Sales Skills: 18 Skills Every Salesperson Should Master

The sales profession is undergoing some pretty radical changes. The buyer is in charge, field sales is moving inside, technology is transforming the profession. It’s so bad that some people are predicting that 15M sales jobs will disappear in the coming years. To survive in this environment, salespeople need a new set of  skills. Here at TOPO, identified a core set of 18 sales skills by analyzing these trends and watching what makes some of the world’s best salespeople successful in the new sales environment. The best salespeople:
  1. Understand what the buyer wants
  2. Sell in a buyer-responsive manner
  3. Use psychology to engage the buyer
  4. Establish trust with the buyer
  5. Communicate succinctly
  6. Act on what the customer is saying
  7. Demonstrate subject matter expertise
  8. Help (as opposed to close) their prospects
  9. Tell really compelling stories
  10. Are great copywriters
  11. Sell effectively over the phone
  12. Are socially active with target buyers
  13. Personalize their interactions
  14. Use a variety of marketing skills
  15. Help prospects achieve next steps
  16. Are more productive because of sales technology
  17. Tie daily activities to quota achievement
  18. Manage their pipeline like a portfolio
Here’s some detail on each of the aforementioned sales skills.

Why You Should Let the Buyer Design Your Sales Organization

Every organization needs to map their target buyer’s buying experience before they make any decisions about the design of their sales and marketing function. TOPO came to this realization as we worked with clients over the last year to solve vexing challenges in their sales and marketing organizations. A client would come to us and ask a critical sales or marketing question. While we offered best practices and strategies to the client, most of these questions were best answered by their buyers. For example, marketers would often ask “What content types do buyers prefer?” or “What content will really convert?” The more questions we heard, the more we realized: The buyer is the best person to answer this question. The buying experience will tell you how your buyers want to buy. This insight will allow you to properly design your sales and marketing organization to deliver the buying experience your buyers want. As a matter of fact, our research has found that the buying experience is more important than product and price. Homayoun Hatami, co-leader of the Sales Growth practice at McKinsey, provides his take on the importance of providing a buyer-centric sales experience: “Sophisticated customers are not interested in traditional sales models. They demand faster, more seamless, and even enjoyable sales experiences.”

Heidegger, Twilio, and Apple Retail Therapy: The Best Posts We Read This Week

A handful of the best posts we read this week… Ever wonder why an unhappy customer is so much more outspoken than a happy one, particularly online? It turns out that anger is simply more viral than happiness. Anger is More Viral than Joy Marketers are trying to take a more customer-centric approach, but are missing a key point – what Martin Heidegger called “being-in-the-world”. What are Users Up to When they Have an Experience

The Buying Experience: The Most Important Thing in Sales and Marketing

The buying experience is the most important thing in sales and marketing. To understand how something you’ve likely never heard of can be so important, let’s look at something Steve Jobs once said:
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology – not the other way around.”
While Steve wasn’t talking about sales and marketing specifically, we can apply his fundamental point to everything a company does. In fact, Steve’s experience-first point is especially applicable to sales and marketing. At TOPO, our research shows that delivering a great experience to prospective buyers has the biggest impact on whether or not they will buy something from you. The overall buying experience actually outranks product and price. It’s a surprising, counter-intuitive data point that got me thinking that the Steve Jobs quote could be remixed into something like:
“You’ve got to start with the buying experience and work back to the revenue – not the other way around.” 
The experience-first approach works. Our benchmarking shows that companies that deliver great buying experiences grow twice as fast as companies that deliver average experiences. This faster growth is just a byproduct of the buying experience’s ability to deliver more traffic, higher conversion rates, larger average deal sizes, shorter sales cycles, lower churn, and more customer referrals. It’s nothing more than providing buyers with what they want – a great experience – and then watching critical revenue metrics improve as a result. What could be more important than that?

Hemingway, Humans, and Champions: The Best Posts We Read This Week

A handful of the best posts we read this week… We’ve long believed that CRM will become a “living, breathing” app where data self-populates, self-recommends, and self-updates. Darian Shirazi outlines a compelling vision for the future of CRM. The CRM Of The Future Will Recommend New Customers To You Automatically A lot of people have asked why we spend so much time blogging. It’s because some of the world’s fastest growing companies create content before building and launching their product. How To Build Your Audience Well Before Launching Your Product

Always Be Helping: Why Always Be Helping is the New Always Be Closing

“Always be helping is the new always be closing”. In 2009, I coined this phrase during some long-winded, long-forgotten webinar on how the internet was changing consumer behavior. It was a pithy attempt to explain how companies would need to adapt their sales and marketing efforts in a world where the buyer was clearly in control. A recent search for the phrase “always be helping” shows that a number of really smart marketers have jumped on the bandwagon, using it as a battle cry for a new way to engage customers. It’s validation of a powerful concept, but thus far, always be helping (or ABH) has been just that – nothing more than a concept. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to explore how sales and marketing can put the concept of always be helping into practice. Here are ten ways that you can put always be helping to work in your organization:

Content Selling Tactics: Introducing Champion Content

Content selling is the practice of leveraging content to support sales as they facilitate the buyer’s progression through their buying process. Sales is trained to understand who the buyer is, where they are in the process, and what they need. Once they understand those factors, they use content, along with some strategically designed sales plays, to help move the buyer along. This approach is fundamentally different to the standard “close-close-close” approach and it works. Greg Alexander from Sales Benchmark Index is a major proponent of content selling and he told me in an interview that sales leaders who have adopted this approach are typically at 150% of quota and have a job expectancy rate of 3-4 years (versus the more typical 18 months). He has said on numerous occasions: “In the future, a piece of great content will outsell an average sales rep. The self-directed buyer will begin to make complex purchases with zero rep involvement. Scary for some. Exciting for others.”

Give vs Take, Loyalty, and the FBI: The Best Posts We Read This Week

Here are some of the best posts we read this week: Much of marketing and sales  comes down to deciding when to give and when to take. Are you a giver or a taker? Sales people who have a strong desire to help generate 50% more revenue than their peers. In the Company of Givers and Takers “People remember the feeling more than they remember the price”. A great cartoon(!) on what what really drives customer loyalty. Print it out and pin it up! Loyalty Is… Last month’s post on customer engagement continues to be one of our most read. Inspired by the FBI’s Robin Dreeke, it showcases 10 techniques that sales and marketing can use psychology to create deeper engagement with customers. Customer Engagement:  How Marketing and Sales Can Use Psychology to Drive Engagement

Marketing Careers: The 12 Habits Required for a Great Career in Marketing

At TOPO, we work with some of the world’s best marketers. Over the years, we’ve recognized a number of shared habits and traits that these marketers possess. One of the most common traits that successful marketers exhibit is that they’ve given real thought to their marketing careers. While a marketing career can last 40 years or more,  most marketers don’t spend enough time thinking about their careers in the long run. That’s understandable given that most professionals are busy satisfying the daily requirements of their current job. But there are some simple habits that marketers can develop to greatly improve the odds of having a long, rewarding career in marketing.

Sales and the Buyer: Why Sales Misunderstands the Buyer

About 40% of sales people miss their number. Most sales executives and thought leaders cite classic issues like low quality leads, poor sales execution, and bad forecasting when trying to explain why such a large percentage of sales people underachieve. But often there’s a bigger issue at work that’s the root cause of the aforementioned challenges. That issue is sales people’s inability to understand what the buyer is really doing as they work their way to a purchase. There are a number of psychological and behavioral issues that cause sales people to misunderstand the buyer, but there are also a number of techniques you can employ to overcome these biases.