Sales professionals have taken on a new role. The emergence of digital marketing has led to a shift in the way sales leaders are connecting with customers. While some things like customer satisfaction and brand loyalty remain priorities, how that satisfaction and loyalty is achieved is changing drastically.
So, what does that mean for sales? A few things. To start, new and innovative ways to reach your target audience, a more customer-centric approach, and the emergence of social selling. With all this change, sales professionals need the right skills to perform. Here’s what you need to be able to market yourself as a sales leader in today’s changing sales landscape.
Skills for sales professional can be broken down into two categories: soft skills and hard skills.
Soft skills are those acquired over a lifetime and relating to a person’s ability to connect with others, such as relationship building and storytelling. They also involve your ability to perform common tasks like researching and information gathering.
Hard skills are acquired through formal learning. They refer to the technical aspects of a job that one learns through academic institutions, workplaces, seminars, mentorships, and training courses. Hard skills include product knowledge and contract negotiations.
LinkedIn surveyed a group of business leaders and 57% of 2000 said soft skills are more important than hard skills. You will still want to have both, but that means you shouldn’t be discouraged if you don’t have all the qualifications.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your low points makes it easy for you to look into training courses, seminars, books, blogs, and more that can help you expand your understanding and maybe even turn weaknesses into strengths. If you're currently at an agency, ask to shadow an individual with these skills to get hands-on experience.
Concerning your strengths, there’s always room for improvement. Given that these are areas you like, professional development will be even more enjoyable. Take advantage of training opportunities that are available to you through either your employer or independently. Always be on the lookout for ways to sharpen your skills. It’s never too late to upgrade your education. Many outlets like the Digital Marketing Institute offer part-time and online courses, making certifications more accessible than ever.
Now that you understand the categories of skills you need, and how you can develop them, let’s take a look at how the sales landscape is evolving and what skills professionals need to stay current.
Consumers don’t want to be hassled, but when they want information, they want it now. Two of the greatest things to come from digital marketing is the elimination of the cold call and unprecedented access to what was formerly industry-exclusive information.
Today’s customer is discerning, and when they are ready to buy, they are going to look for products and services. The first place they are going to look is Google. The consumer types their search, and Google returns about 100 billion results. Of those results, most people are only looking at the first page. With strong lead generation techniques, through social, ad campaigns, content, and more, your website will show up on that page.
Lead generation requires a lot of relationship building and client engagement. You build that relationship through targeted communication, product knowledge, and a thorough understanding of consumer needs and how you can solve issues.
Several aspects go into a marketing and sales strategy, and today’s sales professionals are proficient in all of them. Advertising campaigns used to be product focused, including what the product does, how it works, and who would use it. Today, it is much more customer focused. As opposed to selling customers on what a product does, you are selling what it can do to improve the life of the consumer.
Sales reps today need to know not only about the product or service they are selling but also who is buying said product or service and why. They must be a part of the overall marketing strategy so that they can identify the type of customer they are dealing with, which stage of the funnel the customer is in, and how to move them through the sales cycle effectively.
Being able to incorporate the overall marketing and sales strategy into your sales goals will make you a valuable asset to any team. It will require very strong collaboration skills as sales and marketing departments become more entwined.
Artfully using SEO to a brand’s advantage is a skill that also has its own job classifications, so having a basic understanding of how it works is a great place to start. Your business is online, but consumers finding you is a whole different story. Knowing what techniques will improve your ranking on search engines (Google, in particular) is an integral part of the sales process. Google’s algorithms are notoriously changing, and therefore, SEO is an ongoing effort that can’t be neglected. It’s not a set it and forget it process.
PPC helps you get your ads in front of qualified consumers. These are the sponsored posts that come up at the top of search engine results. The benefit of PPC (aside from bringing qualified traffic to your website) is you only pay when an ad is clicked on and has brought traffic to your site. Having a basic understanding of how paid traffic can increase revenue and how to scale ads will help sales executives drive qualified leads.
Many details go into SEO & PPC, and a person who is organized and meticulous when it comes to staying ahead of the curve and making adjustments will thrive.
Social selling is a relatively new term for the practice of cultivating social networks to find, connect with, understand, and nurture relationships with potential customers. Research shows that 80% of consumers want helpful tips and advice, and 76% want business service updates communicated via social media.
Social selling is a must with social media being a leading tool in digital marketing. People who are skilled at selling and doing so subtly through social channels will do well in this industry. These tactics involve engaging with customers, supplying them with materials that show you understand their pain points and guiding them toward your product or service as a solution. You need to be well versed on social platforms, of course and have superior communication skills.
You want to establish yourself not only as a seller but also as a thought leader. An innovative business cares about its consumers and constantly shows it by helping them – where and when they need it.
As a salesperson, you aren’t just motivated by the bottom line. In this age, you can build sales by listening to a customer and matching them with exact thing they need to solve a problem or providing them with the information they need to come to a conclusion on their own.
Today’s sales professionals are savvy and understand that they must have a variety of skills to stay on top. While each part of the marketing plan can be implemented by different departments, the sales team remains the most versatile. They know not just their products, but their customers. Salespeople understand the journey a customer has been on and the marketing techniques they've been exposed to. So, salespeople can listen to what a customer needs and provide them with a solution.
The days of high-pressure sales tactics have been replaced with mutually beneficial exchanges, where the customer feels a personal connection to the business or product. With appropriate touch points from the sales team, a lead becomes a loyal customer, and maybe even an advocate for your brand.
As the landscape of sales changes, creating a greater customer experience and generating repeat business are going to be top priorities. Using the skills outlined here, you can remain an innovator at the top of your sales game in the years to come. Know your products, develop your skills, and always put the customer first, and you will see success.
Learn the tools and technologies needed to meet the challenges of selling in the digital age with a Professional Diploma in Digital and Social Selling. Download a brochure today!