A recent post on LinkedIN
asked, "What are
the most important skills for strategic
selling." I couldn't resist responding, if
for no other reason than I needed a topic for
this month's newsletter, and was coming up
empty. So here, as this month's topic, is my
answer (modified for my newsletter's format)
to that question.
Many skills are needed to be successful in
strategic sales, but I'm going to suggest
three that are fundamentally necessary. Let
me preface my suggestions by saying I won't
be including anything having to do with
prospecting, which is a whole area unto
itself, and which is not peculiar to
strategic sales. Rather I'm going to
situations where you are already engaged with
My top three skills for strategic selling,
- Asking great questions
- Listening critically
- Gaining agreement at various stages of
the sales cycle
Those of you who've been with me for the last
few years will recognize these skills as
topics of previous issues. You've also seen
many more issues that dealt with other
topics, such as Presentations,
Management, and Forecasting.
So why did I
pick these three to be the most critical?
Because without them, none of the others
would be relevant. You won't be invited in
to make a presentation if you can't uncover
enough useful information to qualify your
prospect. And that qualification process
consists, as we all know, of asking great
questions and listening to the answers (both
what's said, and what's not said). And if you
aren't gaining agreement along the way, well,
I suppose you could have a forecast, but it
wouldn't be a terribly strong one - certainly
not one in which your manager would, or
should, have much confidence.
Let's look more closely at these three skills.
Great questions consist of a series of
qualifying (and disqualifying) questions,
probing questions (to understand business
needs as well as personal motivations), and
trial closes (which gets us into skill #3).
Use great questions, and you'll unlock the
secrets to winning your prospect's
confidence, and with it the keys to his kingdom.
Listening is an ability most of us have;
critical listening is the development
inherent ability into the skill of listening
with intent, with purpose.
Listening to understand the goals and
challenges, fears and constraints of your
prospect (and by
"prospect", I mean all the players involved
in evaluating your offering), as well as what
will motivate them to select you, or to
advocate on your behalf. It's listening to
determine your prospect's evaluation process,
and using that information to develop your
own selling approach for this opportunity.
Listen critically, and you'll absorb those
secrets you've unlocked, and be able to use
them to your advantage.
Unlike transactional sales, strategic
sales take a long time to come to fruition -
typically 3-12 months. There are too many
opportunities along the way for a deal to
derail - for reasons which often are not
under your control. It's for this reason
that I consider gaining small agreements
along the way the third of my top three
important skills for strategic selling.
Decide for yourself if you agree that these
are indeed three of the most important skills
needed for success in strategic selling. If
you decide you do, look in the mirror and ask
yourself, "Have I mastered these skills? If
not, which ones do I feel need some work?"
Then get to working on them. If you don't
believe these are three of the most important
skills needed for success in strategic
selling, that's fine. Go ahead and pick
three others, and ask yourself the same
questions. The key is to work on shoring up
those skills you believe are both important,
and that need some work in order to enable
you be the best sales person you can be.