Sales and Trust

10 Sales Skills that Build Outstanding Relationships

“You can have anything you want, if you just help enough other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar

Have you ever witnessed a great salesperson in action? Anyone who has spent time around top performers can tell you that these individuals have more mastery of relevant skills. Since sales is skills-based, the components of sales can be further analyzed.

To be successful in sales is to be heavily proficient in a number of important skills.

While everybody starts at different places, this is good news because skills can be developed. With enough courage and motivation, anyone can build valuable skills, even if they fail on the job or never enter the world of sales.

Is Sales for You?

I can speak from personal experience on the potential for long-term personal transformation that even a brief tenure in sales can provide. Are you hesitant to take the plunge? That’s fine. It is not for everybody but consider this.

As Jeff Haden says in the following article about the importance of sales skills, “even if you get off to a rough start you’ll quickly gain confidence, and gain skills you can leverage forever.” I would go a step further and say that even if you fall flat on your face and get fired, sales experience can still transform your life.

Some might even say that if you can succeed at sales, you can succeed at anything (except maybe rocket science).

Skills can and should be developed in accordance with priorities.

If you are at a starting point in your career or otherwise up to the challenge, attempting a sales career is often a great decision with little downside for your personal and professional growth. This is especially true if you have entrepreneurial ambitions. 

Sales is one of the highest paid professions in the world and it’s easy to see why. The greatest salespeople possess an exceptionally rare and valuable skill. They also contribute directly to their company’s bottom line, thus they directly reap the rewards.

Also, consider these factors:

  1. Not a lot of people want to sell for a living.
  2. It is an emotional roller coaster.
  3. There is a lot of stress and pressure imposed upon you.
  4. It is just plain hard to convince people to give you what you want all day, every day.

If you are more of an “I don’t want to do sales,” kind of person that is fine but you should read on to explore some of the traits that successful sales pros are forced to master. If you can’t dive into the real thing, you might as well read about it. 🤷‍♂️

The 10 Essential Sales Skills

Here are some skills that salespeople are forced to develop. All of these will aid in the formation of trusted relationships, influence toward others, and a more enriching life.

The skill of selling reaps major rewards.

1. Listen

“To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.” – Deborah Tannen

Active listening is an essential starting point. Many people unconsciously train themselves to think of what to say next while the other person is talking. When this happens, we fail to develop true understanding of the information that is being shared.

The ability to truly listen to what another person is saying is one of the most popular topics related to all customer or client centered roles. There are also different levels of listening. When we listen well, we pave a road toward future respect and trust. But first, we must conquer understanding.

2. Understand

“I believe that as much as you take, you have to give back. It’s important not to focus on yourself too much.” – Nicole Kidman

When we use active listening to accumulate knowledge as it relates to another person, we learn to ask the right questions that lead the conversation into a productive direction. In order to be an understanding person, it is essential that we are other-centered, rather than self-centered.

Understanding is foundational for the rest of the sales journey because without the ability to build this, it will be clear to the other party that the relationship only has the potential to be a one-way street. Those who are self-centered never cross the threshold into understanding because, well you guessed it – they are too focused on themselves.

3. Strategize

“For me, the winning strategy in any start-up business is, ‘think big but start small.” – Carmen Busquets

You may notice that many people claim to be “big-picture thinkers.” In my experience, this is usually said as an over-compensation for a lack of ability to focus on details (hint: I am personally guilty of this). But for those who say this and mean it, the ability to transform the components of an industry or environment into a larger, mutually-beneficial vision is crucial.

Successful salespeople are excellent at this. They know their product or service and through the course of interacting with a prospect or client, they are able to position themselves as a solution. The best news for salespeople and non salespeople, is that because it is a skill, it can be developed. No one is automatically great at this.

Just as with anything else, this is a skill that is developed through expertise and adaptations over time.

4. Differentiate

“Branding is deliberate differentiation.” – Debbie Millman

Through knowledge of product or service’s strengths and weaknesses, and the collection of inputs from the prospects, the salesperson executes the strategic vision. This evolves over time so sales people must be comfortable with this changing process. As they go through this, they are able to differentiate.

The best ways to differentiate are being more trustworthy than competitors and by convincing the prospect that what your selling is a better fit for their needs. Successful communicators are able to align their strengths, interests, and areas of expertise with others in a way that is memorable.

This is true whether we are making a personal impression on someone or selling them something. What will people remember about you when they think about you? This is differentiation, otherwise known as a brand.

5. Confidence

“Instead of focusing on that circumstance that you cannot change – focus strongly and powerfully on the circumstances that you can.” – Joy Page

When sales professionals combine their knowledge of the larger picture with their ongoing information-gathering from the prospect, the stage is set for sales success. In order to reach success, a salesperson needs to creatively apply their solution to the prospect’s problems.

You can teach techniques, but since every situation is different, there is much that cannot be taught. In most successful interactions, a solution emerges naturally. Just think of interactions you have with people daily.

If the salesperson understands their prospects’ problems and understands how to help solve them, there is no need to be nervous about asking for the sale. Half the time, the most successful salespeople don’t even need to ask. The prospect asks.

6. Emotional Intelligence

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” – Aristotle Onassis

The concept of emotional intelligence burst onto the scene of career literature a few decades ago and has remained an essential component of modern theory. Due to the nature of their work, the best salespeople have exceptional emotional intelligence.

Knowing what to say and when to say it is something that emotionally intelligent people do with ease. They also master their own emotions so they don’t get in the way of their relationships with other people. These individuals maintain focus on the task at hand, including the importance of the relationship. 

To be emotionally intelligent, self-awareness combines with a superior ability to empathize and anticipate the needs of others.

7. Plan

“You don’t get results by focusing on results. You get results by focusing on the actions that produce results.” – Mike Hawkins

People tend to fall into two categories around planning. There are over planners or under planners. Over planners tend to find comfort in making elaborate plans and are slow to action. Under planners often move quickly into the next action step and struggle to see the bigger picture.

Sales representatives who are able to find the space between tend to win. The same is true of non-sales professionals. No matter who you are, planning is essential, but this must combine with action and adaptation in order to reap the benefits of growth.

8. Execute

“Most people never pick up the phone, most people never ask. And that’s what separates the people that do things from the people that just dream about them. You gotta act. And you gotta be willing to fail.” – Steve Jobs

Henry David Thoreau famously said that the “the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” This is largely because the masses of people get stuck in the planning stage. Salespeople are forced to act. It is their job after all and they will be fired if they do not meet quotas.

Perfect execution is unnecessary and striving for this is not worthy of anyone’s time. What is far more important is taking consistent steps based on the best available information, evaluating outcomes, and adjusting. As long as this cycle repeats, progress is inevitable.

Planning alone does not pay the bills. A habit of action and adaptation does.

9. Likability

“This is the Law of likability: The real you is the best you.” – Michelle Tillis Lederman

The two most noteworthy sales skills have been saved for last because they really are the most important accelerators of relationships. We know that relationships drive more than just success in sales, they drive success in life.

When you interact with people, they can choose whether to respond back and they control the degree to which they emotionally invest in their relationship with you. When you are likeable, people will invest more and this means they will be drawn to you like a magnet.

Likability gets the conversation going, trust wins residual orders, referrals, and reputation.

10. Build Trust

“Trust has to be earned, and should come only after the passage of time.” – Arthur Ashe

Trust is the gold standard for sales and all relationships. It is also the culmination of all previous investments in the relationship. Outside of a specific sales role, in our personal lives, this is also true. Our authenticity and ability to keep our promises consistently over time is everything we need in all relationships.

Trust makes the world go around. We must know how to build it.

A person who is skilled in trust building has the integrity to know how to tell you the truth. Once trust is broken, it often cannot be repaired. Trust binds people together like the atoms do when they form a chemical bond.

This bond is essential to our future. When it is broken, the effects can be detrimental.

Outstanding Relationships

Over the years, salespeople have not had the best reputation. They have been described as sleazy, selfish, and pushy. While sometimes true, these are not the tactics that lead to long-term success in sales. When lucky enough to work with a sales person who has the integrity to review your whole situation to look for the best way to solve your problems, it is a real treat.

When we pull back the curtain and learn more about what makes certain salespeople ultra successful, we learn that maybe, just maybe the best salespeople are actually good people who possess valuable skills.

All of these skills are all foundational to success, whether you do sales or not. After all, who wouldn’t want to hire or be friends with someone who possesses the above so much that they become personality traits?

Whether or not you do sales as a profession, these skills will lead to success in measurable and unmeasurable ways. When you harness the force of these 10 magnetic skills, outstanding relationships are built. From these relationships, the opportunities become more abundant and accessible.

Success! You're on the list.

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