Selling isn't the easiest craft to learn. In B2B sales, selling is a series of complex, dynamic conversations about change and better results. It takes time to develop conversational selling and even more time to acquire the experience that will eventually let you create value for your prospects and your clients. There are, however, ways you can speed the process of learning sales.
Before we explore several strategies, it's important to know that there is no way to cheat the process of effective selling. You can never become a great salesperson without selling. You may encounter supposed shortcuts to improve your win rates. For example, I’ve seen so-called research that claims that using curse words can help you close more deals. Avoid such nonsensical advice. Like any other craft you may have mastered, you can expect learning sales to be similar. You must practice.
Learning Strategy 1: Learn a Model Sales Approach
There are people who still teach and train techniques that are more than half a century old, so you may not be able to avoid being taught a legacy approach to sales. These approaches evolved when things were different, and they have lost their power. The modern environment and economy require a different approach. It’s a waste of time to learn a sales approach that is no longer useful to salespeople or their buyers. We describe the persistence of legacy approaches by saying that sales is broken.
You are better off learning a modern sales approach that has evolved to center on discussions of what buyers need from salespeople. Even if you are stuck with training in a legacy approach, you can improve your sales skills by reading and studying modern sales approaches and how they differ from what you might learn.
Learning Strategy 2: Spend Time with Successful Salespeople
One of the best and fastest ways to understand the sales conversation is to spend time with great salespeople. You may have to earn your way into joining an experienced salesperson on sales calls. One way to do that is to offer to take notes for the salesperson so they can give their full attention to their contacts.
After a meeting, ask the salesperson who was kind enough to let you join why they asked certain questions, why their contacts asked questions, and how you can learn how to answer them. By working to understand why and how the salesperson talks to their prospective clients, you'll start recognizing what makes a conversation effective.
Learning Strategy 3: Training and Development
The reason you should join salespeople on their calls is because it will help you recognize what you need to learn. If you are working for a company that trains their salespeople, you will have a head start learning sales. Training and development are critical to learning the complex skills to sell effectively.
You can also work on training and development on your own. You can read books, watch videos online, or take courses, which are available free or with a nominal investment. Sales success in individual, offering you the ability to chart your own path as you learn. Those who pursue mastery have always developed themselves, even if their company provides them training.
Learning Strategy 4: Start Selling
You can never learn to sell without selling. Books can only help you if you are using what you learned while sitting across from a real, live decision-maker. None of your training will work for you if you don't use it in the field. You may worry that what you learned may not work, but it's important to know that it will take time to master the strategies and tactics you are practicing.
You will make mistakes, botch your talk tracks, fail to create enough value to win deals, and lose to competitors you should have beaten. There is no salesperson who hasn't had these experiences and more. There are, however, ways to do something with these unfortunate experiences and turn them into learning.
Learning Strategy 5: Keep a Sales Learning Journal
The value of a loss is a lesson. Never walk away from a negative outcome without writing down what you learned. When you make a mistake or lose a deal, capture the learning by documenting what happened, what you might have done wrong, or what you were unprepared to address. It's important that you never blame anyone else for your mistakes or your missteps. Every great salesperson has walked this same path, failing, learning, and eventually improving. You can read more about 10 things I learned the hard way.
Your learning journal will cause you to recognize any mistakes and provide you with a guide to what you might do differently in the future. It will also help you track your progress as you improve and begin winning deals.
Putting It All Together
This is how you learn sales. What you need to know when pursuing this path of mastering conversational selling is that you are responsible for creating value for your clients. You need sales strategies and tactics that benefit your contacts as they work towards making decisions that improve their outcomes.
The more you learn how to use a consultative approach, the greater your sales effectiveness. Eventually, your experience will stack up, making you One-Up, allowing you to be a real and valuable partner to your prospective clients because you can teach them what they need to know and what changes they will need to make to reach their goals.
Don't worry about the time it takes to walk this path. No matter how long it might take, it is worth mastering the craft, as it will make every deal easier to win and let you become a trusted advisor to the people and companies you serve.