the 9 Essential Sales Skills every salesperson 
and entrepreneur must master

Written by Mike Cooch

Many people believe that being a great salesperson is something you’re somehow born into.

The truth couldn’t be more different.

Success as a salesperson is about skills

While these can be learned as you go about the business of sales, they’re more effectively acquired by taking some time to focus on skill development.

Master these 9 essential sales skills and you can achieve sales success and, with it, the freedom and lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of!

#1: Set Big Goals

Goal-setting is a skill. It’s also work. 

All too often, we’ll sideline working on our goals to work on day-to-day stuff. 

But that’s getting it all backwards; you wouldn’t jump in the car and say, ‘I can’t waste time thinking about where I’m going. I’m too busy driving!’ 

It’s the same in business – and life. We set goals and think hard about them so that we can later follow a process to predefined destinations.

The only way to create that process is to begin with strategy, then get down to tactics. 

In other words, start with the ‘Why?’ 

That’s the fuel in the tank. It’s the basis for making smaller decisions and choosing shorter-term goals.

Here’s how the best goal-setting works:

  • Get clear about why you have a certain goal
  • Get specific about exactly what the goal is
  • Develop a workable plan for accomplishing that goal

It’s essential that goals are ‘S.M.A.R.T,’ meaning that they’re:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

But the specifics need to first be backed by a vision that inspires you.

Own your dream home in five years?

Drive a Porsche in the next year?

Be able to retire your mom and dad early?

Developing clear a clear vision that motivates you is always the first step. 

Then it goes like this:

  • Get clear about your ‘Why?’ This is vital. It’s what powers everything else.
  • Develop a 10-15 year vision. This doesn’t have to be down to 2 decimal places, but it’s better to be definite.
  • Develop 3-5 year targets
  • Develop a 1-year plan
  • Identify quarterly milestones, or ‘rocks.’
  • Develop weekly work plans
  • Manage your daily schedule

At every step you’re going from the wider view to the more specific, but you always have your vision to refer back to. 

Each step down the hierarchy informs the next so that when you start work on Monday morning (or whenever you start work!) you’re clear about how what you do at work that day is moving you toward your goals.

#2: Master Time Management

Time management is how you make sure you’re moving the right distance toward your goals each day. 

It’s about discipline and accountability, but it works best when it’s about the carrot rather than the stick. 

Good time management makes everything easier and simpler.

I’ve found that most people suffer from the same ‘time killers’ – falling into the same traps that kill productivity and slow sales and achievement.

So maybe one or all of these sounds familiar:

  • Lack of specific, scheduled activity goals
  • Non-sales activity during selling time
  • Not taking advantage of technology
  • Trying to be both salesperson and technician

The solution to these lies in actively managing time: 

  • Pre-schedule blocks of 'sacred selling time' that can NOT be disturbed or cut short for any reason
  • Stay in the office until your sales activity goals have been met
  • Only schedule an appointment when you’ve really qualified the opportunity, so you’re never wasting time driving across town for an opportunity that doesn't really exist
  • Make sure that proposals and other similar administrative work happens after selling hours
  • Use a CRM to capture and drive activity. 

The result should be pre-set blocks of time when you have nothing to do but selling!

#3: Prospecting

Prospecting is about keeping the mouth of the sales funnel full. 

A great prospecting system will:

  • Get you on the radar with a large number of prospective clients
  • Keep you front and center until their time of need
  • Create a preference to work with you over the competition
  • Create a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo
  • Gets consistent results
  • Is affordable and manageable

As such, it’s perhaps the most important business activity for anyone who sells anything. 

Prospecting feeds sales, so it deserves to be a priority.

To get the best results from prospecting, it should be systematised, and that system should be worked every day. 

Your prospecting system will deliver two crucial outputs: 

  • Prospects (obviously)
  • Data about the performance of your prospecting system (not so obvious, and most people don't utilize this data to their advantage) 

The data about the performance of your prospecting system will enable you to gradually improve the productivity of the system.

If you have a system, you have a body of data you can mine to find out:

  • How many deals do you need to make this month?
  • How many proposals do you need to put out to make those deals?
  • How many people do you need to talk to in order to generate that many proposals?
  • How many calls do you need to make before you have talked to that many people?

If you have last month’s data to guide you, you know the answers.

No system, no data, no insight, no improvement.

When you’re assessing your prospecting system, here are the four key metrics you need to pin your eye to:

  • Number of deals in your pipeline
  • Average size of a deal in your pipeline
  • Average percentage of deals that make it through the pipeline and convert
  • Average time deals stay in the pipeline before they convert

Knowing these lets you adjust your system to produce better result.

Driving up the average size of a deal in your pipeline, or the average percentage of converting deals, or the number of deals in the pipeline, or moving deals through the pipeline faster, means more revenue and more profit!

(Wouldn’t it be great if you could do all that at once?)

#4: Create And Communicate a Compelling Value Proposition

Your value proposition should explain clearly how you can solve your customer’s problem, deliver specific benefits (the more specific the better) and make you stand out. 

It should be what tells your ideal customer they can stop looking now. 

They’ve found you.

As my friends at the Rain Group teach, our value proposition has to:

  • Resonate. The buyer has to feel that you’re addressing their business needs.
  • Differentiate. It has to be unique to you.
  • Substantiate. You need solid evidence that shows the truth of what you say unarguably.

Once you’ve determined what your value proposition is you have to communicate it compellingly.

Powerful messaging that conveys your value proposition effectively and convincingly starts with the three rules above. 

Address your prospects’ business needs directly, and show them that’s where you’re looking. Use social proof, research, trigger events, referrals and experience to show prospects that you can deliver and you know what they need.

#5: Follow Up

Following up is critical to sales success. 

We use a two-tier follow-up system: 

Immediate follow-up for prospects who show interest in making a purchase in the near future, and more long term follow-up for those who aren’t ready to convert… yet.

Failure to follow up is failure. Period. 

If you call someone’s business phone line and they don’t pick up, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk to you. It means they don’t pick up their business phone. 

That’s why our Chase Formula follow-up system involves reaching out to prospects by multiple communication channels. 

It’s the only way you’ll get heard.

We follow up immediately using an ‘8-touch’ formula that looks like this:

Day 1: Send email, prospect clicks / registers

Day 2: Phone call & email follow-up (touch 1)

Day 2: Phone call 2 to 4hrs later (touch 2)

Day 4: Phone call (touch 3)

Day 6: Phone call & email follow-up (touch 4)

Day 9: Phone call (touch 5)

Day 12: Phone call & email follow-up (touch 6)

Day 15: Phone call (touch 7)

Day 17: Phone call & email – final reminder (touch 8)

Every touch is an opportunity to position your brand and offer prospects value!

Long term follow-up, of qualified prospects who are with competitors, who are already customers but don’t want to take the next step up, or where for whatever reason the timing isn’t right, starts with separating prospects into A and B piles. (We toss the C pile. So should you.)

'A' piles are qualified, ideal prospects. 

Because the potential payoff is much higher A pile candidates require more frequent,expensive touches. 

This is who gets your physical mail campaigns, print newsletter, live event presentations, and drop offs.

'B' pile candidates have potential but it’s less clear. 

They will get less frequent, less expensive touches. This is who gets your emails, postcards, and webinar invites.

#6: Have Good Sales Conversations

Good sales conversations aren’t conversations where you badger prospects until they agree to buy from you. 

A great sales conversation might be one where you listen a lot more than you talk. 

It’s about developing rapport, so that the prospect uncovers their real needs because they trust you. 

Now you can offer something in return: a more compelling option to address those needs. Show prospects how you can help them accomplish their goals.

Asking questions is often the best way to accomplish this. Questioning makes you appear smart.

When you go see a doctor, a lawyer or any other professional, they ask you a lot of questions as they assess your needs. You’re doing the same, and positioning yourself as an expert as you do so.

You get the bonus that asking questions stops you from getting carried away extolling the virtues of what you have to offer – ‘throwing up’ all over the prospect, as they say in sales.

People like to talk as they think, so get your prospects talking and they’ll guide you to their pain points. 

And questions allow you to masterfully control the direction of the conversation without it seeming like you are forcing your agenda.

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#7: Build and Run an Effective Meeting and Proposal Process

Getting an in-person meeting isn’t necessarily a golden opportunity. 

Sometimes, it’s an expensive waste of time. 

That’s why an effective meeting and proposal process is so important. It safeguards your extremely valuable time.

Strive to do everything you possibly can over the phone or online: only show up in person when you absolutely need to. 

When you do show up in person, make sure you’re showing up to a qualified lead.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I talking to the decision maker? You don’t want to be in a face-to-face if you’re not talking to the person who calls the shots.
  • Does the prospect perceive an urgent need for my services? You want to be talking about how to start working together, not why.
  • Do they have the budget?
  • Do I know any remaining objections? You want to be prepared to handle these before they arise.
  • Do we have a clear next step?

When you put in the time and effort to appear in person, you need to make sure the situation is primed such that you’re going to leave the meeting with your desired result. 

To minimize the number of last-minute issues that can come between you and a sales, make sure that:

  • You confirm before going to the meeting that every key participant will be able to attend. 
  • You have a clear agenda that you drive.
  • You ask good questions and listen (that’s critical at every stage).
  • You leverage up-front contracts to stay on track.

Get all that nailed and personal meetings really can be a golden opportunity!

#8: Overcome Objections

Most sales people face the same objections, over and over again. 

Yet, as much as they’ll complain about how they hear the same objections, they still don’t prepare a plan to handle them!

There are NO NEW OBJECTIONS, which means it's an incredible failure for a salesperson to operate without a clear, pre-planned approach for handling any objection they are going to have thrown their way.

All objections can be put into one of four buckets:

  • Need objections: ‘we don’t see the need.’ ‘We have someone else doing that.’ Handle these by segmentation. Is the flaw the prospect’s lack of qualification, or your value proposition? Don’t waste time and energy convincing people of your value!
  • Urgency objections: the impact doesn’t seem worth the effort. Handle these by developing emotional involvement: talk about what won’t happen, and emphasise ROI. ROI is urgency!
  • Trust objections: they recognise that they need someone doing what you do, but they’re antsy and they haven’t learned to trust you. Trust is best developed by demonstrating your worth: know your stuff. Equally importantly, know their stuff. And demonstrate tangible past results!
  • Money objections: They don’t have the funds, or don’t have them allocated. Money objections are often really one of the other three in disguise. Sometimes the prospect simply doesn’t have the money at all, other times they might want to see if the price moves. And sometimes they just don’t like you. The way to handle this one is to use ROI to show why your prices are high: because your product is so good… for the customer!
#9: Close

If the other skills mentioned above have been in play right from the start, closing should be a simple, natural conclusion to the sales process. 

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. 

There’s a psychological barrier on the part of the prospect about parting with money, making a commitment, and if the salesperson has a corresponding psychological barrier about asking for money, then things can grind to a halt here. 

So it’s absolutely vital that you get over that, and develop a natural way of bringing things to a close.

You’ve got to be comfortable doing three things:

  • Asking for the deal. As long as we’re just talking and I haven’t signed anything, I don’t have to part with any money, right? Time and again, psychologists prove people are so loss-averse that they hate to hand over a dollar even when they know they’ll get two back. You have to be willing to guide the conversation to a real conclusion.
  • Applying slight pressure. If you’re guiding the conversation and it’s still not happening, it might be time to apply that very slight pressure that’s sometimes needed to get people to jump in and take action.
  • Insisting on clarity. A common last-minute objection is the sudden need to think about everything all over again. Be ready to enquire: ‘may I ask what you hope to achieve by reviewing this material and the time frame for a final decision?

Coming to sales armed with these 9 essential skills means you’ll be equipped to start closing,and generating revenue, straight away. 

Even if you’re an experienced salesperson, taking your skills to the next level can open up new worlds and put the lifestyle you want within your grasp.

Getting Stumped By Sales Objections?
"Steal” Our Time-Tested, 
Word-for-Word 3-Step Objection Handling System and You'll Pulverize the Even The Toughest Sales Objections!

All the best,

Mike Cooch & the BeACapitalist.com Team

Mike Cooch

Mike generates 6-7 big ideas before breakfast (conservative estimate). LocalSalesLab.com CEO & founder is a “serial entrepreneur” with Texas-sized passion for sales & marketing, business development, and technology. He is an expert in local and digital marketing. His businesses have been named to the INC Magazine List of Fastest Growing Companies three years in a row, and were also nominated as a Best Place to Work in their respective cities. He is married with three children, and is learning to surf in his new hometown of San Diego (lifestyle design, baby!).

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