7 Key Sales Skills Your Team Needs to Master to Finally Start Closing

After you successfully find your sales guy/s, your job is not done. Leaders, who expect their sales representatives to close deals, should give them sales training, guidelines, and rules to abide by in exchange. However, by talking to our customers about their sales teams and results, we can tell there’s still a long way to go. 

It’s not just the case of young companies. Sometimes, even the more mature ones struggle to close deals - essential sales skills and habits are missing. 

Therefore, we put together 7 of, in our opinion, the most important sales skills every sales leader and representative need to know to start closing. The suggested skills might seem obvious and well known; nevertheless, putting them into practice can be challenging. 

Here are the 7 sales skills to train your team for: 

  1. Having no “maybes” in the sales pipeline

Sales representatives tend to have many opportunities in a “maybe” phase, meaning several instances where they don’t really know what’s happening on the customer’s end or whether they’ll buy. Sure, they had a nice chat, the people they spoke to are excited about the product, but the sales representatives forgot to ask some key questions: whether their contacts in the company have the authority to buy new products, who they'll get the money from, whether it’s aligned with the company’s priorities and targets, etc.

Leaving many opportunities in the “maybe” phase creates a certain notion of optimism. In reality, the sales representatives are not in control of their pipeline and usually are firstly not worried about not fulfilling their target. However, out of 30 “maybe” opportunities, there’ll only be about 3 closed in the end. The won rate of 10% won’t get them to their sales target, and by the end of the month/quarter, their false optimism will inevitably be replaced by stress.

How to fix it: 

Implement a unified methodology, like BANT, CHAMP, MEDDIC, or even your own, that will help your team to dis/qualify opportunities and keep the pipeline clean. The qualification system needs to be clear and should not allow for compromises. 


We suggest the sales representatives each get up to about 10 open opportunities with a stronger control, rather than having 30 without any. The won rate has to be above 50%. Any less means that they’re not in control of the opportunities and will continually report on something that’s not going to happen. 

  1. Asking everything, assuming nothing

“I think they should buy because...”, “They will have the money because he’s the CEO, so he must be the one approving the purchase...”. Sounds familiar?  Assumptions do not belong in sales, and it never happens that sales representatives assume correctly 100% of the time. 

Information such as whether/why the potential customers want to buy, whether their priorities are aligned with the product, who will decide about the purchase, etc., must be uncovered. Sales representatives need to be inquisitive, ask lots of questions, and dig deep into answers to control the sales process. 

The core question to ask here is “Is that what your customer told you or what you just think is true?” Pay attention to it. Then you will realize how little you know about your customers and how much you just assume. 

  1. Knowing why there’s the need to have your product

Check these simple examples of how sales are usually done and how it could be done better: 

(Throughout this article, let’s assume the product being sold is a CRM solution.) 
Scenario 1

Potential customer: “We need a new CRM”.
Sales representative: “Sure, why?”

PC: “We can’t track the more complex opportunities.”

SR: “That is not a problem for us. Our CRM has multiple stages, diagrams, and blah blah blah … sales pitch continues.”

Scenario 2

Potential customer: “We need a new CRM”.

Sales representative: “Why do you need a new CRM?”

PC: “We can’t track the more complex opportunities.”

SR: “What happened when you were not able to track the more complex opportunities?”

PC: “We got lost on the way and ended up losing 2 deals because of it.”

SR: “What did losing 2 deals mean for your business back then?”

etc.

Different right?

Ensure your team doesn’t just ask a set of prepared qualification questions, going on to show a demo followed by listing your product’s features. They need to understand the energy and dynamics behind the potential deal. Only then can they evaluate how realistic and urgent the potential customer’s need is. 

What also helps to understand and close deals is knowing the potential client’s aims and how your solution contributes to it, who all the people involved are, and whether it’s aligned with their needs and priorities. Teach your sales representatives to ask.  

  1. Knowing that C-level has different priorities than direct users

Salespeople are taught to get C-level people to their meetings. Unfortunately, they aren’t trained well in how to speak with C-level.

Getting executives to the product presentation is mostly a waste of their time. The C-level won’t care about how easy it is to manage the sales pipeline in the CRM you’re offering. That’s why they have CRM administrators, and also why they’ll have you meet with them first. The CRM admin is the “champion” to focus on at this stage.

The C-Level priorities might be, for example, about money delivery. Therefore, they should not be invited to a demo where your team introduces the product’s key features and benefits, as they’d be bored, playing with their phone, etc. Let’s say the C-level person to meet with is the VP of Sales. With this person, the discussions will be about big priorities - sales plan, the probability of its fulfillment, etc. Should they be interested in features, then yeah, go for it. 

  1. Finding out and targeting the priorities of everyone included in the buying process

A meeting: each person that sits with you in the room has their reason to be there. This reason might not be the same as that of the company. 

CRM Admin: “I need to replace our CRM with something having fast reporting and sequence emailing.” because that could have been the VP of Sales’ instruction. 

Sales representative: “Sounds good. We can do this. And what are you looking for in the new CRM personally?”

CRM Admin: “Well, I like to have as many things automated. It saves me time.” 

One value proposition won’t work for the customer’s entire organization. So, don’t be afraid to ask about personal involvements in the buying process. It results in understanding their buying triggers. Try to collect the personal priorities of each member of the buying process. This will give you a considerable advantage and differentiate you from the competition. 

  1. Explaining benefits rather than just showing features

Quite often, salespeople fail to emphasize value. Ensure your team knows all the benefits connected with your product’s features and can convert them into practical examples. Instead of showing how to set up reporting in your CRM, teach your sales team to explain that “reporting is the place to constantly observe the sales performance, therefore preventing possible target gaps at the end of the quarter”.

  1. Leading the customer through the buying process

People make their buying decisions based on whether they trust the product and the sales representative or not. Salespeople need to show they’re professionals and have been (or at least seem like they have been) through the process a hundred times.

In our CRM scenario, the CRM Admin probably went through 1 to 2 CRM changes in his career. Thus, the sales representatives are the experienced ones here, outlining the next steps to a successful CRM implementation. Not only do they understand the technical requirements and potential blockers, but they also know what has to happen on the customer's side - when should the CRM admin ask for money, how to speed up the implementation, improve the approval process with C-level, and such. 

Wrapping it up:

We call the points above sales skills, but eventually, everyone should turn them into sales habits or rules to follow. The easiest way to adopt them is to reflect on recent meeting/s, analyze how they went, check whether the sales representative led them according to our key sales skills, and think how it could have been done differently. The next one will be better! The key is to ask a lot, confirm that you understand, have a different discussion with everyone, and control the following steps on both sides. Keep backtracking your sales representatives’ meetings until you reach the ideal stage.

By

Jana Michelová | Project Manager

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