Sales Capabilities Required to Compete Today
Building Selling Skills to Engage the Modern Buyer
The buyer journey has changed dramatically, and successful sellers need to be armed with the latest approaches and thinking to connect with their buyers and drive sales success. There is no single competency or skill that drives sales excellence – rather, it is a collection of behaviors and skills across the selling process that need to be honed and mastered.
Each of these skills falls into one of three categories, find, win, and grow. These three segments happen in that order. The ‘find” segment consists of understanding the market and prospecting to source opportunities. The win segment involves all of the steps required to move an identified opportunity through the pipeline to close. Finally, the “grow” segment is the sales professional’s ongoing effort to maintain and grow existing accounts.
Here, we break down the skills involved in each of these three sections.
Know the Market
Sales professionals need to understand the key industry drivers. As they engage in territory planning they need to develop their knowledge of competitors and the market dynamics. Here, sales professionals take the time to understand how broad factors like the economy and industry regulations influence customer goals. This knowledge becomes critical when sales professionals legitimize their insights later in the customer dialogue.
Next, sales professionals target their addressable market. Doing so means knowing common buyer profiles and identifying key prospects. This step requires understanding where the sales professional can offer meaningful value to customers who are poised to buy.
With their knowledge of the market and their targeted buyers, sales professionals can begin to create value to gain the prospect’s interest. This capability requires communicating value through clear, uncomplicated language that offers a specific, purpose-driven message.
As business goals and challenges become nuanced, sales professionals must be able to persuasively position unique value tailored to the customer. The stakeholders must be able to see how the solution capabilities fit their detailed needs.
Plan and Strategize
Sales professionals begin planning how they will create effective strategies for penetrating their market and target accounts. They account for the competitive landscape and develop an understanding of the stakeholders involved.
As the sales professional begins to uncover customer needs and buying requirements, they can convert those requirements into insightful recommendations. The more detail they gain, the more effectively they can position the solution.
Building to a consensus is a process. Different stakeholders have various needs and perceptions of value. Sales professionals must be able to identify and navigate these group dynamics to engage and drive numerous stakeholders toward a decision.
Advancing the sale requires positioning value and differentiating the solution. It’s equally important to also differentiate the selling organization. Sales professionals will be better prepared to effectively position a solution if they have been thorough in their exploration of customer needs.
Emotions play into any decision. Therefore, sales professionals must be able to engage the client’s emotional drivers through compelling stories. They must be prepared to articulate the meaning of their solution with a narrative flow.
Objections are an inevitable part of the selling process. Rather than avoid them, sales professionals must have the capability to get to the root cause of the objection and position for a resolution. This skill is critical because it helps advance the sale without relinquishing terms or diminishing deal size.
Buying decisions today come from numerous stakeholders working together. Therefore, sales professionals must be able to articulate their value and solution capabilities in a way that addresses multiple needs in accessible, clear language.
Sell with Teams
Sales professionals must create a shared team strategy and consistent approach for winning opportunities. This capability requires practice so that the flow of ideas from the group follows a linear path with succinct messaging.
Negotiate to Close
It’s critical to confidently navigate the negotiation process to produce mutually beneficial outcomes. This capability is possible when the sales professional has strengthened the relationships, emphasized their value, and avoided any adversarial moves in favor of a collaborative approach.
Collaboration with internal and external resources enables the sales professional to become a go-to advisor for customers. Reaching this advisor status is important because customers now have greater access to information than ever before. The sales professional must bring more insight to offer value above and beyond what the customer can access on their own.
With so many options available to buyers, it’s critical that sales professionals have the capability to build rapport and establish credibility to create and deliver continuous value. Relationships must be maintained because competitive pressures never end.
With insights, the sales professional can reframe thinking. This is a powerful capability found in the most effective sales professionals. Many of the capabilities discussed above add up to this key skill, which is critical for overcoming the status quo, one of the biggest challenges for sales professionals.
With an established relationship, it’s easier to grow an account than it is to source a new one. Sales professionals can work from an existing foundation to find the white space needed to grow. With account planning, sales professionals can capture referrals, uptier, and cross sell.
Success comes from this core group of capabilities that, as a whole, equips the sales professional to navigate an increasingly complex buying process. Each capability discussed above links to a specific part of the selling process, and as a result, sales professionals learn when and where they need to exercise each skill to build, then maintain momentum to closing.