In the world of influencer marketing, today’s customer is savvier than ever. Sales reps benefit from new tools and technology, but they face new obstacles, too. Consumers no longer want to be “sold to.” They look for recommendations from friends, family, and trusted accounts on social media. The decades-old sales tactic of “telling, not asking” is no longer effective.
Sales representatives in 2019 need a combination of interpersonal skills – that skillset will never change – and technological savvy. Cold calling has been replaced by new, targeted sales tools; successful sales reps now track and interact with prospective leads on digital platforms. These are the must-have skills a sales rep needs in 2019.
Despite fears that AI will take the job of a sales rep, there’s one thing robots still can’t replicate: interpersonal communication. Soft skills are among the most in-demand skills in any industry, but particularly in sales, where effective communication is the difference between closing a sale and turning off a prospect for life.
In the past, sales communication looked a lot like telling a customer all the product features, benefits, and competitive differentiators to bludgeon them into committing to a sale. Representatives were skilled in the art of cold-calling with a prepared elevator pitch. Today’s sales process takes a softer touch. Sales reps must design their communication as “education.” According to Hubspot, “Salespeople don’t just need to sell, they should expand buyer’s horizons and give them new ideas that change their thinking. In fact, RAIN’s study found “sales winners” educated buyers with new ideas and perspectives 2.9 times more often than second-place finishers.”
Education and listening skills go hand-in-hand. Today’s sales rep must build a relationship with a potential lead over time. High EQ, emotional intelligence, helps a sales rep recognize emotions, read people, and respond effectively to a consumer’s concerns and questions. Successful sales representatives treat their lead like a person, rather than a target, building trust over time.
Collaboration goes hand-in-hand with communication. Collaboration is one of the top five in-demand soft skills in 2019, in every industry. Great sales reps collaborate with their customers and with teams within an organization: marketing and customer service should work in sync with sales to create a unified customer experience.
Video was a major selling tool in 2018. Sales reps used video to connect with new leads, give a product demo, and reengage with prospects. To create effective videos, however, requires collaborative insights from customer service and the skills of a marketing video designer. Smart sales reps work with customer service to learn what common questions customers have about the product. A salesperson can remove barriers to purchase with marketing data – where in the purchase process do customers click off the website? What channels are customers using to discover a product, and how can a quick sales interaction get someone in the funnel? Today’s sales cycle is collaborative across customer touchpoints.
Time management is a key factor in the life of a sales representative. A great salesperson is adept at dividing their time between outreach, follow-up, and paperwork. Within time management, a salesperson must know how to time their communication properly and to prioritize who to reach out to when.
Time management also comes down to flexibility. A sales rep must be able to pivot between tasks when a prospect sends in a request or question. A sales rep’s day is frequently structured around the buyer: for example, if a salesperson is working in the construction industry, they must be available when the customer isn’t already on the job (and construction contractors start work early!). Great salespeople budget time to catch up on admin tasks when they know their leads will be less available.
Email is one of the best sales tools out there, replacing cold calling as the dominant way to reach prospective customers. LinkedIn found that almost 80% of top performers consider email tracking to be either “critical” or “extremely critical” to their ability to close deals. Email marketing has one of the highest ROIs of any digital channel; when used with a follow-up call, email can turn a cold lead into a warm one.
Sales reps need to master email tools to get the most success out of their sales strategy. As a hard skill, email is perhaps the most versatile and narrowly defined technical skill a hiring team can look for. Find out if your prospective sales rep has experience with Mailchimp or with email tracking integrations that sync with Gmail or Outlook. A sales rep can take advantage of tracking when a recipient clicks on an email, views a product video embedded in the email, or clicks through a link. It’s this kind of strategic planning that sets apart today’s best sales reps.
Lastly, social selling – selling on social media – is here to stay. Sales reps that master their online presence, as well as understand how to interact with their prospective leads across social media platforms, will rise to the top. According to one industry report, 98% of sales reps that have more than 5,000 connections on LinkedIn are able to meet or surpass their sales quotas. The more connections a salesperson fosters, the more likely it is that those connections will turn into meaningful relationships – and then sales. “72.6% of salespeople who use social media outperform their colleagues who aren’t using it,” notes another article.
The best sales reps in 2019 know how to communicate with customers on any platform. This involves a combination of using technical tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, or Hubspot, as well as communication – how do you write copy that doesn’t appear too spammy or sales-y? Social media is where a salesperson must utilize all their hard and soft skills to foster leads and outperform their competition.
To learn more about how to hire a great salesperson, get in touch with Elevate Talent.
Chanler is the Business Development Manager at Elevate Talent, a recruiting agency that helps companies build their Go-To-Market and People Operations teams.