Four Fundamental Sales Skills You Need to Learn


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It’s a concept you often hear from professional sports coaches: Get the fundamentals right. Etymologically speaking, fundamentals derives from the Latin fundamentum, or foundation, and came to mean “primary principles or rules” in English in the 1630s. In short, fundamentals are the foundation and basic building blocks of literally anything. Sales, too, has fundamentals, and that’s what we’re discussing today.

  1. Listen, really listen to your clients and prospects.

    We’ve mentioned this before and we’re doing so again. It’s perhaps the single most important skill. More than anything else, listening to understand is the core of establishing communication and relationships. And relationships are one of the biggest factors in determining if you want to succeed in life – whether it’s sales, getting a job, finding love, whatever your higher goals and ambitions are.

    That means not only listening with purpose and focus, but with genuine interest. Most people are often good at recognizing when someone doesn’t really care about what they’re saying.

    More importantly, careful listening will frequently unlock the answers you need to secure a sale and guarantee that you’re speaking to solutions for the problems, issues, and concerns your buyers are bringing up.

  2. Know your offerings thoroughly and how they map to customer problems.

    While some companies place *too* much emphasis on this at the expense of other, equally crucial skills, they’re correct that product knowledge is essential to achieving Trusted Advisor status. After all, if you don’t know what you’re selling, you’re wasting everyone’s time.

    Nor is this knowledge limited to the features and benefits. That’s just the bare bones minimum. To be genuinely good in this area, you also need to know how your products correlate to your target buyers’ issues and solve them.

    You should also be aware of what your offerings can’t do or doesn’t do as well as other solutions in the marketplace. A deep understanding of this negative space will prevent you from making an ill-advised recommendation that could lead either to a lost sale or an unhappy client post-sale.

  3. Mirror your buyers’ language.

    Misunderstandings happen in sales. However, you can significantly cut down on these instances by using the precise language your customer uses when communicating.

    For example, if they say, “I’m concerned about the price”, don’t respond with, “I understand you have misgivings about the cost”. Not only does this not mirror the language, its actual meaning is different – one can be concerned about something without having misgivings, and in business, price and cost actually have distinct meanings, despite the common usage tendency to treat them as interchangeable.

    Using the exact language not only reduces the chance for conflict, it demonstrates that you’re listening closely (Skill #1).

    Important Note: This also applies to emails. Have you ever gotten a reply email from customer or technical support that has nothing to do with the original issue you asked about? I have, and it’s one of the most infuriating things ever. It’s a sign they’re not really reading your submission and just going off a script or some form of automated, copy/paste answer. Don’t be that person as a sales rep. There’s a good chance the buyer will immediately drop you.

  4. Be comfortable with objections and know how to deal with them.

    Years ago, somebody told me something that’s always stuck with me: “A silent buyer is a lost buyer.” Sales people often have anxiety, if not a downright phobia, about objections. But if a prospect has objections, that means they’re still engaged. One who simply says, “Thank you. We’ll get back to you.” could be disengaged, and if so, your chances of winning that deal are slim and none, and we all know what happened to slim.

    Even the enthusiastic buyer who seems absolutely convinced and has no objections can be a trap waiting to spring. Why? Because many times it’s a sign they aren’t giving it careful consideration, and once they start thinking about it away from the interaction, doubts could well surface. Or, worse still, they don’t have the right authority and are just gathering the information.

    So, don’t fear objections. Welcome them. Spend time learning and researching the most frequently occurring objections and devise your potential discussions/responses. Also be sure, in addressing and handling objections, to remember to mirror the prospect’s language (Point #3).

Everyone who has ever become accomplished in their field – whether sales, sports, the arts, academia, or any other career – laid the groundwork for their future success by learning, understanding, and mastering the fundamentals. Hone your skill and acumen in these four areas and you’ll be well on your way to a fruitful sales career.

Nick Kane
Nick Kane is a Managing Partner at Janek Performance Group. He has trained more than 15,000 sales professionals worldwide during the course of his career, and is passionate about helping sales professional improve their selling careers - and as a result, their lives as well.


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