3 Sales Skills That Can Transform Your Life

Sales is a wide and seemingly limitless world. There are so many tips and nuggets of advice everywhere you turn – sometimes it’s hard to sift through and find the gold.

We have found the below three simple skills to be highly effective – they can be applied to any part of your life and they are particularly vital when you work in sales.

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1. Active listening

“Seek first to understand and then be understood”

From the Taoist masters of two thousand years ago, to Steven Covey’s celebrated 7 habits of Successful People, this is well known and yet so infrequently authentically put into practice.

To really truly listen is an act of empathy and emotional intelligence, to not judge and continue to fully gain understanding of your client, is quite simply trust building. Our ability to maintain our full attention without being distracted or interrupting a client or prospect can make the difference between success and failure.

One client, the Head of Purchasing with a luxury car manufacturer, would often repeat what he wanted from sales people. It was quite simply “to ask me questions and listen to the answers!” He was often infuriated by the autobiographical style of many sales people.

One Senior Manager at a space agency was given the label of “transmitting device” by his teams, who felt they never had a voice or the chance to respond

So how can we be a truly active listener? Mark McCormack in his book “What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School” devotes a whole chapter to the first key, which is SILENCE. Learning to become happy with silence is vital.

I first experienced this when I sold a training contract to a global IT company, at the final contract signing the wise buyer looked me in the eyes with the contract in front of him, smiling holding the pen above the page. He smiled at me for 1 minute in total silence, I smiled back and our eyes locked and waited until he eventually signed and shook my hand with an even wider smile! That was the start of a long and fruitful partnership, I was 30 at the time he was in his 50’s and he was clearly having fun, testing and teasing all his suppliers in the same way. The power of silence is an essential sales tool and normally 2 or 3 seconds can be enough. For example when you have presented your offer to a prospect, ensure you leave time for them to respond, don’t oversell. The next skill is the following point and follows a logical sequence from Active Listening.

2. The Acknowledgement

The verbal receipt to show you are really listening.

Once you have used silence and Active Listening, you need to show you are not just day dreaming and you are fully engaged, from a simple “yes” to “I really appreciate you telling me” this tool can dissolve conflict and lead to more respect and understanding.

In my university days I was working as a bouncer in a nightclub when a rugby team decided they wanted to come in. The door was shut and yet they tried together to charge at and attempt to break down the door. After the third attempt the door was struggling and it was time to act, I told my colleague to open the door and directly close it leaving me alone facing a drunken pack of forwards getting ready for another charge. I told them how strong they were and had very nearly smashed the door down, delighted by this acknowledgement of their prowess, they smiled and calmed a little, once I had let them know the club was full and nearly closed for the night, they staggered off singing. My colleague was amazed and only later in life I realised that the acknowledgement had transformed a very hazardous situation. They key was it was honest and directly applied to them, so if it works with a drunken rugby team it can certainly help in any situation. And finally…

3. The Power of Questions

Keep on asking, never assume!

Preparation is the key to really understanding your prospects and customers. You must be willing to go beyond the superficial and go for total understanding. Often your questions can actually help the client to realise what they really need. If you have prepared 5-10 key questions in advance of a meeting you don’t have to dream them up and it will provide you more time to actually listen. A simple way to ensure you keep on asking is TED Tell – Explain – Describe. By starting your question with these words you open up your questions without having to think too much about your next question (Which also means you are not listening) and in a natural way you will learn so much more about your clients.

The above three skills will transform your life. Really. Start with these three, and they will put you in the best position to explore the hundreds of other sales tips out there.

Our training solutions focus on simple skills, like the above, combined with your natural abilities and natural style. Contact us to discuss how we can create a specialised programme to help you sell better, and more!

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