Looking for a short list of sales skills to work on? You might start with findings from a Xerox-sponsored study.

Researchers looked at top, mediocre and marginal producers in 24 industries and found five distinct behaviors that top sales performers exhibit in spades:

  1. They sell informally. Top performers establish a balanced natural dialogue with customers and interact as friends. They don’t “sell”; they explain and help customers find their own reasons to buy. Marginal sellers tend to overstructure the sales call.
  2. They’re great at probing. They ask 25% more open-ended questions than low performers. They make sure they know the customer’s problems before they ever recommend a solution.
  3. They’re good at matching needs. Top performers present solutions that are precisely tailored to the customer’s needs – no more and no less. Weaker performers are more likely to use a scattershot approach. Benefits that aren’t relevant to the customer’s needs invite objections.
  4. They can handle negativity. Top performers don’t get rattled by customers’ negativity. Instead, they deal with it directly and defuse it. They recognize that objections and complaints, handled effectively, can win customers over.
  5. They think beyond the close. Mediocre salespeople focus too much on closing. Great ones close with a plan of action that helps the customer understand what will happen next. The study found that when this type of close was used, 75% of prospects ended up buying.

Source: Kerry Johnson, www.kerryjohnson.com

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