10 Sales Skills only Successful Sales Reps know

10 sales skills only successful sales reps know
All other factors equal, a salesperson’s race to make quota becomes a test of their sales skills.

However, some salespeople seem to be able to acquire more leads and customers and have an uncanny ability to get more done. Even when juggling multiple priorities and clients, they can get everything done.

How do they do this consistently?

With the right sales skills and approach, you too can master this. It doesn’t take long hours or more work- you just need to apply clever tips in your sales.

Equip yourself with these 10 sales skills that successful salespeople rely on

Sales Skill #1. Show Empathy

Successful salespeople are great empathizers. They have the ability to identify with prospective clients, fit in their emotional shoes and empathize, making their customers feel comfortable and understood.

Empathy is a natural social trait, but it’s also a sales skill that can help you to understand your customers, show them concern and display your ability to offer viable solutions to their issues. Plenty of studies and research show how persuasive empathy can be in understanding and identifying a customer’s emotions. Subsequently, you can provide lasting solutions that mutually benefit both parties.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, addresses issues that most overwhelm his markets’ specific consumers such as: What if the shoes isn’t right, does not fit well, has a defect, etc.

Zappos has benefited from their proactive and empathetic response to their customer’s issues. The company has grown from a fledgling shoe retailer into vast online supplier of shoes and other clothing items.

Here are a few ways to develop this crucial sales skill:

  • Recognize what a lead is feeling by paying attention to their verbal cues and body language.
  • Put yourself in that person’s position.
  • Listen to the person without passing judgment on the facts or their meaning. Instead, accept the person’s interpretation as being valid and worthwhile. After all, what counts here is how they view your product, not how you view it.
  • Focus on a response that moves you closer to your intended outcome. Be patient and use pauses to formulate an appropriate response.
  • Help prospects understand your implicit benefit by asking questions that help uncover the implications of no change.
  • Ask questions to elicit a vision from your lead of the implications if the change is made.


Sales Skill #2. Paint a picture for your leads

Research shows that people are likely to be persuaded by something that helps visualize the experience. Successful sales people capitalize on this persuasive secret by using powerful visual imagery. When actual images aren’t available or appropriate, they’ll tell vivid stories that breathe life into their ideas.

Donald Miller on his lead generation site 5minutemarketingmakeover.com uses stories and metaphors to paint a picture of the problems that businesses face and, in turn, give his audience a taste of what his workshops will be like that improve their business.

Here are a few tips to help paint a picture for your prospects:

  • Use words that create strong mental images.
  • Use words that strike an emotional chord in your audience, while maintaining a clear and credible message.
  • At certain times, such as after pitching your proposal, silence serves a purpose to illustrate the point.

Sales Skill #3. Seek out small victories

Even when their efforts produce smaller wins, successful salespeople still challenge themselves to close.

Why do they go after small victories?

These wins build new androgen receptors in parts of the brain responsible for reward and motivation. In other words, celebrating small wins provides positive reinforcement. They also lighten what can at times be an arduous journey. This sales skill is good not just for your win rates, but also your mental health.

Frank Gruber, co-founder of Tech Cocktail and author of Startup Mixology is demonstrably a big believer of celebrating small wins.

Here are a few ways to break down your sales journey and celebrate small victories.

  • Separate your sales process into smaller steps and milestones.
  • Celebrate key steps in building relationships with prospects.
  • Capitalize on opportunities to be visible and get in front of targeted audiences – no matter their size.
Fileboard's integrated sales platform saves you 1 day a week from switching tools

Sales Skill #4. Put technology to work for you

Use technology to further your communication and focus. From using apps to send out appropriate emails to prospects, and setting up alerts, using the right technology to maximize your effect and outreach is a top sales skill. The right technology can help you respond to important tasks and multiply your outreach and effectiveness.

Sales hacker Ryan Kulp, for example, uses technology to manage his outreach campaigns via email with great success for him and those who use the same methods.

Here are few methods salespeople can use technology to improve their ongoing conversations with prospects and their close rate.

  • Buy software that tracks anonymous visitors to your website, providing location and company information and tracks them until they fill out a form or call in.
  • Automate your prospecting emails.
  • Send out scheduled emails to those on your list and save out of office replies as they often contain contact information that you would not ordinarily get.
  • Work with those involved with demand gen to share insights and news to tailor their messaging.
  • Use systems and metrics to track what works well and what doesn’t work so well.
  • Employ voicemail automation tools that could save you 25 hours a month

Alternatively, you can use Fileboard’s integrated sales platform that does all of this and more.

Sales Skill #5. Leverage reciprocity

In two experiments performed by researcher Andreas Diekmann of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, “altruistic reciprocity is frequent and robust”. In terms of selling, people are more likely to buy from you if they feel they owe you something in return.

A common example of applying this principle of reciprocity is “free samples”, where companies give a little something to increase the likelihood of receiving something in return. Emotional Reciprocity is where you make people feel good by saying something along the lines of – Thank you, it’s a pleasure to meet you, I know how busy you are.

In performing these actions that cause people to feel better about themselves, they tend to have a deep subconscious need to reciprocate.

So when attempting to leverage reciprocity, use one or more of the methods below:

  • Ask lots of questions of the other person and listen closely to their answers
  • Look for opportunities, however, small to do things for others – such as opening a door or getting someone their favorite soda.
  • Go through negotiations slowly even if there are parts that cause objections. Save your objections for later once your leads are warmer.
  • Use the word ‘fair’ often, as it triggers an emotional feeling to be even.
  • Ask for something in return during negotiations

Sales Skill #6. Focus on being authoritative

If salespeople demonstrate themselves to be an authority, customers are more likely to be compliant and buy from them. Salespeople can also harness the opinions of professionals or experts to help them clinch a sale. This is often seen in advertising, when testimonials or endorsements of celebrities are used to add authority to a product or service.

Tim Ferris leverages testimonials from famous publications on his site to create the impression that he’s an authority on productivity.

Tim Ferris - the 4 hours workweek

How can you acquire the sales skills to be an authority in your industry?

  • Go the extra mile to become an expert in your industry.
  • Decide what you stand for and what you bring to the industry, then live it loud.
  • Prove that you’re an expert, write posts, get published in industry journals, or give seminars and talks.
  • Promote what others say about you.
  • Make the conversation, don’t just be part of it.
  • Connect with other authority figures and leaders in your industry.
Focusing on social proof helps to sell faster

Sales Skill #7. Gain social proof

An experiment by Dr. Cialdini found that people were more likely to participate in a door-to-door donation campaign if the donor list included their friends and neighbors.

According to a report by Innovation Bubble titled Psychology of Recommendation:

“If someone has a keen interest in a product/brand they will be more persuaded by how it performs, what it costs, etc. Most consumers however are not overly concerned or focused on a product/brand – instead they get persuaded by who is using it, how it makes them feel/look, who is recommending it etc. These are known as peripheral cues to persuasion – as they are peripheral to how the product/brand actually functions/performs.”

Social proof dictates that we act in the same way that our society does as a way of being accepted by it. This technique can be seen in advertising with messages like “9 out of 10 people recommend.” Tripadvisor for example uses traveler’s recommendations as the basis for their business.

How can you leverage social proof? Get social proof from one or more categories below:

  • Approval from a credible expert within your industry.
  • Approval or endorsements (especially unpaid endorsements) from celebrities.
  • Approval from current users of the product/service by way of testimonials, case-studies and reviews.
  • Approval from large numbers of people or customers.
  • Approval from friends or people your prospect may know.

Sales Skill #8. Be attractive – Not just in looks!

We’re not saying being good looking is a sales skill. Salespeople are able to study their potential customer and create their buyer persona. They get to know their best potential customer inside-out and use this to their advantage. Salespeople know that people are more likely to buy from people like themselves, or their friends, or people that they know and respect. So they emulate their prospects by dressing in the correct way, and even speaking in the same way as their potential customer.

This corroborates studies that show that attractive people are more successful. Dr. Dario Maestripieri at the University of Chicago calls this principle “the pleasure of dealing with good-looking people.”

According to Dr. Maestripieri, attractive people possess desirable personality traits such as greater confidence which manifests itself in their behavior. As a result, their looks are rated more highly. Their self-esteem makes them more desirable and better paid.

Take Neil Patel for example, who discovered that taking the time and investing in dressing well can produce a great return on investment.

Don’t have the looks but want to be attractive? Here are a few tips:

  • Dress well. Invest in good clothes and footwear.
  • Always be well groomed.
  • Take the time to socialize with prospects in respectable places that they would love to meet.
  • Ensure you are well prepared and confident as you meet with prospects and clients.

Sales Skill #9. Seek small commitments

The principle of commitment states that it is easier to sell to a customer who has already bought than to get a new customer to buy. This is called upselling and is a sales skill used by top salespeople. Before trying to sell a high-priced product, first try to obtain a ‘yes’ on a smaller item.

Researchers have found in many industries, consumers are offered the opportunity to revise their initial decision in return for a superior but more expensive product or service option. You’ve probably experienced this when checking in at an airport or hotel counter. In such instances, customers are often encouraged to reconsider their initial reservation and book a higher-quality but costlier upgrade, such as an upgrade to first class or a nicer room.

The research into upselling found that people’s responses to upsell offers depend on the amount of cognitive effort required exerted at the initial choice stage and how the offer was framed (as a potential loss or gain).

For example, Ben Angel uses micro-payments to sell his 30 Day Business Turnaround program which starts off with a one-week trial at $7.95 before clients get charged higher fees as part of the program.

Asking for commitments can be a tough sales skill to acquire. Here are a few tips to help acquire it.

  • Prepare for the meeting by determining what commitments can be made – best case, worst case and in something in between.
  • Write the questions down and keep it visible so it can serve as a prompt.
  • With clients who have already bought from you, consider offering upgrades in line with the customer’s business objectives or current payment schedule.
Prioritizing your sales tasks for the next day makes you sell smarter

Sales Skill #10. Prepare for tomorrow before you leave the office

Successful salespeople end each day by preparing for the next. This practice accomplishes two main things – it helps you go over what you accomplished today and ensures you’ll be productive the next day. This just takes a few minutes but is a great way to end your workday.

Research shows that that our willpower starts off at a high and reduces through the day as we use it up in decision making. Research also shows that starting a goal and not accomplishing it makes us less effective at the tasks we perform.

A well-known Mark Twain quote could help provide insight into being more productive –
Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.

Brian Tracy is an advocate of the process and wrote a book titled Eat That Frog. Prioritizing tasks has never been more important given how easy it is to be overwhelmed by everything in our environment.

To prioritize efficiently consider placing tasks in one of the four categories below.

  • Things you don’t want to do and don’t need to do.
  • Things you don’t want to do but need to do.
  • Things you want to do and need to do.
  • Things you want to do, but don’t need to do

Now just do the things you need to do but don’t want to do first off. These are frogs – things that are distasteful and need to be done, but you tend not to want to.

Bonus skill

Sales Skill #11. Stick to meeting schedules

Meetings can be a big time waste. A sales skill that successful salespeople learn is to keep meetings brief, and value-focused within the meeting schedule. They know that meetings can drag on forever or not be productive if they let it. So they let everyone know beforehand that they’ll stick to the intended schedule. This sets a limit that motivates everyone to be more focused and efficient.

Take for example Jeff Bezos. His solution to productive meetings is never to have a meeting where two pizzas couldn’t feed those assembled.


Over to you

Here we have 11 persuasive secret sales skills that successful salespeople use. Go apply them, and let us know how well you do!

Are there other skills that have been of benefit to you? If so, let us know in the comments.