Wondering what it takes to get ahead in sales? Five professionals from some of the Asia-Pacific region’s most innovative and successful companies share the secrets to their success.
On the surface, good communication appears deceptively simple. It’s “the ability to clearly articulate the information or point you want to make,” says Alexandra Masters, Public Sector Account Executive at Salesforce.
In reality, effective communication is an art that relies on nuance and eloquence. It requires tailoring your communication style, both verbal and non-verbal, to suit the situation, taking into account your audience, the circumstance and the method of communication, says Masters.
A great salesperson will tell a story to show how a product creates value and improves customer experience. “Speaking with a potential customer means painting a picture of how Salesforce will make every workday more efficient, rewarding and effective for the employee and their team,” says Masters, reflecting on her own work.
When planning a pitch, start where you want to finish and work backwards. “Work out the top two or three points you want to get across and refer to them throughout your discussion,” says Masters. If you stay focused, she says, you’ll be less likely to go off-track.
Being an excellent communicator isn’t just about having the gift of the gab. Active listening is vital in sales, says Masters. Too often, sales reps focus on what they’re going to say next and fail to listen to the customer. “This could mean missing key points that could help close the deal,” she says. “Active listening also shows respect for customers’ time and helps you build a better relationship based on a deep understanding of who you are speaking with.”
Don’t be tempted to overdo it – when it comes to compelling communication, less is more. “Keep your communication short and to the point, especially when engaging with an executive,” advises Masters. “If you are communicating through email, get your point across within one to two scrolls on a phone. Most people skim read emails, so including clear headings and dot points can also be effective.”
It’s the best advice Cameron Kahler, director of sales at Flare HR has ever received: be your authentic self. “It sounds simple, but so often I see salespeople who are trying to apply the latest training technique or strategy by copying someone else, and it feels fake,” he says.
Individuals who behave with authenticity – whether it’s in their personal or professional life – inspire trust and confidence among the people around them. “Sales is all about relationships between people, and there is nothing more attractive than a person who has integrity and belief in everything they say and everything they do,” says Kahler.
It’s authenticity, he says, that wins customers over.
No matter how much research you’ve done, never assume you know all there is to know. Instead, cultivate a constant sense of curiosity and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
“Ask accurate and high-quality questions,” says Yew Boon Seng, Senior Key Account Manager at Philips. “The benefit of asking sharp and specific questions is that they lead to specific answers. With those answers, the right action can be taken accordingly.”
It’s not a buzzword for nothing – emotional intelligence is essential to success in many fields, among them sales. Emotional intelligence encompasses our ability to identify, express and regulate our emotions. People with high emotional intelligence have a strong sense of empathy, good interpersonal skills, and the ability to build meaningful relationships with others.
“Sales is essentially about being able to communicate value to another person,” says Dane Cowley, Sales Expansion Manager at real estate platform Open Agent. “In order to do this, you must understand the other person’s values, which are very often linked to strong emotional connections.”
Openness to feedback
The ability to receive feedback – and learn from it – is crucial to sales success, says Paul Diaz, Associate Director of Talent and Leadership at Optus. “Having formal and informal systems in place to receive feedback goes a long way to helping leaders get a perspective on how they approach communication and collaboration.”
At Optus, the Leaders Lead program allows a leader’s direct reports to offer regular feedback on their performance. “We also actively engage our Top 400 leaders in forums to build cross-functional relationships which can underpin better communication and collaboration across business units,” Diaz says.
Fortunately, communication and collaboration are skills that can be learned with the right training and support. “Interestingly, however, the issue here is often less about skill and more about will,” says Diaz. “Having positive role models can really help to motivate leaders to make the right choices. Never underestimate the importance of having good communicators and collaborators at the top.”