As a sales training organization, we often encounter clients that sell in a more technical environment and ask us a consistent question… Should they hire sales professionals with sales experience and teach them the technical ins and outs of their products; or should they hire technical experts and teach them the core skills needed to sell in today’s marketplace? While the pros and cons of such a comparison will be the topic of a future blog post, today we want to focus on the latter – sales reps who possess advanced technical acumen, but fall short in articulating the benefits of their products to their customers. The problem often lies within a lack of "soft skills" or core selling skills that are required to be successful sales professionals. With today’s post, we’ll analyze those soft skills and how they are directly linked to the outcomes of "core selling skills" such as qualifying prospects, uncovering client needs, and addressing customer objections.
A good communicator shares their ideas and thoughts effortlessly in a manner that is easy for the other person to understand. Those who thrive in sales are individuals who are effective communicators who have precise and accurate interactions with their customers without relying on technical jargon that will likely only confuse or scare away the customer. While someone with a technical background may be completely at ease throwing around technical terms and using them in conversations with their peers and supervisors, it's important to realize that the average customer probably won't have your level of expertise and will likely require you to speak in layman's terms.
That being said, you want to talk at a level that is appropriate to your customer. Pay attention to the language they use. They may surprise you and be just as proficient as you are. If this is the case, you can showcase your technical acumen and not worry that you might be talking above the other person.
Work on Your Emotional Intelligence
We've discussed Emotional Intelligence in the past and the role it plays within the world of sales. To a technical professional, it may seem foreign and superfluous to empathize and build rapport, but people skills can make or break your business relationships. It is important that you remember that your product may not be a strong enough differentiator. Buyers are people and people want to do business with people they like. This means that you could lose a customer to a "nicer" competitor, even if they have an inferior product.
Understand, emotional intelligence is not something that you can acquire overnight. You can't just read about it and expect to master it afterwards. Rather, it is something you need to practice through self-awareness and discipline. It is important to be able to put yourself in the shoes of your customer and understand their point of view. Neuroscientists have discovered more than two decades ago that our brains are wired to experience empathy through an unconscious reaction caused by mirror neurons that are fired in our brains. Some people are gifted with being receptive to these signals, while others struggle in this regard. The good news is, research has shown that this is a skill that can be practiced and acquired. It just takes hard work.
Being an expert in your field often gives you a level of self-confidence. Unfortunately, this can come across as arrogance, especially if the customer is overwhelmed with the solutions offered to them. Don't get us wrong, confidence is a good thing, but it is important that you find a balance and make the customer feel welcome and heard. It is very important that you do not let your frustration and annoyance seep into your tone. And above all, do not let your frustration make you lose your cool when your customer is not able to keep up or shows indecisiveness. As they say, patience is a virtue. Give your customers room to express themselves and promote a dialogue in which the customer feels comfortable opening up to you.
Develop a Growth Mindset
Just because you have the expertise in your field, that does not make you the perfect fit for selling your product. To become a top-selling sales professional, you need to work on your soft skills and be willing to challenge yourself to do better with every customer and sales interaction. As we've said before, sales is an ever-evolving skill and nobody will ever be able to say "I know it all." To think so is naïve and somewhat arrogant. You need to adopt a mindset where you are willing to learn, grow, and change for the better.
Performing at a top sales level is a difficult task that does not come naturally to many. The great thing is that it is something that can be learned through hard work and discipline. Keep the above tips in mind and you will begin to see a difference not only in your sales performance but in your satisfaction level throughout your customer interactions.