Professional Selling Skills
The Top Ten


What sets the top the sales performers apart from the rest ?

It’s not just enough to know what these selling skills are, they need to be practiced and honed: until they become a habit, until you can do them without even thinking, until you are Unconsciously Competent at them.


What do I mean by unconsciously competent?

Think back to when you started to ride a bike.
It looked easy when you saw older children do it, didn't it?
At that point you were unconsciously incompetent.

Then you tried to ride for the first time.
Not as easy as it looked was it.
You wobbled and swayed and probably fell.
Then you became conscious of your incompetence.

Then you practiced and tried and had help and practiced.
Then if you thought about what you were doing really hard and kept reminding yourself to do this and do that, you could ride!
Ahhh. You were consciously competent.
That means you could do it if you kept thinking about what you were doing and didn’t get distracted.

After a while your self-talk subsided and you could relax on a bike and ride with friends and talk as you were riding along.
It was as easy as walking.
You could do it without thinking.
That, my friends is unconscious competence.

So, keep in mind that the star sales performers probably do many of the things below without thinking about it. It’s just the habits they have acquired over the years.


1. Outcome Setting

The best salespeople probably make fewer sales calls - but better ones.

They understand that the best persuasion techniques in the world work much better with some planning behind them.

They focus a lot of effort on preparing for a call.
They determine the logical next step for each meeting.
Then, working backwards, they think about what they need to do to make this outcome a reality.
They look at every idea they come up with from their customer's perspective.

They think: “If I said or did this, how would my customer interpret it or react?”
Then they make changes before the call to increase their chances of success.

Before they walk into a meeting they know exactly what they want from the meeting and have thought about what their customer wants.

They have made sure that these Outcomes are “Well-Formed Outcomes” and they have thought through possible differences in their customer’s thinking and how to phrase or adjust their offer to be more in line with the customer’s outcome.

This is probably one of the most overlooked practices of the elite sales person.

For more discussion about this see Persuasion Article #8.
(Free Persuasion Article button on your left.)



2. State Control

If you are in a good state of mind, your language will flow easier, you'll gain rapport instantaneously, you will sound more convincing and you'll get the information you want faster.

The skill is being able to master your state so that it doesn’t matter if you’ve just been booked for speeding, had an argument with your partner or been in a car accident, when you walk into the sales meeting you are focused on the client.

Focused enough to sense the client’s mood and if their mood is down and you’re feeling “on top of the world” you are capable of toning down your mood to be only a little more upbeat than them. (You can gradually improve their mood once you establish rapport.)

For coaching on how to control your state you can contact me by clicking on the Sales Coaching button to your left.


3. Rapport

Rapport is the process of establishing and maintaining a relationship of mutual trust and understanding between two or more people.

I would also like to suggest that being in Rapport with someone is like getting the attention of their unconscious mind.

The real test for rapport is the degree to which a person is responsive and open.

When people are in rapport there is mutual responsiveness.

If someone is hesitant, uncooperative and reluctant to communicate, it is highly likely that rapport is not sufficiently deep for the person to be open.

A really good salesperson can reach this level of rapport quite quickly with almost anyone.

This is probably the most under-trained professional selling skill.

How important is rapport to the sales process?

The professional selling skill of Rapport is one of the most important selling skills.

Sharon Drew Morgan in her book “Sales on the Line” writes,
“There are three ways to make a sale: Rapport, Rapport and Rapport. No matter how good your product is, how good your questions are, if you are out of Rapport with your buyer then there won’t be a sale.” (Morgan, p.58)

Yes, sales rapport is that important !


4. Time & Self Management

Most salespeople are out on the road. Often, without someone to keep them organised.

Top salespeople plan their time;

  • they use their diaries extensively
  • they focus on the priorities
  • they are disciplined
  • they remember to bring their sales aids with them
  • they carry change for the parking meter or motorway
  • they always have business cards with them
  • they always carry a pen and notebook
  • they are on time
  • they are organised.

I couldn’t count the number of sales I won by “jumping the gun”.
What I mean is that I knew how much stock the client had and their use pattern, so I made a note in my diary to make sure I contacted them well before their reorder date and often I had the sale before the opposition had even been in contact with them.

For coaching on how to manage your time you can contact me by clicking on the Sales Coaching button to your left.


5. Listening

Listening Skills are essential if you want to be a good salesperson.

Listening shows respect for your client.
It also allows you to hear what’s really important to them and to spot needs when they arise.
It also allows you to learn more about the customer themselves.

An old sales manager of mine used to say,
“You have two ears and one mouth; use them in that ratio!”

It is easier to listen if you have planned a series of questions to ask BEFORE you go into the sales call.
That way, you are free to concentrate on listening to your client, rather than thinking about the next question to ask.

Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to, to be absolutely sure you know what your customers wants.
Repeat back to them your understanding of their situation and confirm it before you proceed.

For more discussion about the Professional Selling Skill of listening see Persuasion Article #4


6. Questioning

The questions you ask your prospect should be aimed at finding their pain (i.e. their problem) and how big a problem it is.
You can then ask questions that focus on the effects of the problem, which in turn focuses the prospect on all the benefits they would gain in solving the problem.

Many sales trainers and books focus on the above but few even mention the professional selling skill of really understanding your prospect.

While you are establishing the above information you should also be asking questions to gain more information about your prospect:

  • what’s important to them,
  • how they think,
  • how they recognise a good deal.

For more discussion about this see Persuasion Article #4


7. Language

Successful sales people are very good at the use of language.
You can often spot an elite salesperson just by listening to their language.

They are very good at reframing an objection to appear like a benefit.
They can use language to minimise a shortcoming of their product and make the benefits of their offering seem more important in the eyes of their prospect.
They use language to control the focus of their prospects attention.

I have written four issues of my eZine that refer to some specific examples of the artful use of language.

Take a look at this information:

  • Persuasion Article #2
  • Persuasion Article #3
  • Persuasion Article #23
  • Persuasion Article #25



8. Handling Objections

Uncovering and handling objections is one of the most important professional selling skills a salesperson can have.

Click here for more information on handling objections.


9. Closing Skills

There are hundreds of closing methods. The ones I list below are used often.

Do you know the:

  • Order Blank Close?
  • Alternative Choice Questions Close?
  • Ben Franklin Balance Sheet Close?
  • Scarcity Close?
  • Minor point Close?
  • Judger / Perceiver Close?

The Judger / Perceiver Close can be extremely effective if used correctly and on the right person.

For coaching on how to use the Judger/Perceiver Close you can contact me by clicking on the Sales Coaching button to your left.

Hang on, that's only NINE !

Well, I actually hinted at the tenth skill at the very start of this page.


10. Practiced.

The most professional salespeople practice ALL the skills mentioned above.

They practice until they are masters at them.

Until they have unconscious competence.


These skills are very relevant in business-to-business sales where you are selling to professional buyers.
And growing your small business sales through exceptional sales skills is a necessary part of business.

I sincerely hope these suggestions on the professional selling skills you need to develop help you further Your Sales Success.

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