How to Develop the 4 Most Essential Competitive Sales Skills

How to Develop the 4 Most Essential Competitive Sales Skills Blog Feature

Published on July 20th, 2017

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Developing competitive sales skills focuses heavily on being able to perform under pressure, in any type of situation or environment.

Sales professionals who possess competitive sales skills are like professional athletes. They have confidence in their own abilities and fear their equally-skilled competitors, who may be better performers under pressure.

Confidence -- born from focus, attention, and ongoing skill development -- is the chief ingredient for success, no matter what industry you are in.

So, whether you’re training yourself or your team, it can be challenging to determine specific areas of development that are important to focus on.

When working with sales teams around the world, the question I’m often asked is: What's the most important thing to train a sales rep to do?

Today, in addition to these insights, we will review more commonly asked questions and walk you through how to develop and improve four of the most essential competitive sales skills.

#1 Prospecting

So many sales reps look for shortcuts and alternatives to finding new sales opportunities, but the truth is prospecting requires a lot of preparation, practice, and persistence.


That's why there is no shortcut when it comes to quickly bringing in a qualified lead. To develop and improve upon this important step in the sales process, consider these tips:

Prospecting Tip #1: Don’t underestimate the power of preparation.

How much time do you spend researching a lead before you connect?

With an abundance of sales tools available, this should be easy. But it can still be a challenge to determine what information you need to gather before you reach out.

You can categorize this information into four buckets:

  • Bucket 1: Professional contacts you have in common (Do you have any mutual connections on LinkedIn? Do you belong to any of the same networking groups?)
  • Bucket 2: Past experience with similar products/services/solutions (Do you know if they’ve invested in a solution like this in the past? Who did they work with?)
  • Bucket 3: Company and industry specific trends and updates (Are there any changes happening at the company? What’s trending in the industry?)
  • Bucket 4: Conversational, common interest information (Where are they from? Where did they go to college? Are they a volunteer anywhere?)

Based on what you find, jot down a few thoughtful comments and questions you can use during your conversation.

The point here is not to regurgitate information your prospect already knows.

Instead, use the information to begin building the relationship and positioning yourself as an expert who has done their homework. You’ll be able to establish a stronger connection with the prospect with this strategy.

Prospecting Tip #2: “Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.” - Unknown

You can only improve what you practice.

When prospecting, script out your message for each approach and method you use. The act of writing out what you want to say will help you plan and prepare the right message for each communication channel.

You will also want to anticipate objections by writing down the most common ones you hear, then scripting and practicing your turn-around responses.

You can increase your sales activity and improve results by choosing your words carefully, trying different approaches and practicing with new messaging to help you determine what combination works best.

When you rehearse and practice regularly, you can more easily make observations about what’s working and what’s not. With those insights, you can commit the best language to memory, thereby replacing the ineffective words you may unconsciously be using.

Prospecting Tip #3: Persistence pays off.

The majority of sales require repeated follow-ups, but more than half of all sales reps fail to reach out again after just one attempt.

That’s a huge missed opportunity because 80% of sales are made on the 5th-12th attempt.

The lesson here is simple:

You will gain a competitive advantage over your competitors just by following through on each and every opportunity you pursue.

#2 Leading Great First Meetings

How can I ask a challenging question without turning off the prospect or customer?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this.

When you ask a challenging question, you are leading the conversation down a particular path to present the prospect or customer with a new idea or perspective. The goal of any first sales meeting is to qualify the opportunity and get a reaction in order to gauge what the other person thinks about your solution.

To develop your questioning skills and improve your meetings, you need to think in terms of what happens: before, during, and after the meeting.

Before the Meeting

To get the most value out of your meeting, you need to be well-prepared -- and simply researching the person you are meeting and the company they work for is not enough.

You can develop and improve your preparation skills by considering more detailed information like:

  • What is the company’s business model? How do they make money?
  • Who are their top clients?
  • What is the company challenged with? What are their pain points?
  • What results will this company see if they use your solution?
  • What questions are you going to ask?
  • What questions will they ask?
  • What next step will you suggest?

The purpose of your preparation and research before the meeting  is to give you fuel to ignite your conversation and engage the person you’re meeting with. You want to challenge them to think differently about how they run their business, and what it will take to reach their top priority goals.

During the Meeting

Before you do anything else, you want to set the tone of your meeting.

It may be tempting to kick things off on autopilot, but remember that each meeting should be unique. You can enhance your meeting skills by following these tips:

  • Arrive early to the meeting so you have time to settle in and review your notes again.
  • Thank the prospect or customer for taking the time to meet with you.
  • Ask your prospect or customer to share what they hope to get from the meeting.
  • Review your objectives and expectations for the meeting to make sure both sides are aligned.
  • Take notes on everything you talk about in the meeting for later reference.
  • Keep this first conversation geared towards business value, not about your company.
  • End the meeting by suggesting a scheduled next step.

These are just a few tips to keep in mind when you’re establishing the framework for your discussion. The clearer the expectations are for both parties, the easier it will be to stay focused on the topic at hand. Not only that, you’ll see more successful outcomes from your meetings.

After the Meeting

When you shake hands and say goodbye, you’re just getting started. After the meeting is where the rubber meets the road and is essential to your sales success.

As we mentioned earlier, the majority of sales reps aren’t following up the right number of times. That magical number is between five and twelve attempts.

Based on your notes, identify your follow-up strategy and start thinking about how you want the opportunity to progress.

Staying in constant contact with your opportunities isn’t a bad thing. In fact, keeping in touch will help you further establish a connection and build the relationship. Even if they don’t become a customer, they’re still a potential buying contender.

#3 Delivering Your Sales Presentation

Nailing your sales presentation isn’t easy.

So, if you are looking to more effectively present your solution, there are a number of things to keep in mind to make sure that you are providing the best experience possible.

Whether your customer buys from you or from the competition depends on two things: how well you deliver your presentation and if it resonates with your prospective customer.

Here are three tips to transform your sales presentation into a deal-closer:

Tip #1: Craft a compelling and personalized story.

One of the most common mistakes sales reps make when delivering their sales presentation is to use a generic or “canned” template that’s not personalized or very compelling.

These reps typically say the same thing in every presentation and hope that something they say will appeal to the prospective customer. This is not a very effective strategy.

You need to modify each presentation to discuss specific points that are unique to that particular prospect or customer. Use their logo and make sure you provide detail into how each of the points you make applies to their unique situation.

Tip #2: Engage your audience by turning your presentation into a dialogue.

Early in your presentation, create a slide with bullet points outlining your understanding of the prospect’s situation (pains, challenges, opportunities, desired outcomes).

This will be the most powerful slide in the deck because it’s all about them -- while also showing off the great discovery work you’ve done up to that point. Stay on this slide and engage with your prospect by getting their feedback based on your initial findings. Then ask them to edit and prioritize the issues you’ve listed.

Tip #3: Get to the point.

Modern professionals are far too busy to listen to long-winded discussions. Know what your key points are and learn how to make them quickly.

I remember speaking with a sales rep who rambled at great length about his product. After viewing his product and learning how much it would cost, I was prepared to move ahead with my purchase. Unfortunately, he continued talking to the point where he almost unwittingly talked himself out of the sale.

Make sure you know what key points you want to discuss and practice verbalizing them before you meet with your prospect.

#4 Negotiating and Closing

At this point, you might be wondering, “How early into the sale should I attempt to close?” and “How can I ask for the deal without sounding too ‘salesy’?”

The process of negotiating and closing a deal doesn’t have to be a painful or uncomfortable situation.

The goal of a negotiation is to reach a mutual agreement about the value of your solution, which ultimately leads to either winning or losing a deal.

If you want to increase your skills as an effective negotiator and closer, a good place to start is by analyzing the last few opportunities you’ve worked on that have gotten to this stage by asking yourself these questions:

  • Did the negotiation come as a surprise? If everything was smooth sailing up to this point and all of sudden your contact needs to “check with their boss,” that may be a warning sign the deal is straying off course. (Why didn’t this come up earlier?)
  • Am I speaking with the decision maker? To avoid the above scenario, verify you’re speaking with the right person. This will avoid a lot of headaches down the road.
  • Did I clearly define my concessions and walk-away points? In advance of meeting with your prospect, set limits on price discounts and add-ons, so you stay focused and don’t end up negotiating against yourself.
  • How did we come to a mutually beneficial agreement? Make note of the key elements that either helped make the deal happen or were part of the reason why the deal didn’t move forward. While each prospect and customer will have their own unique needs, you can use this information as reference point in advance of future negotiations.  
  • Should I have walked away from the deal? Not every deal is a good deal. If you’ve ever worked with a customer who only took the deal after giving them numerous discounts and “added-value” freebies, then there’s a good chance this customer eventually became dissatisfied with your solution. Not because of your solution, but because of their perception of your solution.

Getting a prospect to sign on the dotted line starts with keeping the end in mind.

By evaluating the last few deals you’ve worked on, you’ll better understand the needs and motivations necessary to build a deal that benefits everyone involved.

How to Become One of the Best

Sales reps that bring in business beat their competitors, as well as their own best records from previous years. They do this by focusing on the skills needed to successfully move their prospects through the sales process.

To develop your skills as a sales professional, you must understand yourself, and -- equally as important -- you need to know your competition.

The best competitive sellers are willing to do whatever it takes by asking themselves:

  • What are my competitors doing that I should be doing? Or shouldn’t be doing?
  • How many prospecting calls will they make?
  • How will they prepare for their sales meetings? Oh and by the way, these are sales meeting that are with the same type of people you want to meet with.
  • How will they handle objections?
  • How will they answer the tough question: “how are you different from your competitors?” How will they make their offering sound compelling and ROI?
  • What are they doing to prepare for a successful year that includes beating you at your game?

Unless you consider these questions -- even if the answers scare you -- you will never pass your competition. So, gather your confidence, refine your skills, get out there, and conquer the sales world!

You know that the competition grows stronger and that goals are set higher every year. Download the eBook to find out how you can make a smart investment to stay ahead of the competition.

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