This page is for anyone new to sales and looking to start off on the right foot and needing Sales Skills 101.
The term 101 indicates a beginners course.
So this web page is my ideas on the skills required to be gained by a beginner salesperson.
Keep in mind I sold B2B with specialty products that often required multiple meetings to secure an order.
One of the first things a salesperson must combat when they start is fear.
I was not immune to this when I started selling.
You probably are well aware that It's not easy getting on the phone and talking to people you don't know and trying to get them to part with their money.
Nor is it easy to sit across from a busy buyer, get them to talk to you, any attention to your offer and finally convince them of it’s merits.
It’s often harder when you are young and starting out in sales and all the buyers you call on are your father’s age.
To be honest I got by initially with Enthusiasm, Curiosity and a willingness to Learn.
I would suggest these attitudes would be helpful to you too
My inherent curiosity helped me deal with fear.
I worked for a company that sold multiple products into multiple industries so there was always new things to learn and this fed into my curiosity. When I was in front of customers I was always interested in their manufacturing process and how they did what they did.
What can you be curious about with your prospects?
Another way to combat fear is to know your product very well.
Even though product knowledge is probably only about 15% of making a sale it is important for growing your confidence especially in the early days.
I remember my sales manager had me sitting inside the office for 3-4 weeks when I first started doing nothing but reviewing product literature.
Then what happens once you're talking to a potential customer?
It’s not just your attitude it’s what you say and do.
You need to present your arguments not only confidently but intelligently and knowledgeably.
Likewise you need to ask appropriate questions to identify your customers needs.
This is once again where product knowledge helps.
However, this is only part of it, because all the knowledge in the world won't help you if the customer won't engage in a conversation.
So that's the next step, getting prospects to talk to you and open up.
In the early days I didn't have the skills that I learned later for developing rapport with prospects.
All I used was the old-fashioned method of looking to find similarities between my prospects and myself.
Although not present initially another thing that helped me approach customers was my desire to serve. This became even more prominent later on after I learned about Vinny (the retired salesperson I succeeded) and his attitude of service.
My attitude of wanting to help and that sincerity was sensed by my prospects and helped me get them to be open and honest with me.
From my observations inexperienced sales people :
The other big problem new sales people tend to have is not following a sales process or sometimes, even worse, following a script.
The problem beginners have with scripts is that they are often so focused on the script they do not listen to their prospect.
So if you’ve got the right attitude and the required product knowledge what is the sales process to follow?
Keep it brief.
They are not interested if your company has been in business for 100 years or the history of your founder.
Note: you never make a meeting “to catch up” or becasue “you are just in the area”
You have to have a REASON for taking up their valuable time [and not wasting your own].
If you don’t have a valid reason to see them you are disrespecting them.
Remember, WIIFT, “What’s in it for THEM”
Do you have something new to offer?
Is there some sort of new legislation that’ll affect their product in the marketplace?
The old fashioned way was to look for similarities between you and them but this has issues and it’s also a lot harder to do in these days of CoVid as you can only see their face on your computer screen which gives very little away about their hobbies and interests.
There is a much better way to gain rapport.
Read the good advice from SPINSelling … don’t ask too many situational questions. i.e. Questions that you should already know the answers to from your research BEFORE the call.
If you ask questions they expect you to already know the answers to they’ll get bored and they’ll feel disrespected.
You need to know what questions to ask.
You need to ask in such a way that it does not come across as an interrogation.
You may need to get permission first to write down what they say.
Many salespeople thing this is rude.
On the contrary, it shows your prospects you are interested enough to write down their wants so you can remember them.
It’s a sign of respect. And that helps build rapport.
Note that wants and needs are two different things.
Wants versus Needs
This is where your product knowledge comes into play
At this point you’ll also need to decide on your next action.
It may not be to try to get an order. It may be to get a continuation (e.g. a next meeting)
Explain to them how what you offer is really what they want focusing on how it will benefit THEM and what features of your offering will cause those benefits to ensue for them.
People new to sales often make the mistake of asking for the order too soon.
It’s much better to get a feel for how they are considering your offer.
This is called a Trial Close
In a trial close you are asking for their opinion not the order.
If you ask for the order and get a “No” you may not be able to recover from that so easily.
Sometimes an order is not yet possible but it’s always possible to ask the prospect “what’s our next step”
It does not require any special sales closing technique.
Think about the teller at your local supermarket.
They know you want buy and they just ask, “cash or credit?”
Once you know they want to buy, or are at least interested, (which the trial close will tell you) just ask for the order.
Same if an order is premature but in asking what’s the next step you are effectively moving the sale forward.
The two most important things in dealing with any objection is to first learn to stay cool and not take it personally as a rejection.
Secondly, the idea is to keep your prospect talking.
Ask questions about why they think what you are offering is not what they want and how they arrived at that decision.
This brings up another very important aspect of selling and that is to control your emotions
Knowing your product and the benefits it will offer them will help you answer their questions.
Answering objections is something that improves with time in the job.
What helped me was was willingness to learn.
I was always asking senior salespeople how they handled various objections.
And keeping a record fo the objections you get and the answers you find is part of your future preparation for sales calls.
Are there other things you need to learn as a salesperson new to the job?
Manage your time
In sales you are often your own boss.
There is no time clock.
So, you have to learn to value your own time.
To schedule things and anticipate bottlenecks.
To be organised.
Learn the discipline to follow up.
Nothing will damage your credibility with a prospect or client more than you not following up.
Read about the damage that can cause.
Get things in writing
Verbal orders are recipes for disaster.
Get it in writing.
The person that placed the verbal oder could leave the company.
They could die of a heart attack … whatever
But if it’s in writing on their company’s stationary well that’s a totally different matter.
There may be other things a beginning salesperson should learn but I think the above is a good start.
Here is another sales trainer's ideas about what a beginner salesperson should be looking to do.