The No. 1 Sales Skill Needed in a Tech-Dependent World

September 10, 2018

Sales Skills

Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates.

Technology is under more scrutiny these days. Rather than touting new features to draw us deeper into our phones, tablets and online searches, companies like Apple and Google now caution us to ration our time online.

Such suggestions may help liberate sales reps from the increasingly unsustainable pace with which we now connect with clients, prospects, social networks and news sources. But the ability to engage an individual is the foundation for any interaction, virtually or in-person. It also reinforces something I’ve long advocated: The success or failure of any sales professional still occurs offline.

Today’s technologies are important

Today’s technologies do assist sales reps and managers tremendously. Having access to information and insight in near-real time allows us to make better decisions, identify real opportunities and know more about our prospects through research. Social media platforms make it much, much easier to communicate quickly with a broader audience. It amplifies our ability to efficiently collaborate with colleagues, partners, prospects and customers (even if an unintended consequence is sometimes unrealistic expectations of an always rapid response).

Additionally, we now have a better means of managing and tracking metrics and developing data points to back up anecdotes that are part of sales conversations. Emerging tech like artificial intelligence and predictive analytics crunches all that data to set and refine sales strategies and improve prospect engagement during the sales cycle.  

With all that said, any of these options will fall short on results if sales team members haven’t learned the #1 skill for sales professionals: engaging the right people at the right time with the right conversation.

Maximizing your investment in prospecting

No matter how well someone masters technology (and their time using it), the most successful sales reps maximize their investment in rigorously qualifying opportunities, so they don’t waste time talking to “shoppers” rather than bona fide buyers. Sales experts at our organization report about a third of all sales cycles end with no decisions. The rest split between wins and losses. Therefore, reducing or eliminating time talking to the third least likely to purchase will increase sales productivity by as much as 50 percent.

Top sales professionals also diligently prepare for sales calls and meetings, whether planned or impromptu, so that busy executives don’t feel their time is wasted. These reps and managers still make cold calls, but with a greater understanding of the business issues a targeted company is likely facing.  They’ve done their homework and enter conversations appearing both confident and competent.

Establishing credibility is critical in any budding or tenured business relationship. One way to build such credibility, and be seen as a trusted partner, is to have excellent communications skills – and not just those conducted through texts and tweets.

Some sure-fire ways for a sales professional to boost that credibility quotient include:

  • Staying on top of industry trends and a company’s business news to become well informed and able to handle a wide variety of topics and questions.
  • Practicing active listening so the executive you’re engaging with not only feels heard but understood.
  • Developing (and delivering!) engaging value-based stories that support a solutions’ successes.
  • Creating quality, error-free exchanges using any preferred communications channel to both advance and ultimately close qualified opportunities.

Even with the most innovative apps, if sales reps don’t have the interpersonal skills to effectively establish credibility, build trust, and earn the right to explore possible partnerships, those software programs will fail to yield a return on investment.

So, while we wrestle with how to take back control of our tech time, let’s not lose track of the one skill already shown to supercharge your sales efforts – engaging the right people at the right time with the right conversation.

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