The Most Critical Selling Skills Are Interpersonal
Being in a sales role is a lot like being in a leadership role.
Like leaders, top sellers influence and inspire others. Like leaders, high-performing sellers clear obstacles and open up the path to somewhere new and improved. Like leaders, savvy sellers connect with people in ways that make a difference.
Unfortunately, too few sellers seem themselves as leaders.
Without the mindset and skill set of a leader, sellers flounder. They rely on outdated techniques and the selling skills of yesteryear that simply do not work as well today.
Buyers Have Evolved. Selling Skills Have Evolved. Have You Evolved?
I've heard all the arguments of those who are entrenched in old school thinking. "Sales is sales is sales." "Sales will never change." "Selling is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow."
If sales hasn't changed, then why are buyers doing things differently? As a buyer, why do you research online before buying offline (or online)? As a buyer, why do you invest less time with sellers and expect more from from them?
If sales is still the same as it was 20 years ago, why do we have new tools and new structures inside sales organizations? If nothing has changed, why are so many sellers struggling to reach their goals? And why are buyers so resistant to meeting with sellers?
Like it not, selling has evolved. It has changed and will continue to change because buyers demand no less. The world has changed, buyers have changed, and selling has changed, too.
Some are in denial. Others are positively differentiating themselves and stepping into the new ways of selling, the ways that buyers prefer and respond favorably to.
Our research with 530 B2B buyers confirms the shift and affirms what experts like Tyre and Blount are saying. Buyers want sellers to behave in certain ways more frequently. The seller behaviors that buyers want to see more are behaviors the build relationships. They are behaviors that are more often associated with leadership than with sales.
The Shift in Selling Skills Summarized in 3 Simple Characters: H2H
That's what your buyers want from you. That's what makes up the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. That's what 530 B2B buyers responded enthusiastically to in our research about 30 specific behaviors.
Human-to-Human means interacting with people in authentic and individualized ways. Sure, you should maximize the sales enablement tools, AI, content marketing and other resources at your disposal. But you should not mistakenly substitute those materials and tools for good, old-fashioned contact with people.
The sales skills you need to succeed today are like those of years past in this regard. People respond to people. That's why picking up the phone and having a live conversation is still more likely to advance the sale than email.
We need to layer in some additional skills to earn the live conversation and to maximize its potential. This is where leadership skills come into play.
Here's a leadership framework that elegantly conveys the human element. It's based on 30+ years of global research with leaders and their constituent groups (direct reports, peers, senior leaders, etc.). This body of work, known as The Leadership Challenge® by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, gives us the Five Practices:
- Model the Way
- Inspire a Shared Vision
- Challenge the Process
- Enable Others to Act
- Encourage the Heart
Implied in each is that leadership is not a solo act. Neither is selling.
Leaders model the way to others. They inspire a vision that is shared by others. They challenge themselves and others to continuously improve. They enable and encourage -- not themselves -- but others.
Buyers are looking for leadership. (Aren't we all?!) They would like for the sellers who call on them to demonstrate a greater frequency of the 30 behaviors that are grouped in these Five Practices. Buyers are looking for sellers who connect with them H2H.
What Are the New Selling Skills Exactly?
In this recent blog post, we dived deeper into the specifics of what skills and behaviors your buyers want to see you exhibiting. The fact that buyers are explicitly asking for these underscores their importance.
H2H doesn't begin after the relationship is established. You will never get an opening unless you differentiate yourself and connect inter-personally from the very first impression.
H2H isn't reserved for the needs assessment phase of your sales process. In fact, buyers resist sellers who use a "bait and switch" approach to selling -- promising to learn about needs but pouncing at the first hint of a need.
H2H should be a constant. Interact with buyers just as you would with others in your daily life. Be interested, curious, empathetic and trustworthy. Consider what you would want if the tables were turned. Think of yourself as a leader (one who guides) instead of seeing yourself as a peddler of goods.