Essential Business-Building Skills: #2 Learn the Art of Selling

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If you’re a business owner, particularly in the B2B sphere, one of the most important subjects you can study is the art of selling. Yet, many of the smartest small business and start-up owners avoid learning how to sell. Even some of the best colleges forgo teaching it. 

The art of selling is a critical skill because, like it or not, everyone has to sell to succeed.

“Here’s the truth: a mediocre performer who knows how to sell will ALWAYS beat an exceptional performer who doesn’t. And an exceptional performer who also knows how to sell ALWAYS beats out everyone else.”

Geoffrey James, contributing editor at Inc.com

You could have the greatest business model ever, but if you can’t get anyone to buy what you offer, that’s a problem. It could be that there isn’t a viable market for what you offer, or it’s just that your sales skills are lacking. As with learning how to fail, learning the art of selling is essential for business success.

3 Qualities of Great Salespeople

Great salespeople have certain qualities and beliefs. Selling, motivating, moving, persuading, and influencing others are not innate skills. But with experience and practice, they can be learned.

People who know how to sell have these attributes you can develop…

1) They Are Curious

The best salespeople can engage naturally with the customers they talk to. Engaged customers are much more likely to make purchases and come back to buy more. Salespeople who know the art of selling understand how to make personal and natural conversation that doesn’t seem forced or scripted. They also know to ask questions of their customers rather than talk about themselves constantly.

2) They Focus on the Details

The stereotype of a salesperson represents them as loud, showy, and inclined to make big promises that they may or may not deliver. However, these types of salespeople are extremely easy to see through. 

Instead, to be good at selling, you should be meticulous. You must focus on the reasons the potential customer in question would need what you offer. Pay attention only to the customer’s needs and what the customer asks for.

3) They Have a Generous Spirit

The best salespeople are empathetic and generous in their approach. They look to solve problems rather than sell products. 

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Learn not to focus on the transaction. Instead, focus on solving your customers’ problems. People who are generous in their approach to sales seem much more genuine, which customers always appreciate.

“No matter how much you want to close a deal, it sometimes pays to be extra patient. The key to selling is to be a giver—not a taker.”

Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia

What to Know About the Art of Selling

Beyond having the qualities listed in the previous section, there are some things you should know about the art of selling to ensure sales success.

1) Preparation Is Key to a Great Presentation

Always investigate a prospect’s needs and formulate questions to confirm your findings. Be prepared for hedges and objections and nasty rebuttals. Successful salespeople have a formal process that all but eliminates costly mistakes and bad habits.

Research is an essential element of preparing for your first meeting with a prospective customer. It involves learning about your prospect’s business, industry, the marketplace, and the competition. 

This will help you develop a streamlined, well-prepared presentation and provide you with confidence in what you are saying. You will also be able to have a more productive conversation and ask better-targeted questions about your prospect’s needs and aspirations. 

Similar attention should be given to researching your own company, products, and competitors. Having a firm grasp of your products will allow you to provide knowledgeable answers to concerns they have. Knowing the competition and your relative strengths and weaknesses will help you pinpoint your product’s unique selling points. 

In the digital age, prospects are well informed before you even meet with them. With a few minutes of searching the internet, a consumer can find reviews, compare products, and check complaints on watchdog websites such as the Better Business Bureau. 

Here are some B2B sales statistics to keep in mind:

Therefore, you should assume when you interact with them for the first time that they know something about your brand, your reputation, and your competition.

2) Speak with Authority 

As a salesperson, you are your prospect’s guide, helping them solve their problem or satisfy an unmet desire. And to have influence, your potential customer must trust what you say. If you don’t know your product and your audience, you’ll hesitate and fill in the gaps in your knowledge with guesswork. 

The key to speaking with authority is to do your research and know your stuff. After creating a solid foundation, you must also project confidence to portray the need and value of the product or service you are selling. Your delivery must be clear and honest while conveying a sense of urgency. 

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3) Avoid the “Gotcha” Sales Questions 

An overenthusiastic car dealer stands in front of a car lot pointing at his customer.

When attempting to make a sale with your customers, there are certain things you just don’t say and certain questions you just don’t ask. You never want your customer to feel backed into a corner.

For example, questions that put pressure on the customer can potentially kill a sale immediately. 

These are questions like, “If I could help you solve this problem, would you be ready to go ahead with that order today?”

4) Show Empathy Because It’s Not about You

The art of selling is customer-centric. And as the guide, you should focus on discovering and helping to solve the needs of your prospect. 

It’s sad to report, but the shopper does not care about you until you convince them that you care about them. They care about the value you represent and the problem that you can solve. Pull them into you, do not push yourself onto them.

Ask questions of your customers. Showing empathy and curiosity go hand in hand, shifting the focus of interest away from yourself and toward your prospect. 

Having genuine interest and concern for another person is fundamental to building any relationship, whether personal or professional. That includes paying close attention to what they are saying to understand their pain points. Practice active listening by asking strategic questions to keep the conversation flowing until you fully identify their needs and goals.

You are now in a place where you can demonstrate the value and necessity of what you offer. And you’ll be able to show how your product or service will transform their lives. 

5) Sow Seeds of Thought 

Think long term, not necessarily about getting an immediate sale. When it comes to B2B sales, there’s generally a much longer sales cycle. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to play the long game. 

Farmers know that not all seeds they plant will germinate. For that reason, they overseed on purpose. Planting seeds of thought and letting them settle in will produce a bumper crop of ideas to execute.

6) Don’t Be in a Rush to Close

Fast service is not always good. Cheap service is rarely fast. Quality is rarely cheap. People hate to be sold to but love to buy.

As a salesperson, you hopefully make your pitch after your marketing team has laid the groundwork for moving your prospect down to the funnel. As a result, your prospect should already have learned something about your brand and your product. But they likely don’t know you. So, be prepared to build a relationship with active listening. If they don’t seem ready to bite, leave your options open to return another time. Showing that you care enough to come back later without a commitment goes a long way to building trust. 

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For your own morale and to stay positive, it is also essential to manage your expectations. Remember, every contact lays the groundwork for a sale further down the road. If you allow a few dead ends to discourage you, it will be impossible to approach the next prospect with the confidence you need. 

If you continually set your standards too high and you don’t hit your concrete targets time after time, then you’ll only burn out. It’s far better to take an objective and honest look at your results, adjust your approach, and set yourself more realistic targets, if necessary. 

As long as you’re making your best effort, consider targets as a point of reference to keep you aiming high rather than a yardstick of success and failure.

7) Collect Data and Analyze Results

Collecting and analyzing sales data to track your progress is an essential element of being effective in the art of selling. 

This will show your progress at meeting your targets and provide insight into what sales practices are working and what you need to adjust to improve your results. 

At least monthly, measure your leads reached, engagement, conversions, and monetary value of those conversions. Dig a little deeper by analyzing demographics and other factors to get better information to target your audience and develop more leads.

8) Maximize Sales

Most businesses live and die selling cold prospects on their core offer. That is why they struggle with the art of selling. Would it shock you to find out that McDonald’s makes almost no money on the hamburger? 

That is because the hamburger is the core offer, but the fries and Coke built the Golden Arches.

“One in nine Americans works in sales. But so do the other eight.”

Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human

Final Thoughts

If you want to increase your chances of business success, learn the art of selling. Remember, you aren’t selling a product but helping your prospect solve a problem. Get familiar with the sales process and then practice it, so it becomes part of your very makeup. You will need this skill to recruit and keep the best employees, work with investors, and turn ideas and offers into monetary gain.

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Filed Under: Business Tips

About Thomas von Ahn

With more than 30 years of experience in B2B sales across various industries, Thomas has unique insight into both the offline and online sales sphere. It was during his time in the trenches that Thomas noticed a recurring theme: Though business owners are knowledgeable about their craft or trade, they often struggle to market and sell to their prospects. This realization is what prompted Thomas and his now business partner, Christine, to bring Viral Solutions to life. Since starting the company, Thomas has been able to assist countless business owners in developing a solid marketing plan based upon sound marketing strategy, then assigning the marketing tactics to a team of talented employees, and, finally, watching those actions unfold—his true passion.

Though Viral Solutions is on Thomas’ mind 24/7, he does occasionally take a break to cheer on the Green Bay Packers and enjoy his adopted home of Wisconsin. Much of his family also works at Viral Solutions, and this closeness with family and employees is the cornerstone of the Viral Solutions culture.