Salespeople should consider two categories of strengths and weaknesses when working to improve their effectiveness. The first category includes character traits like integrity, candor, curiosity, discipline, and initiative. These character traits are critical to success in sales, and they can be difficult to develop. The second category includes the skills a salesperson needs to succeed in their profession. These skills are difficult to improve, but they are easier to build than character traits. Here, we will look at how to improve sales skills.
The modern B2B salesperson needs several skills. They need to be able to gain commitments, secure a first meeting, provide insights and perspective, do discovery and diagnose the client's needs, present, negotiate, manage change, and lead their client and their own teams. Any of these is difficult enough to master, however, we know how to improve sales skills. The following five strategies can help you understand how to develop a salesperson’s skills.
Improvement Strategy 1: Determine Which Skill Needs Improvement
The first thing you need to decide is what single sales skill you will focus on. It's a mistake to try to develop multiple skills at one time. When deciding which skill to improve first, choose the one that would create the greatest positive impact on the salesperson's overall results.
As a salesperson continues their work selling, they will gain experience, something that will help them later when they work focus on improving the next skill.
Improvement Strategy 2: Training and Improving the Sales Skill
There are training courses for every sales skill a salesperson might need to improve. This makes it easier to begin improving a specific sales skill, whether it is something as fundamental as prospecting or as advanced as using insights to create value in the sales conversation. Training provides the salesperson with a framework or methodology that lets them better understand what they need to do to produce the outcome they need.
Good training will have the salesperson practicing and role-playing to dial in the skill and to become comfortable with the strategies, tactics, and talk tracks. The more they practice in private, the more confident they'll be practicing in the field.
Training isn't something that you do once. The salesperson who seeks meaningful improvement, and even mastery, should go through the training content several times to build their understanding. Reviewing the training after using it in the field will reinforce the skill and speed their improvement.
Improvement Strategy 3: Practice in the Field
Selling isn't something you can learn from a book or a training course. Training and development tools can only improve your sales skills if you practice them in the field. This makes it more like swimming; you must be in the water to practice. The salesperson needs to use their newly learned behavioral changes in conversations with their prospective clients. Using what their developing skills in the field helps them recognize what is working, what isn't, and what they might need to change. It can take time to dial in the improvement of sales skills. There is no way to develop a sales skill without practicing it.
When sales leaders say training doesn't work, it is because they do check-box training, where there is no follow-up and no requirement to apply the behavioral changes in real situations. This is the only thing that would improve a person’s sales skill after training. Without having to practice in the field, there will be no improvement.
Improvement Strategy 4: Triangulating with Others
It's helpful to have conversations with other salespeople who already have the skill the salesperson is focusing on, or who are working on improving the same skill. By talking about their own experience and comparing it with others, the salesperson acquires knowledge and experience beyond their own. These conversations help them recognize what they may need to change or discover a strategy that might speed up their improvement.
If you are a sales leader or sales manager, you can improve your team's competencies by using your weekly meeting for this conversation. There is nothing more pressing than improving your team's sales effectiveness. The salesperson, armed with new information and a better understanding of how to create the outcome they need, will not only develop the skill, but will also improve their sales results.
Improvement Strategy 5: Coaching to Improve Sales Skills
One way a sales leader or sales manager can help the salesperson develop a sales skill is by coaching them. There are two critical outcomes to coaching. First, a sales manager can explore what the salesperson is doing, and help them find the changes that would improve their skills and results. But what is more important is that coaching lets the sales manager ensure the salesperson is making the behavioral changes that produce better results.
By coaching one skill at a time, the sales manager can help a salesperson level up in one area before moving on to another skill. By stacking these skills over, say, the course of a year, you develop and improve the sales skills and build greater success.
Improving Sales Skills
These strategies for improving sales skills are as good as any you will ever need. But, this process requires time and effort. Those who believe they are too busy to sharpen their saw will find their skills are too dull to create and win new clients.
By determining what sales skill needs improving, training the skill, making the behavioral changes in the field, triangulating with other salespeople, and getting coaching on how best to improve that sales skill, you improve your overall effectiveness. Like anything, selling takes time and experience to master. Those who recognize sales as a craft would do well to improve each of the many skills required for long-term success.