Over the years, I've listened to dozens of pundits and trainers explain what it takes to be successful in sales. Here's what they've told me, distilled to its essence:
1. How to research prospects and their industries.
Use the web to discover how your potential customers view their business and how they serve their own customers.
2. How to differentiate between hot and cold sales leads.
Apply a set of criteria for who's likely to buy, based upon your past experience of who has bought in the past.
3. How to start a conversation with a prospect.
Whether you're cold calling or following up a referral or web access, you must be able to capture a stranger's interest.
4. How to ask questions that move the sale forward.
You'll need to gradually uncover information, not through interrogation, but through the natural give-and-take of conversation.
5. How to listen more than you talk.
Even if you've got a lot to say, you must always remember that selling is mostly about the customer and not you or your firm.
6. How to cultivate a budding opportunity.
In every sales situation there is a season: a time to plant, a time to reap, a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.
7. How to recognize that a prospect is NOT interested.
Don't let your daydreams of glory keep you from seeing the harsh reality of a prospect who's simply not going to buy.
8. How to clarify a customer's problems and opportunities.
Customers usually have an idea of what they need; it's your job to diagnose and address the roots of that need.
9. How to neutralize a competitive threat.
From the start, you must communicate what's unique about your firm's solution, so that it becomes the only real option.
10. How to transcend objections to buying.
Prospects who want to buy will surface objections to make certain it's the right decision. Your job is to help them see clearly.
11. How to build trust through working with people.
Trust must be earned through consistency and integrity, both of which only reveal themselves over time.
12. How to enthrall an audience.
When you're asked to present to a group of people, you can't just run down the bullet points. You want them "eating out of your hand"!
13. How to perceive when a customer is ready to buy.
Prospects who want to become your customers give off signals (green lights) that they're ready for you to close the deal.
14. How to ask for the business (aka close the deal.)
Even if you're getting all the "green lights," you still must summon the courage to ask, even at the risk of losing the sale.
15. How to create a long-term customer relationship.
It costs time and money to drum up new business. It's cheaper and easier to sell to people who already know your worth.
16. How to get your firm's support staff on your side.
No salesman (or woman) is an island. Your ability to serve the customer depends upon the other people in your firm.
17. How to get a referral after you've closed the deal.
If your customers are truly delighted, they'll send their friends and colleagues your way. Especially if you ask.
18. How to stay positive even when your numbers aren't.
Even if you possess every skill on this list, there will be times when selling is tough. It will take inner strength to keep you going.
19. How to feel and express true gratitude.
Success in sales (and indeed in every job) is totally failure unless you're feeling and expressing thanks to those who've helped you.