflect on
how you feel is a little too kumbaya for you but the better you understand your
own emotions the better you will be able to control them and recognize the
emotions of your buyers embrace criticism when you lose a deal someone
says they just didn’t connect with you or even when you make a customer angry
instead of reacting try embracing and thinking about the interaction after
you’ve had time to calm down start by taking a deep breath and just asking
yourself is there any truth to it can you learn something from it right or
wrong criticism is invaluable in helping you
increase your emotional intelligence and finally practice this is a journey
improving your emotional intelligence will not happen overnight but the more
you practice the stronger your emotional intelligence will get and
remember the stronger your emotional intelligence the stronger your sales you sales is never really described as a
team sport more often than not as sales professionals we are judged on
individual performance and personal success not on our ability to work well
and get along with others however at the heart of any strong sales professional
is the understanding that it is a team of people interacting with your customer
not just you see sales would be easy if you are the only person interacting with
your customer but you’re not in fact once you start the sales process there
will be a whole team of people working with talking with and determining what
your potential customer thinks about you and your product so the better your
skills of communication and collaboration the better experience your
customers will have the stronger your ability to increase information flow
efficiency productivity and ultimately the customer experience exactly what you
want as a sales professional right the more you learn to reach out and seek the
input and ideas of others the more you are willing to pitch in and help your
team succeed the stronger and more successful your performance and that of
your team will be sales is a challenge the new obstacles being put in your way
every day as sales professionals your repeat business and your referrals are
dependent upon your ability to communicate effectively and collaborate
let’s look at a few strategies to get you there be transparent be open and
honest about everything including your goals and objectives where you are
strong where you are weak and where you need help the more transparent you are
the more others around you will trust you the more they trust you the more
they will be willing to both ask you for help and help you in return transparency
also helps others understand what they can reach out to you for or where they
may need to jump in and offer you a hand being transparent makes you approachable
and that is a key step in collaborating with others ask first collaboration is
about working together and supporting one another
asking before telling is the best way to do that before you offer advice before
you give your input find an opportunity to reach out and ask questions asking
questions not only allows you to gain clarity but it builds a bond between you
and the person with whom you are communicating for example rather than
telling your customer service rep when and how to reach out to your customers
why don’t you ask them for their ideas say something like Tom great idea to put
together a strategy to contact our customers what ideas do you have for
what our customers need remember people would rather be asked
than told pick up the phone we get so lost in emails and texts these days that
sometimes the best way to communicate and collaborate is just to pick up the
phone actually have a conversation we can build such strong bonds through the
art of just talking and last but not least look for ways to help really spend
some time thinking about your colleagues other members of your sales team what
are they working on and what they might need do not wait for others to
collaborate with you instead reach out and collaborate with them remember
collaboration is not just for team members it is for customers as well
customers today want a partner someone on their team to work with them to help
them find ways to grow their businesses and expand their customer base teamwork
is so important in sales competition is tough customers are demanding you need
every member of your team in your corner and begin by getting in theirs you often in sales we train the hard skills
because they are easier to get our hands around it is easy to explain and train
someone on the fine points of making a great sales presentation or how to use a
customer relationship management system to track and record your calls all too
often the soft skills get overlooked because they are not as black and white
and not as straightforward to train and while yes some sales professionals have
more of a natural bend towards the soft skills the truth is no matter your level
of natural talent the soft skills can be learned more importantly they can and
should be constantly improved so how do you develop and strengthen soft skills
know the skills the list of soft skills is long and there are several you can
choose to learn however the best place to start when learning the soft skills
is to understand which of those skills best applies to your role in sales
understanding which soft skills are a priority will ensure you focus on the
right and most effective skills first perhaps these are skills you are
naturally good at and those that could use a little work
the better you understand which skills will have the biggest impact the more
powerful your efforts to improve will they understand the why being clear on
the why these skills are important and how they impact the sales process will
go a long way in igniting your motivation to learn them with each soft
skill you choose to focus on you want to learn why it matters why it’s important
and why and how it will impact the outcome of your sale roleplay the most
effective way to learn soft skills is to roleplay now stop I can hear you
groaning from here and I get it no one really likes to roleplay but Wow is it
powerful setting up scenarios giving you an opportunity to put your soft skills
into action in an environment where you can truly work on developing them will
do so much to build your soft skills need help with relationship building or
establishing rapport designing a roleplay that gives you an opportunity
to practice the skill and get feedback from your team members will dramatically
increase the speed at which your soft skills develop additional tools just
like we use tools in school to get better at learning to spell or solving
math problems we can use tools to improve our soft skills flashcards are
one of my favorite creating flashcards for conversation starters customer
problems listening skills can all be used to get you to think on your feet
tap into your soft skills knowledge base and make you feel just like you are in
the middle of a customer sales call all however well you are in the safety of
practicing giving you room to see how you are doing and what you still may
need to improve the more you practice the soft skills the stronger you will be
at these critical skills that can dramatically increase your ability to
close more sales you sails is like a puzzle you start with a
few pieces your products and services and then you engage with a customer and
you get a few more the details of their businesses their biggest challenges and
a few of their opportunities now your goal is to find a way to fit the pieces
you have together so you can ultimately solve the puzzle and make the sale but
to solve this puzzle you need a framework you can think of this
framework like the edges of the puzzle it’s going to make putting all the
pieces together a lot easier so what exactly is the framework
well it’s your critical thinking and problem-solving skills you can have all
the product knowledge in the world but if you can’t think your way through how
to use those resources to solve customer problems you’ll never really add value
and personalize the sale I know sales would be so easy if every customer
had the same problems but you know that’s not the case every customer even
those within the same industry has a different story a different set of
challenges and they need a different mix of solutions so you need to be ready to
analyze these situation and tailor that unique solution you
product knowledge great questions the perfect clothes none of that matters if
you cannot get your customers to talk to you if you cannot get them to open up
share information and relate in a way that helps you get to the root of their
problems their fears and their biggest challenges then you will never be able
to sell them the stronger your communication skills the easier and more
effective the sales process is going to be being able to master things like
understanding your own communication style the communication style of your
customer being present and fully engaged we’ll all be invaluable in helping you
build the relationship and close the sale it seems like common sense that you
would need strong communication skills to be good at sales but while it may be
common sense to be good at communication it’s not always clear what that means
communication is a word that is overused and often misunderstood especially when
it comes to sales we often think communication is about telling
information to people when in reality communication is more about having your
customers tell things to you here are strategies for improving your
communication skills pay full attention in other words be present one of the
greatest pieces of sales advice I have ever gotten was to pay attention meaning
that when your customer is talking do not be thinking about what you are going
to say or what you said ten minutes ago be in the moment and really listen if
then when you do that not only does your customer feel important but you will tap
into your intuitive communication skills that will ensure you gather all the
information you need to provide the best answers and solutions for your customers
practice active listening active listening is about eye contact focus and
the ability to really hear what your customer is saying when you actively
listen you are able to easily repeat and clarify what your prospect said and ask
relevant follow-up questions to keep the information flowing
understand tone and body language and all the other clues of what is not being
said or communicated in words your customers tell you so much just by the
tone of their voice or the movement of their body pay attention and learn to
read the clues if they are looking around instead of looking at you they
may be bored or uninterested if they fold their arms to sit back in their
chair they may be looking for ways to shut the conversation down so be open be
aware and look for the nonverbal cues recalculate the best communicator in the
world is the GPS system in your car or on your phone why because they never
expect the other person to understand they assume it is their job to adjust
their communication style to better fit yours think about it
they never yell at you they never tell you the same thing twice even if you do
not understand what they are saying they simply recalculate adjust their message
and share it with you in a different way one you can understand use the power of
story examples anecdotes and stories are one of the most powerful ways to
communicate customers relate to them more easily understand them and most
importantly can remember them so find ways to add stories and examples in your
sales calls and presentations remember communication is a two-way street
and while you want to be effective at getting your message across it’s
important to make sure you are just as attune to receiving your customer’s
message you when it comes to sales you have a lot
decisions to make things like who to call on what questions to ask whether to
continue to work or prospect the best ways to help your customers best
products to offer and the list goes on making decisions is not always easy and
you are never guaranteed that you will make the right choice but it is
something you have to do here’s a process to help you make decisions get
the facts before you make any decision make sure you get the facts not your
opinion or someone else’s ideas just the facts for example you may need to make a
decision about a customer whom you have called on several times who just will
not buy it’s a fact that you have made four calls and had four great
conversations and still they have not shared any desire to purchase your
product it’s an emotion or opinion that they’re cheapskates who are wasting your
time so while emotion is always there and we
all have opinions and ideas it is only the facts we want to use when making a
decision analyze information once you have all the facts gathered all the
information together it’s best to really analyze it think it through
weigh the pros and cons read between the lines and make sure you have enough or
the right information to make a decision explore options with all the information
together you can explore your options you can decide to make one more call on
your customer ask them directly for the business and see if they bite you could
decide to put them at the bottom of your prospect list and just send them a
newsletter now and then or you could come up with other options and ideas
exploring options is about taking the time to brainstorm all the different
ways you can make the decision with all the options on the table it’s easy to
make step number four pull the trigger with the brainstorming done it’s time to
pull the trigger in other words just make a decision there is no guarantee
you’ll make the right one but more often than not a less-than-perfect decision is
more important than one you never made you cannot move
forward until you make a decision and moving forward is the only way you will
close a sale as sales professionals you have to make multiple decisions every
day and delaying a decision can cost you valuable opportunities or make a problem
you need to solve even worse being able to thoughtfully engage in a
decision-making process will ensure you make decisions quickly and effectively
and in sales that’s often the difference between a closed deal and a lost
customer you empathy is the ability to understand the
emotional state and feelings of others in sales if you can put yourself in your
customers shoes then you can sell in a way that feels comfortable for them and
actually starts to build a relationship so how do you develop empathy have a
service orientation to be empathetic you have to be willing to serve you have to
be genuinely interested in helping others get what they want before you are
able to get what you want in sales that means focusing on the customer needs
before you think about your own quota but it requires you to go a step further
than that even if you have great ideas on how to grow their business or enhance
their bottom line you have to focus first on what they are telling you
tailor your approach every customer is different and every situation is
different as a sales professional you need to tailor your approach adjust your
message your tone and your body language based on what your customer needs in the
moment tailoring your approach tells the customer immediately that you are
willing to adjust your needs to better suit theirs validate their perspective
take the time to not only listen to your customers point of view but validate
their perspective let them know you clearly understand where they’re coming
from and can relate to what they’re saying for instance if they say that
money is an issue right now rather than just glossing over it or listing ideas
of why your product is a great investment take the time to think about
what it’s like to be faced with a buying opportunity when money is tight express
that you know how it’s tough being pulled in two directions examine your
attitude you may be saying all the right things and following the steps but what
is your attitude saying about your empathy level really ask yourself are
you more concerned with making the sale or understanding your customer having
empathy is as much about what you do as what you make the customer feel that’s
why tone of voice body language and point of view come so much into play
here the bottom line is if customers feel you understand
and their position they can relate to you and if they can relate to you then
liking you and trusting you with their business is a whole lot easier sails is a balance of the technical more
concrete skills and the softer more relationship oriented skills spend too
much time focused on product knowledge and sales process and you’ll lose a
customer but spend too much time on empathy and building relationship and
you will never close the deal understanding the soft skills is a great
first step but to be effective you need to know how to integrate them into your
sales process so how do you know when to use the hard skills and when to
implement the soft ones well sales would be so easy if there was
a solid rule a non-negotiable about that but unfortunately there’s not
if anything it’s honestly more of a gut feel something as a seasoned sales
professional you just know but to make things a little easier there are some
guidelines you can follow know the difference before you can know which
soft skills to use and which hard skills to implement you need to be clear on the
difference make a list of each and then define what they mean and the value that
they have walking through this exercise it’s not only good practice to ensure
you know the difference but it will ensure you are up-to-date as to the
range of skills at your disposal for every sales situation assess your
customer knowing when to use hard skills and when to use soft is this much about
knowing your customer as it is about anything some customers want you to stay
on task and get to the point while others need a little more hand-holding
and support on your end taking the time to think about the customer who they are
what they value and what they need more than anything will determine when you
push use hard skills and when you pull use soft skills make a plan with your
lists of skills made and the full analysis of your customers complete you
are ready to make a plan having an idea of how the conversation is going to go
will give you an opportunity to think ahead of time about when to use the hard
skills and when to use the soft for example maybe you are calling on a
customer for the first time so you may want to spend the
first 30 minutes of the conversation using the skills of conversation
building and communication versus if you were calling on an existing customer
where your relationship is solid you may get to the point far more quickly and
use your product knowledge within the first five minutes of conversation
analyze your results when it comes to learning when to use the soft skills and
when to use the hard skills your best teacher is you so take the time to
reflect on your conversations and analyze your results what worked what
did not and where do you need to adjust maybe you need a little more emphasis on
the soft skills or maybe you are wasting your customers time with all that
conversation and you need to stick to the sales process and close the deal
whatever the results this is a work in progress the more you understand the
skills the more you assess your customers and make a plan the stronger
you will become and knowing when to use the soft skills or when to stick to more
technical hard skills you

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