Sales are one of the most important aspects of any business. It is the lifeblood of a company, as sales are the only form of cash inflow that matter in the long run. Is sales talent something you’re born with or can you train employees to excel in sales? This is an age-old question and we have answers.
When I was coming up in marketing in the ’70s, the answer to this question was that some people just had the aptitude for sales. Prospective hires were given tests to determine whether they possessed this magical combination of confidence, extroversion, and high likability that was believed to be the hallmark of all great salespeople. If you ever watched the popular TV show, Mad Men, you observed these executives who were part salesperson and part jingle writers expressing all these traits in spades. The truth is far from this fantasy, anyone can be a successful salesperson with the right training and mindset. In this blog post, we explore the myth of natural sales talent and discuss how anyone can become a successful salesperson.
The myth of natural sales talent
The idea that some people are just born with the ability to sell is a myth. There are no “natural salespeople.” Anyone motivated to can learn the skills and abilities that make someone a successful salesperson. With the right training and mindset, anyone can become a top salesperson. Completing sales is not about being charming or pushy or outgoing or confident. Being a successful salesperson is about understanding the needs of your customer and providing them with a solution that meets those needs. And, these skills are teachable.
Main skills necessary for a good salesperson
There are three main things that you need to be successful in sales: product knowledge, people skills, and perseverance. Product knowledge involves knowing your product lines inside and out so that you can confidently answer any questions a prospective customer has. People skills are the ability to build rapport and relationships with customers, communicate effectively, and empathize with their problems. And perseverance is the willingness to keep going even when things get tough. If you have these three things, training will hone your skills to make you a great salesperson. And, if you need to improve your skills in these areas, training programs can help.
Developing sales talent
Developing sales talent requires you to focus on the skills necessary to make a sale. In this section, we discuss these skills in depth.
Pretty much any job you might desire involves developing your communication skills, which involve listening as well as (or most so than) talking. Ever since you started school, teachers sought to develop both written and verbal communication skills because you need them for everything you do from getting the most from your private life to performing well in nearly any job function. Unfortunately, most schools do a pretty poor job teaching listening skills. In fact, we don’t demand enough from students when it comes to listening.
As an example, any teacher (or professor) will tell you how many times they grew frustrated by students who didn’t perform as expected because they didn’t listen to instructions. I sometimes feel like I should paste “READ THE SYLLABUS” on my office door. As a salesperson, active listening is crucial to success. As you can see below, active listening is more than just hearing what someone else says. It involves truly hearing them, withholding judgment, and more.
Active listening means understanding problems faced by your prospective customer to find a solution that works for them through asking questions, clarifying their response, and summarizing how you can help before going into your sales pitch. This turns the traditional notion of a salesperson as someone who pushes their product on its head. Consultive selling, the name applied to this type of sales, is much more successful because it puts the prospect first and forces the salesperson to find a product that solves a problem.
Empathy is closely related to communication. When your sales talent expresses empathy, they put themselves in the shoes of the customer. This not only helps build a strong relationship and trust, but it also helps the salesperson offer better solutions resulting in higher sales.
A salesperson only interested in meeting quota lacks the sales talent necessary for long-term success with your company. Sales staff require patience to allow a relationship with the customer to build naturally so the customer is ready to commit to a purchase rather than feeling pressured into one. Over time, these relationships allow your company to reap huge rewards beyond making a quick buck.
A salesperson faces challenges in performing well. First, they’re often isolated from the rest of the company for the most part as they call on external customers. Second, they face rejection over and over again. Developing your sales talent means helping them deal with these personal issues to become more resilient.
One of the biggest obstacles that people face when it comes to sales is the fear of rejection. It’s natural to feel nervous when you’re putting yourself out there, but you need to push through that fear and make the sale. The best way to overcome the fear of rejection is to remember that not every customer is going to say yes. You will get rejections, but you can’t let them get you down. Just keep moving on to the next customer, and eventually, you’ll find someone who says yes. Sales is a numbers game, and the more people you talk to, the more likely you are to find someone who wants to buy what you’re selling. That said, it’s a talent worth developing to help salespeople know which prospects are worth their time based on their need for a product, desire to overcome a problem, the money needed to afford the purchase, and the authority needed to sign a sales contract.
The power of no
One of the most important things that you need to learn in sales is how to say no. It may seem counterintuitive, but knowing when to say no is one of the keys to success. There will be times when a customer asks for something that you can’t provide or they’re not ready to buy. In these situations, it’s important to be able to say no and walk away. If you try to force a sale, it will only lead to frustration for both you and the customer. Saying no may feel like you’re giving up, but sometimes it’s the best thing that you can do for both yourself and the customer.
Being a salesperson is almost like running your own small business. You must keep your promises to follow up after a sales call, schedule your day to ensure you are effective in reaching prospects on a schedule, and remember elements of your conversations so you’re prepared to pick up where you left off after your last sales call.
In the old days, and I’m old so I remember these, salespeople kept something called a tickle file in their trunk or at an office. Each prospect and customer had his/her own folder. Each time a salesperson called on the customer/prospect, they read the notes from the last meeting, entered notes from the meeting, and noted any deliverables, such as sending a brochure or following up on an order placed. The file then went back into the tickle file behind the date when the salesperson intended to make the next sales call with the prospect/customer. Each day, he/she had a stack of folders representing the current day’s sales calls.
Of course, technology made such files obsolete. Instead, salespeople travel with a tablet or laptop and use software such as Salesforce to organize all the information and monitor performance against promises for each customer/prospect. The software allows the salesperson to automatically generate a follow-up email confirming everything that happened during their meeting and delivering any promised items. These electronic files also contain personal information, such as anniversaries and birthdays, to automatically generate e-cards as well as links to the customer’s social media profiles or pages so the salesperson can send direct messages or shoutouts to the person or his/her company.
If you’re serious about becoming a successful salesperson or developing the sales talent within your firm, then you need to find a sales coach. A sales coach can help you learn the skills and techniques required of successful salespeople. They can also provide you with the accountability and support you need to stay on track. A sales coach is an investment, but it’s one that pays strong dividends in the long run. If you’re serious about becoming a top salesperson, then find a coach who can help you get there.
You also need a strong program to recruit and train sales talent. Many universities now offer sales courses or entire sales programs. Sending recruiters to hire these folks means you’re starting with new hires who already understand a lot about what it takes for sales success and developed many of the necessary skills. You then need to onboard them, teaching them about your target market, your product line, and how your sales process works, as well as your company sales philosophy.
Sales is an important skill for anyone in business. With the right training and mindset, anyone can become a successful salesperson. If you’re willing to put in the work, then there’s no reason why you can’t be successful in sales.
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