The best sales teams consistently deliver for their organizations, plain and simple. It’s not just the effort of one or two rainmakers, but one of the entire team. This is no mistake, as the elite teams are relentless in their development of sales skills. The team leader sets the expectation of excellence and instills a culture of learning and self-improvement to achieve both short- and long-term goals. But it’s not always so easy.
Superb sales skills do not come naturally to every young rep. Every sales leader should be coaching and nurturing these skills on a regular basis, but many lack the time or expertise to make a difference. However, coaching is key to the development of sales reps. No more excuses. Focus on developing the following 14 inside sales skills across every one of your reps and you will quickly elevate your team’s performance and consistency.
- Product Knowledge
Successful sales reps should know as much as they possibly can about the product or service she sells. How the product works, the business value it offers, and why it appeals to her target customers. This mastery comes from extensive studying of the product via product marketing collateral, training courses, and most importantly, asking questions to other reps and product experts.
A thorough knowledge of the product enables inside sales reps (ISRs) to develop effective sales pitches that highlight the proper product features. It prepares reps for every question, objection, or speculative comment a prospect makes. This level of knowledge and expertise separates the top one-percent of reps from the rest.
- Strategic Prospecting Skills
Reps may know the product like the back of their hand, but without prospects to sell to, it’s of little use.
Strategic prospecting begins with a search for referrals of existing connections to new prospects that fit the ideal customer profile. From there, reps can scour Closed-Lost opportunities and see whether any are in a position to revive. Reps can also ask for referrals from existing customers, or even look to their investors’ portfolio for options. All of these options are fair game for quota-carrying ISRs to begin their prospecting.
- Understanding of Prospect Roles and Influence
Inside sales reps do not have the benefit of meeting prospects face-to-face, making it a challenge to quickly connect with busy and often hostile strangers over the phone. Some sales reps spend too much time building relationships with people that have little to no influence.
At the start of the relationship, reps should evaluate roles and ensure they have decision-makers on board. It’s not enough to have a person identified, they must be participating in the process.
Software like Activity Capture helps track engagement by keeping tabs on involvement and responses by role. Has your champion cancelled the last three meetings? Are they waiting 10 days to respond to an email? That’s a sure sign of concern and something you want to be able to easily view in seconds.
- Time Management
We are all busy. Managers have increasing spans of control. Prospects are inundated with calls. And of course reps, who have the pressure on them to close more deals faster.
The key for reps is to make sure you are spending your time wisely. Research shows that reps spend nearly two-thirds (64.8%) of their time in non revenue-generating activities, leaving only 35.2% for functions related to selling.
Successful sales reps are finding ways to be more efficient. With an activity capture tool to automatically log activity to your Salesforce CRM, you can monitor key activity metrics such as time to first touch, last touch, last inbound touch, last meeting, next meeting, and more. Additionally, AI-Driven Sales Forecasting eliminates time that is often spent reporting, leaving more time for building relationships.
- Active Listening
Every sales reps is taught how to speak to prospects, but few are trained on the importance of listening. Unfortunately the average rep spends 65-75% of every sales call speaking. The more time a sales rep spends listening, the better he understands the prospect’s specific pain points and current situation.
Active listening enables reps to pose thoughtful follow-up questions and guide the conversation. The better a rep can tailor the conversation to the prospect, rather than the script, the quicker he can identify the solution that meets the prospect’s needs. Active listening not only helps reps build rapport with prospects, but makes their sales cycles more efficient and improves visibility throughout the pipeline.
- Communication Up
Communication is critical when it comes to sales. But it’s not just communication to your prospect. The other element is communicating up to sales managers so they can provide the support and involvement.
Too often reps think they can handle it alone. Our own research shows that reps wait 28 days to admit a deal is going poorly. That’s 28 days where the rep sends emails with no response. 28 days that are lost where a manager or executive could have gotten involved. And 28 days with the forecast not being updated.
Sales reps that put aside their own pride and bias and keep a clear communication with their managers are much more effective over the long term.
- Qualification Questioning
Reps don’t have all the answers when they begin a conversation, so it’s important to start the discovery stage of prospecting conversations by performing a “needs analysis” and ask the prospect questions about their situation. By laying the foundation, reps can spend more time talking about the features and benefits that matter to their prospects. This is what active listening is all about.
Once reps move past the discovery stage and ascertain a fit, they must further qualify prospects according to their expectations for budget, authority, timeline, competition, and buying process. This criteria provides the framework for reps to nurture a lead every step along their buying journey.
- Sales Process Adherence
Companies establish sales methodologies and bring in trainers for a reason. The reps that follow these best practices are often the ones that deliver consistent results. But the reality is the laminate they dropped on your desk is hard to follow in the moment with a dozen deals going in different directions.
Guided selling digitalizes your sales methodology. It relies on activity capture to keep tabs on the deals—stages, engagement, moves—and then prompts the reps with suggestions on steps that are coming up next, or even steps that were skipped. If the deal keeps pushing, there’s a different play than the one that is moving at a faster than average pace.
- Objection Prevention
Great sales reps practice the art of proactive objection prevention before they arrive at objection handling. By training your reps to think strategically, they can mitigate objections before they even arise.
This is even more effective if objection data can be filtered by metrics like industry or persona so the rep can take a more nuanced approach. For example, many InsightSquared reps hear people say, “But we require reps to log their activity and contacts in Salesforce already.”
To preempt that objection, reps proactively share during discovery that only a small fraction of activity is typically in the CRM and even more important, it only represents seller activity, not prospect response nor involvement by other personas such as exec champion, SEs or even finance. They explain that our approach to activity capture saves reps and managers hours each week and provides easy visibility into deal health — all in a few clicks on a single easy-to-use platform.
- Objection Handling
Even the best reps can’t prevent every objection, so you need to prepare your team to handle them when they do arise. Keep your reps on their toes so the sales process doesn’t end abruptly when they face a difficult situation.
We coach our InsightSquared reps to empathize, soften, and ask good questions to dig below the surface of the prospect’s concern. Reps need to sincerely understand the problem, ask for more information, and offer clarity to help the prospect overcome his objection. Do some role play and training with your reps to prepare them for every scenario.
- Demo Skills
Demos are often the best opportunity for organizations to begin the sales process of their B2B product. To ensure they provide sufficient value, sales reps must demonstrate a deep understanding while navigating prospects through the product’s live environment. The added visual component can prove difficult for reps, but again, preparation is key.
Reps should already know which features and benefits align best to the prospect’s needs, but they must now be highlighted in the demo. This should guide the entire demo, as anything beyond their needs is only likely to lose their interest. Reps should be confident in their ability to use their own product or it will quickly show in the presentation. The more specifics they can share from their own experiences, the more genuine it will come across.
- Gaining Buy-in
You want your reps to close deals as quickly as possible, but none of this can happen without approval from the key decision-maker. Getting them to this point is a process that they must learn to navigate. Urge your reps to continually ask prospects questions, assess their needs, and reinforce the value they can provide.
The quicker prospects acknowledge the value you provide, the quicker they can expand the conversation to other stakeholders, including those with buying power. Reps will quickly learn the appropriate cadence to do so through repetition, but having you and an AI-based system to recommend next steps speeds up the process. Once they have the final decision-maker looped in, they can move toward a commitment. Managers should make sure they can easily track deal progression so they can help coach reps without having to ask 20 questions.
- Closing Techniques
It’s tough for reps to gain the buy-in of their prospects, but even harder to close the deal. It’s crucial that you train reps on how to identify the right time to ask for a financial commitment. A guided selling feature benefits both you and your rep by identifying patterns in the data and suggesting ideal moments to take the next action.
Once you and your rep are confident in your standing with a prospect, ask for the order, and get it signed fast. Prospects often try to push the closing date by a few weeks or months, but your rep has monthly and quarterly goals to meet — for herself and the team. Ensure your reps establish a timeline and give the prospect a compelling reason to commit (i.e. lost revenue). The right combination of pressure and value offered can help reps close faster.
- Post-Sale Relationship Management
Once the sale is complete, reps must focus on the next step — building and maintaining the customer relationship. Tracking the customer journey never ends. The handoff to your implementation and customer success teams can be seamless with an end-to-end RevOps solution that tracks the full relationship.
Additionally, customer success analytics can help drive the lifetime value of the deal. Watch for key metrics such as product usage, email response time, meeting acceptance vs cancellation and more.
Reps who successfully build relationships with their customers not only stand to grow their existing accounts, but expand to new customers as well. Word of mouth is the most powerful influencer, so one satisfied customer can easily lead to several more.
Are your reps ready to sell? That will largely come down to your coaching ability and commitment to coaching. If you arm your reps with these 14 sales skills, they will have everything they need to succeed at the craft. The power is in your hands. It’s time to pay it forward.