Crucial Sales Skills
The next industrial revolution is well underway, and the disruptive technologies that will underpin it no longer sit in the realm of science fiction.
Automation, robots and AI are here, and they’re coming after your white-collar job.
So, how do you avoid obsolescence?
How do you make sure that customers want to have a sales conversation with you, instead of your algorithm-run replacement?
This article takes you through two crucial sales skills that – when done well – make it hard for technology to replace you.
The two crucial sales skills that technology can’t replicate (yet)
1. Demonstrate empathy
Empathy has underpinned successful sales conversations long before it became the concept de rigueur. It’s all about treating customers like people, putting their needs first and building a connection.
When we practice empathy, we’re showing we understand the customer’s perspective and value their emotions. We’re transforming the conversation from process-focused to genuinely customer-centric.
In the case of a product or service failure, practicing empathy is especially crucial as failing to empathise will leave the customer feeling dejected and frustrated.
Empathy isn’t just a ‘nice to have’, it is an essential sales skill that differentiates great salespeople from their mediocre counterparts.
By showing that you understand how the customer is thinking, you’re better equipped to persuade them of your way of thinking, which is of course that they should commit to the sale.
So how to demonstrate empathy in a sales conversation?
Start by really listening to what the customer is saying – rather than waiting for your turn to speak.
Opportunities to show the customer you understand their perspective will become much clearer if you’re present in the moment. Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be deep and overly personal.
- That’s exciting! Have you travelled there before?
- Good on you for saving up that deposit. Very impressive!
- I’m sorry to hear that, I can imagine it can be frustrating.
And while AI will eventually be able to act on triggers to empathise with customers, it’s likely to lack the impact of a person-generated connection
2. Be curious
While self-serve, automated sales processes might establish what the customer wants, they can’t begin to understand what’s motivating the customer’s decisions and preferences.
Salespeople often fall into the trap of asking all their ‘really good questions’ without ever veering off script to drill down into the customer’s response.
Rather than simply move on to the next question, try to understand the customer’s emotional drivers.
Ask them ‘why’.
- Why are they getting in touch now?
- Why is it important to them?
- Why do they feel that way?
- Why do they like to bank like that way?
Demonstrating curiosity works on two levels.
First, it shows genuine interest and care for the customer which makes them feel valued – in a way that an interaction with a chatbot never could.
Second, delving further into the customer’s responses helps to uncover needs the customer may not even be aware of.
These conversations, in turn, lead to opportunities to sell additional products beyond what the customer had initially inquired about – increasing both yield and customer satisfaction (Wow, they helped me with things I hadn’t even realised I needed).
On the surface, these behaviours seem like easy-to-embed no-brainers, yet – as Grist’s benchmarking research shows us – most salespeople struggle to demonstrate empathy and curiosity in conversations with customers.
Even if you’re not concerned about the longer-term viability of your role, incorporating these two behaviours into your sales conversations is a sure-fire way to differentiate yourself from the competition and – most crucially – will help you win and keep customers.
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