Get ready for 2020: 5 ways to improve your sales skills

Sales skills need constant work. With a new year of prospecting, of winning and closing coming up, with new targets, salespeople need to think about where they can improve and how to get ready for the new year.

According to Rain Group, a global sales training organization, with the right training, closure rates can increase as much as 15% and profit margins on deals closed can go up 12%.

Every salesperson will have different challenges. Or areas where they know they aren’t as confident as they want to be. Whether training is done formally, with the help of a training organisation, or with a manager acting as a mentee, now is a great time of year to sharpen the skills that will help improve win rates in 2020.

5 ways you can improve sales skills for long-term success

#1: Better qualifying questions

How well, or not, you qualify a lead makes a massive difference.

Getting on well with a prospect, having a conversation full of energy and enthusiasm can break up a dull day. However, it won’t move the needle and get you closer to hitting targets if a prospect isn’t a good fit. In order to work this out, you need to qualify them.

There are dozens of out-of-the-box questions you can use, in almost any scenario, for any potential client. The trick is finding the right questions to align around the needs of your process and the sort of clients you want to win. Here are a few examples of questions that work well in a range of scenarios:

  1. What problem are you trying to solve?
  2. What roadblocks have you encountered trying to solve it so far?
  3. What happens if it isn’t solved?
  4. Do you have a budget for a solution?
  5. What kind of timescale are you hoping for a resolution/ROI?
  6. What do you personally gain or lose if this is solved, or isn’t solved?

Qualifying leads is about identifying challenges, understanding what is at stake, making sure there is a budget (and owner/C-suite support) and getting a clear handle on how important this is to a potential client.

If you have a lot of leads that never go anywhere, it could be that they aren’t being qualified effectively. Asking the right questions and practicing active listening would go along way towards solving these problems.

#2: Improved follow-up process

Following-up is one of the least enjoyable, but most important skills salespeople can practice. You need to get good at it.

More often than not, a lead won’t covert straight away. Nor will they convert on the 2nd or 3rd follow-up, either. Persistence always pays off.

We recently published an article on this, including templates for a range of scenarios, such as sending an email after a trade show or leaving a voicemail. * > Link to article #2

#3: Make everything a process

Alongside improving how you follow-up, have you given much thought to the process you follow? Do you have a process?

In sales, it’s too easy for everything to get overwhelming. Juggling calls and meetings and demos. Sending dozens of emails and messages, even texts to prospects, depending on the methods of contact they prefer. Everything can get awfully busy!

Thinking about how you work, and how to work more effectively can help you implement a working process to improve efficiency. Help yourself to keep on top of things. Make more effective use of a CRM and a Calendar app to plan reminders for following-up, for making a fixed number of outbound calls and messages every day, preparing proposals, and keeping up-to-date with admin tasks. Reduce overwhelm with a more efficient process for managing your time.

#4: Review sales calls/demos

How often do you review calls and demos?

Does your company record them?

With software such as Refract, sales teams can record calls and use AI-powered tools and coaching to review and improve future calls and demos. No matter how much software we use, coaching and training is always going to be an essential part of sales performance improvement.

Going over call recordings and actively listening to feedback is how salespeople improve. Coaching done the right way can be a big boost to performance and outcomes.

#5: Handling objections

During every sales call, demo or meeting, there are always objections that are going to come up. When a prospect doesn’t raise any, there is a good chance they aren’t that interested.

So, prospects who ask questions and throw objections your way are ones you want to engage with. It shows they are interested. It shows they are thinking about challenges and potential problems. It pays, therefore, to be ready to handle these.

Take time to prepare. Have a list of questions to qualify them and understand pain points. And from these, pull out the most frequently cited objections and come up with suitable answers. Have these answers ready, on a sheet in front of you on a call, so that you can more effectively respond to objections and encourage prospects to move forward.

Sales skills need constant work and improvements. Nothing in sales ever comes easily. So take this time, as the year is winding down and plans are being put in place for a new year to review where more work is needed and take action to prepare.