Have you ever heard, “Successful sales people are born with a gift for sales.” ?
This belief rests on the assumption that success in sales relies on some special talent granted at birth. However, this does not fit our experience. It may be true that some people are born with ‘talent’, meaning an abundance of charisma and ease with people. Charisma may help close some sales. However, we find that successful sales people, those who are top in their field year after year, work diligently to develop their sales skills regardless of their starting capability.
Talent or Skill?
At this point in training discussions, people often ask: “Talent or skill. What’s the difference?” To answer this question, let’s define some terms.
- Talent – A marked innate ability, as for artistic accomplishment
- Skill – Proficiency, facility, or dexterity that is acquired or developed through training or experience.
The difference is pretty simple. Talents are natural abilities. Skills are acquired or developed abilities.
Let me make one thing clear. Talent (charisma / personality) will help make sales. However, those depending upon talent tend to ‘shoot from the hip’ when making a sales presentation. This results in a very entertaining presentation. The sales professional may seem to be able to ‘sell ice to eskimos’. Unfortunately, the majority of prospects cannot follow this type of presentation. Most people want a logical progression of information backed up by solid data. So, although the client may like the sales professional personally, they may actually purchase a similar product from someone else.
What I love about sales skills is that anyone can master them and become successful in sales. Mirriam-Webster defines a skill as:
A learned power of doing something competently : a developed aptitude or ability
Notice that a skill is something learned or developed. Hence, with the assistance of a qualified trainer and measured practice, those who have the desire to apply themselves toward mastering the task will succeed.
When I lead training sessions or have less experienced sales professionals ride along on sales calls with me, I often hear that I have a “great talent for sales.” I take the comment as a genuine compliment, and I might even agree with it if I did not know where I began in sales. This is because, except for my persistence and drive, the words and actions people see in me today bear no resemblance to what they would have seen in my performance when I started in sales. For example, I now speak about and give my absolute best effort to model:
- Focusing on benefits to my client
- Active listening
- Allowing time for the client to speak
- Working to connect with my client
- Giving my clients the time they need to reach a decision.
When I first entered sales, someone watching my sales calls would have seen me:
- Focusing on product features
- Speaking more than I listened
- Interrupting my clients
- Pushing to close the sale
- Growing impatient when clients wanted to collect more information or “think it over.”
Basically, I started with very few of the positives and nearly all of the negatives. The one thing I really had in my favor was persistence. I initially got results because I kept going in the face of rejection. My closing ratio was low, but I made lots of sales calls.
Consequently, I was frustrated by the scant sales I acquired relative to the enormous amount of time and effort I was exerting. Over time, I began to see that I just couldn’t do any more work in the time I had. Therefore, I had to find a way to improve my results. Better results required cultivating a more effective sales process and developing greater skills for:
1. First, you must have leads: I remember hearing someone say, “Just keep throwing mud on the wall. Some of it will stick.” No! You just waste time and end up with a dirty wall. Unfortunately, driving all over town searching for someone to listen to your presentation is usually a waste of time and gas. Don’t equate being busy with productivity. It is more effective to prequalify the leads you pursue. Above all, develop a lead generation process which includes leveraging LinkedIn, quality referrals, and industry specific leads.
2. Next, you must turn your leads into appointments: “Let your fingers do the walking” and develop the skills to book appointments on the phone. In addition, discover how to navigate the gatekeeper and reach decision makers. I’ve created a proven system for booking appointments on the phone. Making only 10-20 outbound calls per day will keep your calendar full and your pockets ‘fuller’.
3. Reading prospects: Become a student of human behavior and improve your communication skills. Furthermore, discover how to connect with prospects and clients for closing more deals and developing long term, repeat business. Likewise, I’ve learned to not only care about my customers needs, but to show that I care. It may look natural, but trust me it is not. I had to really work on me to develop these skills. After I learned and began to apply the DISC Model of Human Behavior in the way that we teach today, my closing ratio skyrocketed.
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4. Develop a simple, short, and logical sales presentation: I call this your ‘core story’. Your core story should be dominated by your client talking, not you. Most noteworthy, you can achieve this by asking relevant questions. Above all, design questions that will reveal the pain your client may be experiencing. Situations that will cause them to purchase a product/service from you.
5. Close the deal: Closing is the sales skill set that most sales professionals focus on. Yet, closing is the natural conclusion to a sales process that began with the first contact. Therefore, do not depend on one or two closing techniques. In addition, avoid being discouraged if you cannot close your prospect at the first meeting. Closing the deal may take several days/weeks/months or only a few minutes. Certainly, the study of human behavior will help you determine which time frame and approach will be best for each individual.
5. Finally, remember to follow up: The purpose of follow up is three fold. a) Make sure the client is satisfied with the product. Answer any questions regarding the use, installment, or difficulty with the product. b) Secure future sales including cross selling. c) Attain quality referrals. Certainly, this is the lifeblood of your business.
By improving my effectiveness through skill development, I improved my results without working harder or longer.
Improving my skills was the key element. I read books and went to sales seminars. My success was a result of becoming a student of sales.Gain an unfair advantage over your competition by tuning the Sales Edge Podcast. It is a free, bi-weekly dive into the skills needed for success in sales.
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I still work hard and long to achieve success, but now my effectiveness has improved to the point that many people see me perform at an unconsciously competent level in the sales arena. Because I know the effort that went into developing my skills, I realize that what looks like natural talent to others is actually a highly polished set of skills.
Lots of sales people eventually burn-out due to excessive rejection, long hours, or both. Most people don’t have the stomach for tolerating rejection that I have. And most people don’t want to develop the thick skin necessary to put up with it. As a result, many otherwise great sales people give up their dreams of success when they reach the burn-out stage. I want to give people the tools to overcome that challenge before they reach burn-out.
The good news
Everyone can develop the skills. I’m willing to share what I’ve learned so that they don’t have to go through the same amount of rejection I faced before I learned these skills. I don’t have a monopoly on what it takes to be great as a sales professional. I’ve just learned to apply some really powerful, practical, and effective ideas to the sales process. Anyone with the desire to work on themselves and grow personally can learn what I’ve learned. It really doesn’t matter where people start, as long as they view sales as a profession and invest the effort necessary to learn and perfect the skills.