In my experience, one of the hardest skills to master as a sales executive is the art of conversation. Most sales reps get into the business of selling because they are personable, friendly and extroverted. In short, they enjoy meeting new people and talking, talking, talking.
Consistent closers know it takes a lot more than good social skills to be a great salesperson. You must also be an excellent listener, have a natural curiosity to want to know more, be incredibly perceptive, be willing and able to challenge others (respectfully) and have a competitive personality.
And, after possessing these qualities, you must excel at having sales conversations, making the most of every opportunity you have to interact with a potential customer. Many more inexperienced reps struggle with this skill, while the most successful sales executives are experts at sales conversations.
Before scheduling a conversation with any prospect you have to do your research. What company do they work for? Where is the company headed? What are their biggest areas of focus? What is this person’s role within the company? Who are they connected to (do you share connections)? What do they post about on social media?
Going into your first conversation with the prospect (even during your initial outreach via phone or email) you should know as much as you can about your prospect, so as to have a more educated conversation. And, whether it’s an in-person meeting or a phone call, at the very least have a digital presentation handy (e.g. on your computer in person, or sent to the prospect via URL for a phone call). It’s good to have this in your “back-pocket” so you can use it if the conversation leads to a more in-depth discussion about your product or company.
One of the biggest mistakes I see rookie sales reps make is they focus too much on talking and thinking about what they will say next that they fail to listen to the prospect. This is a massive mistake. You can’t have an intelligent conversation with someone without listening to what they are saying. Not just listening to the words coming out of their mouth, but also listening for what they are not saying.
What’s more, you’ve got to ask the right questions and ask a lot of them. If you’re curious about something, just ask. There are reps who are afraid to ask questions but you have to remember, people love to talk about themselves. The more relevant questions you ask a prospect the more information you gain about their situation and the more they are willing to open up and trust you.
The whole point of asking so many pertinent questions is to get to the root of what your customer’s needs are. If you’ve gone through and asked an extensive list of questions you should have a very good idea what their pain points and problems are. As your conversation continues and as you begin your presentation, be sure to tie customer value back to the answers they provided to the earlier questions asked.
Show them that you have listened to their needs and they aren’t just there to listen to your sales pitch, they are there to have a discussion about how your product may provide value to them. Tying customer value to your product is a critical step of the sales process so take good notes as they are answering your questions and be sure you address each pain point during the rest of your conversation.
Ultimately, when it comes to having better sales conversations remember one thing; be human. So many sales people overthink the art of conversation and at the end of the day, it’s the golden rule, talk with someone the way you would want to be talked with if you were on the other side of the table.