Every sales rep I know is constantly looking for ways to up their game and improve their sales skills.
And while it’s often about employing some awesome new tech tool or learning the latest closing technique, you can get a lot more out of your prospects and clients simply by getting a ton more out of the basics.
With this in mind, I sat down with Joseph Fung, CEO of sales bootcamp Uvaro. He’s a repeat founder who has been building and selling software for decades, and he shared with me the three top sales skills reps should be constantly practicing and building on.
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We all research our prospects to some extent – but how many of us are really getting as much out of our research as we possibly can?
“Most sales reps don’t go deep enough, and really strong research skills are often overlooked,” says Joseph.
“If you focus on discovery, questions, salesforce, then you lose track that the more you know about the market and the more you know about the buyer the more successful you’ll be.”
So how can sales reps upskill their research?
According to Joseph, it’s less about a technique, and more about a frame of mind.
“A lot of people come to the problem thinking about personalisation,” he says. “How quickly can I get the company size, the name, the title, so I can personalize my pitch? But really good research skills go deeper.”
When researching, Joseph says sales reps need to remember the following.
Next, sales reps must take the mindset of being curious and developing an opinion, Joseph advises.
“Let’s imagine you’re selling to a HR professional at an airport – if you know what’s happening in their market, you have an opinion on it, and you’re being curious about it, you’re going to take your deals way further because you suddenly have way more street cred than other sales rep they chat with.”
Your contact might be the leader at a magnificent software company, but at the same time, there’s so much more to life than what they do on the job.
“Often, sales reps see someone as just the role, if they’re calling into just a CEO or a CFO, they let that set up a barrier,” Joseph says. “Being really good at seeing someone as a real person and treating them as such can help your sales conversations move forward much more effectively.”
How can sales reps go about this?
Of course there’s the low hanging fruit: the sports teams, the hobbies, the favorite musicians.
But according to Joseph, a great technique is to dig into the story behind your company’s discovery questions.
“If you’re a sales rep, your sales leaders will give you really good discovery questions,” he notes. “’Hey customer, you’re thinking about this and it’s impacting you this way, right?’ – well, take the time to unbox that.”
Sales reps should ask themselves: Why is that actually likely to be important to them?
“As a person, why do those things really matter to them? You have a great asset in your discovery questions, so don’t just memorize them, take the time to dig into them,” he says.
Reps should also practice learning about things that don’t interest them, he says, because – let’s face it – not every topic is going to thrill you, but it could be a great conversation starter that allows your contact’s humanity to emerge, even in the most corporate setting.
“Everyone says [be authentic] as a platitude, but if you can actually hone that skill, taking your personal interests, and baking that into the way you sell – it can have such an amplifying effect on your activities,” says Joseph.
He explains that if sales reps are passionate within their roles, they’re going to see “way more” success than those who treat it as if it’s just a job.
“Figuring out your why, your passion, and then baking that into your work is super critical, and it separates out the good reps from the great reps.”
“Measuring someone living their why, living their purpose, that’s a really tough thing,” says Joseph. “There are a few things you can do to help out, such as increasing research before reaching out.”
He underlines that a “really good measure” is the conversion, from reach out to discovery, or from discovery to the next step.
“Consistently, across the board, what we see is that groups that do really good research have a higher conversion rate,” he says. “And so when you fold those together, by holding your team accountable to that conversion rate, from a discovery call to your next demo to that next meeting, that conversion rate will help you assess that.”
When it comes to working on more personal items, Joseph recommends that sales leaders simply have their teams record them.
“One of the things we see great teams do is measure success, not just in closing the deals, but in terms of meaningful milestones,” he says.
“So in terms of wins, thank yous, kudos, gratitudes – that can be as easy as a Slack channel where you share those wins and stories. Or it can be in your sales engagement tool, what you choose to mark as a success.”
The first step, he says, doesn’t have to be tricky. By simply getting your team to think about and track their own metrics, you’re on the way to some super useful sales insights.