It doesn’t matter if you’re a business development rep, an inside sales rep, an outside sales rep, a minor accounts manager or a major accounts manager, there are skills that you need to be successful at every level of your sales career. Now, sure, there’s a ton of skills that you can list along with the ones I’m about to, but I’m a firm believer that if you possess the following, you’re limitless in terms of where your career can take you.
The first skill that you need as a sales rep, regardless of job title, is the ability to prospect. If you don’t do this one well, you’re likely going to have a very hungry family. Prospecting is what fills your pipeline for the future. You need to be able to take a company name and a phone number and hit the ground running. Reps who are great at prospecting know how to break into an account – any account – and create something from nothing. They use all of the tools accessible to them, even if the only one they have is their phone (unlikely, today, that it’s all they have, but still). They know how to manipulate search engines, LinkedIn, and other contact generating solutions to find a number of people to investigate. Whether it’s cold calling (and yes, it’s still very much alive), emailing, or utilizing social media outlets, the ability to successfully prospect into your accounts is needed at every level of sales.
Let’s face it, if you can’t build rapport with prospects, you’re pretty much dead in the water. Think about yourself for a moment: When you’re out at an event and networking, you’ve seen and interacted with those folks that just can’t build rapport. It’s just awkward from the get go; you’re uncomfortable because they’re uncomfortable, and they’re uncomfortable because they either know or don’t realize how terribly uncomfortable they are. Being able to talk with people genuinely and effortlessly is a huge skill that sales reps need, at every stage of their career. We’ve got like, what, 10 – 20 seconds once someone picks up a phone to make a connection? And with email, forget about it…maybe 6 seconds TOPS! You’ve got to be able to click with someone in such a small amount of time that if it’s not natural for you or you’re not that great at it, you’ve got to be honest with yourself and find some help. This is crucial to even having any semblance of a career in sales.
You can prospect and build rapport all you want, but if you can’t listen to prospects, it’s all for not. If you’re just hearing one side of the conversation because you’re too busy prepping your next question, you haven’t listened to anything. Listening is active; it’s intentional. Listening is a skill that, for all intents and purposes, has been seen as the biggest lacking skill for the prototypical sales rep. Unfortunately, because there are so many bad sales reps, we get stereotyped as individuals who are just looking to steamroll people in order to get to the next sale. We’re generalized as people who don’t listen to the needs of their potential customers. However, if you’re good at listening, and pay attention to your prospects, you can show them very quickly how much of a help you can be. Listening affords you the opportunity to really get inside the head of potential customers and see what’s important to them; if they know they’re needs are important to you, you’ll capture their attention when it’s time to talk about your services or solutions.
If you’ve got prospecting, building rapport, and listening in your sales tool-belt, there’s no stopping you. Regardless of where you are along your career, these three skills are absolute must-haves in order to be successful. If you’re lacking in these areas, do yourself (and your prospects) a favor and get some coaching…you’ll thank me for it later.
What about you? What skills do you think transcend all sales titles?