What is one way entrepreneurs can hone their sales skills?
The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Start Selling
The only real way to get better at selling is to go out and sell. While you can sharpen your tools with courses, books, trainings, etc., none of it will matter or sink in until you just start selling!
2. Practice Your Story
If you have a service-based startup, selling your services is really about selling yourself. Spend time thinking about the narrative you’re sharing, how it differs from person to person and what problem you’ve found a unique way to solve. Practice telling your story over and over (to anyone who will listen). With each telling, you’ll refine your skills and eventually become a master communicator.
3. Talk With Your Customers and Clients
Sales skills are a talent that needs to be developed. It is a skill that is developed through practice. The best way to practice any skill is to get out from behind your computer and reach out to your customers, both current as well as prospective, and start talking with them. Learn to listen to their feedback and incorporate that feedback into your future sales efforts.
4. Talk to More People
So many people say they’re terrible at sales. If you’re sitting behind your computer all day, afraid to go out and engage, you’ll never get better. The only real way to get better is to get more practice. You have to put yourself out there. The more people you talk to, the more sales you get, the more confident you’ll become. That confidence will become evident and likely result in more sales.
5. Focus on Benefits, Not Features
One of the common mistakes people often make when trying to sell something is focusing on features rather than benefits. The former typically entails describing a wide variety of product features. The latter, however, hones in on how your idea can be a solution to a problem people are having. People want to know how this is going to make their lives easier — what issue will it solve for them?
6. Go to a Trade Show
If your industry has a trade show, get a booth for your company and attend one. Be hands-on and give your share (or more) of demos to prospective clients. You’ll learn a ton about their needs, you’ll be surprised by their backgrounds (often much broader than what you consider your target market). And best of all, you’ll get dozens of repetitions thinking on your feet and selling your product.
7. Create a Process
People often overlook the power of habit and process. Start with something embarrassingly easy, like emailing five prospects, and do it every single day. Make it a habit. Once you have the habit of reaching out, after a few weeks, start increasing your numbers. This process will both fill the top of the funnel and get you practice.
8. Learn From a Pro
If you want to get better at sales, I would recommend reaching out to someone in your network who you know is really good at sales and ask them if they would be willing to help you (potentially offer to pay them). If they are good they will coach you, put together a sales procedure manual for you to follow, help train future sales hires, and continue to check in with you to review and practice. Alternatively hunt down a reputable sales training company and get some professional advice as it’s always a great investment.
9. Stop Selling and Read
“The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies” by Chet Holmes is required reading for entrepreneurs to quickly hone their sales skills. The book takes an unorthodox approach to sales by delivering the message that the best way to close highly desirable clients is to stop selling and instead start delivering immeasurable value.
10. Learn How to Read People
The best way to hone sales skills is by learning to quickly read people. Some people are persuaded by facts and data, while others buy from people they consider confident, reliable and likeable. Non-verbal cues will tell you what to expect, so talk to people according to their communication style and emphasize how your product or service would make things easier for them.
11. Practice Your Pitch With as Many People as You Can
Get all the feedback you can, especially from people in sales and marketing. But don’t forget to do some qualitative research with your target group as well: anything from talks or lunch meetings to focus groups will be priceless.
12. Try Pitching to Children
If you can learn to succinctly describe your product to someone who knows nothing about it and has a very limited attention span, you’ll be at the top of your game when you’re selling to your target market. Kids will give you instant feedback if you’re boring and not engaging them by not paying attention anymore, and they have no problem telling you if something doesn’t seem like a good deal.
13. Use Sales Automation Tools Like Outreach.io
I use Outreach.io and it will help A/B test my email outreach templates as well as show me important sales metrics at each stage. It helps save me a lot of time and energy while making me more effective at the same time. There are other sales automation tools like Sendbloom and Cadence. Just choose one and run with it. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at the results you get.
14. Learn Your Customer’s Pain Points
ltimately, sales is about overcoming customer objections. To be effective at sales, you must understand exactly what the major objections are. Talk to your customers and understand what causes them pain, and tailor your sales pitch accordingly. By taking this “consultative selling” approach, you can close deals without the customer even knowing that they have been part of a sales process.
15. Start Asking “Why?”
When it comes to sales, I was always taught to focus on the customer in front of you. More extensively, I have honed my skills because I ask them “why” they need our product, not “what they are going to do with it” or “how it’s going to help.” I try to dig for the sole purpose a customer is looking to buy. With that information, I can perfectly align their needs with our product.