5 ways you can improve your sales skills right now

By ReLita Clarke, learning and development manager

I’ve spent nearly 13 years designing training plans for sales teams and one of the most frequent questions I get is, “Are good salespeople just born to sell or are good salespeople created over time?”

I firmly believe good salespeople are created over time. There’s a natural personality trait in salespeople where they enjoy interacting with and meeting new people and they have a natural tendency to compete.  But to really hone your sales skills takes a lot of trial and error and being able to change course after facing a challenge. It takes time to be good and it’s not something you can automatically jump into.

In my time as a trainer, I’ve given lots of advice to salespeople and the managers who lead teams and here are a few of my top recommendations:

  • Encourage competition: Managers need to make sure they’re creating a positively competitive environment. Salespeople thrive off competition and when they see their ranking amongst their peers, it motivates them to achieve a higher ranking or to keep moving the bar higher.
  • Learn patience and effective communication: Ask any salesperson who’s been in the public sector for a few years about the sales cycle and they’ll tell you how slow it is compared to the commercial market. Patience is key as some deals take up to 8 months to finalize. So, you must learn to have several irons in the fire to meet your goals. You also need strong communication skills, especially on the phone. This is not a market where you’re knocking on doors.
  • Stay on top of the trends: Sales techniques are constantly changing. The best way to know the latest is to find ways to stay on top of industry trends, as well as general sales trends. Salespeople can tap into webinars, white papers and sales organizations that offer networking events and seminars.
  • Always be self-training: Not every company has the resources to put a training program in place. Salespeople should look into free or low-cost classes like Lynda.com for their own training programs. This LinkedIn resource has great classes for customer service training. I also recommend finding a mentor, someone who is willing to meet with you regularly to offer sales and career advice. Most business leaders are incredibly flattered to be asked to be a mentor.
  • Be obsessively organized: Use the calendar on your computer and phone to block out time for things like returning emails or doing research and tracking client meetings. And take notes at every single meeting, even ones with your own team. This will help you keep track of action items. You also need to be detail oriented. There’s no other market with so much fine print as the public sector.

Remember that you have natural born traits that help you be successful in sales like the desire to be around people. But that can only go so far. It’s important to continue to train yourself, whether that be in actual sales skills or simply understanding what’s going on in your industry. Best of luck!

ReLita’s training programs for immixGroup and its parent company, Arrow enterprise computing solutions, were recently recognized by Training magazine in its annual Training 125 ranking. This program ranks companies’ excellence in employer-sponsored training and development programs.

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