Great skills build great careers
It’s too easy to dismiss the many skills and talents it takes to be a great tech sales person. After all, sales people are often stereotyped in television and in movies, where it’s popular to show them as lacking in sincerity, or as opportunistic. But is this fair? And more to the point, is it even accurate? If neither of these things are true, we risk not taking tech sales seriously, or what’s worse, not appreciating the different skills that make a great tech sales person.
And that would be unfortunate, because if anything, tech sales are only becoming more important both in Canada, and around the world.
At Palette Skills, we take sales—and tech sales in particular—pretty seriously. Palette Skills has built its most popular upskilling program around giving people the skills they need to transition into successful careers in the booming world of B2B tech sales. Our SalesCamp program brings people into tech sales from all walks of life, and has jumpstarted hundreds of careers. Along the way, we’ve noticed at least two things about tech sales talent. The first is that the things that make a tech sales person successful are fundamentally human skills. And secondly, tech sales are built on relationships. And as we all know, great relationships can build opportunities for growth, and change lives.
So let’s take some time to talk about these skills. If you are in the world of B2B sales, then you know and practice many of these skills already. But keep reading, because there are a few others you probably haven’t read about before. And if you are thinking about making the leap into tech sales, then get ready, because in no particular order, we want to let you know about the skills you’ll need to have a great career. And best of all, we think you already have most of them!
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of other people. We think empathy goes pretty near the top of any list, because in the current environment, being an empathetic person is more important than ever. Right now, people and businesses have more marketing channels available to them than ever before, and with social media, online audiences are larger than ever. The best way cut through and reach people is to understand them, and that takes empathy.
Sales people have to humanize the sales process, which is critical for high-value B2B tech sales. An empathetic tech sales person is someone who is motivated to have a conversation. That’s the best way to understand the unique needs and pain points of a customer, or a person. Empathetic sales people put customers first by demonstrating genuine interest in them, and by listening to what they want. When empathetic people ask questions, they focus on trying to uncover a prospect’s real needs, which they may not be able to clearly convey or even understand themselves.
What really is curiosity? We think it’s a disposition, an attitude, and even a passion. Curiosity is especially important in the dynamic and changing world of technology, where it takes a commitment to continuous learning to keep up and ahead. Tech sales people must constantly strive to better understand the tech landscape around the products they are trying to sell. Ideally, you are or will become the kind of person who enjoys updating your knowledge about the latest trends and solutions, and develop a clear understanding of the wider competitive landscape.
Even more importantly, tech sales people have to understand what these various developments and trends mean to their potential customers. That requires developing a close understanding of the actual value that products deliver to customers. Curiosity is one of the most important, yet under appreciated assets for any tech sales person.
3. Active listening
Maybe you’ve heard the term “active listening” before. So what makes active listening different from just listening? The answer is intentionality. Anyone can appear to listen, but not everyone decides to take the time to focus and concentrate on what another person is trying to tell them. A common stereotype of a sales person is someone who does all the talking. Like all stereotypes, it’s mostly wrong.
Given the inherent complexities of B2B tech sales, and the high importance of authenticity and trust, tech sales people need to focus on solving problems, rather than on selling. Active listening skills ensure prospects feel respected and valued. If you listen well, you’ll be able to build a sense of confidence that the solution you are offering is the right one. For sales people, this doesn’t mean just mean closing more deals. It also means bringing in customers who will become long-term clients and brand advocates.
4. Work with feedback
Few people are so naturally gifted that they have nothing to learn about what they do. In that sense, working in tech sales is just like any other occupation. There are always things to learn about how we can do better, and one of the most dangerous places to be professionally is to think you have all the knowledge you need.
It’s also true that working in tech sales can be different from other careers, because often, you’ll be working alone or remotely, without the benefit of close coaching from supervisors or team members. If that’s the case, you’ll need to actively seek out feedback from your customers, your colleagues, and just about anyone else you can find. Make feedback a part of your sales routine. Call a customer and ask them how you can do better. This kind of coachability will pay dividends, both personally and professionally.
5. Do great research
So far, we’ve been talking about what people in the industry call soft skills. And while these are important, there are some harder skills you need to acquire and learn in order to really succeed as a great tech salesperson. We think being able to do great research is key. So what do we mean by research?
Above all, research means taking the time to study your potential customers. Read their websites carefully. Monitor and really think about what they are posting on social media tools like LinkedIn and Facebook. Learn about their challenges, and get ahead of the emerging trends and tools that could be the solutions they are looking for.
6. Get comfy and quick with data
Working with data is not necessarily the same thing as customer research, and in a perfect world, you’d be the kind of person who can use sophisticated data to quickly analyze your customers, and your sales process. We think you can get there. Take the time to understand all of the data that is available to you through tools like email, site visits, and even just sales records.
It may sound a little intimidating, but the fact is that it no longer takes a statistics degree to handle, understand, and act on data. There are many automated tools out there that can help you build a more data-driven approach to sales. Find out what they are, and learn how to use them.
7. Learn to write well
It might surprise you to learn that as sales technology becomes more sophisticated, writing well becomes more important. With so much of tech sales being driven by social media tools, you should be spending less time on the phone, and more time crafting great sentences. People are less likely now to pick up the phone than ever, so you should be writing messages that click quickly, and match the style of the platform you’re using. It sounds easy, but it’s not.
Clear expression takes time, and it takes practice. Learning to write simply and without jargon or cliche will be one of the most difficult challenges you will face as a business professional, but it’s critical for your success. Start looking at the many online resources that are available, and bring intentionality to all of your written communications—even if it’s a simple text to a customer!
8. Tell a great story
Many people believe that the ability to tell and understand stories is what sets human beings apart from other animals. And being a great storyteller is a key part of what makes a successful sales professional, especially when it comes to tech. Your customers have a business to run, so often they don’t have time to get into the details about software or business services. What they need is a great story that whittles down all of the abstract technical jargon into a solution that they can see and understand.
“Persuasion is the centrepiece of business activity,” says writer Bronwyn Fryer, so “if you can harness imagination and the principles of a well-told story, then you get people rising to their feet amid thunderous applause instead of yawning and ignoring you.”
9. Build collaboration
Sales isn’t something that you can do by yourself. It may sound paradoxical, but the more that tech sales migrate to digital platforms and social media, the more we need great collaboration. And there has never been more potential to build this collaboration, because enhanced connectivity means it’s easier to work together.
The evidence shows that collaboration and a team-based approach enhances productivity, and builds long-term relationships, both of which are vital to tech sales. Start to see collaboration and team building as critical parts of the entire tech sales journey, one that begins with your colleagues, and includes your customers, too.
10. See potential
Finally, one of the most important skills you can develop as a tech sales professional is to learn how to see and act on potential. This is a high-level skill, because it requires being able to see and understand the big picture, and the ability to relate what you see in that picture to yourself, and to the people around you. There are lots of small steps you can take to learn how to see potential, both in yourself, in your customers, and in your career.
Here at Palette Skills, we think that one of the best ways you can start to see and grow your own potential is by upskilling to a new career in tech sales with our SalesCamp program. Interested? Register now!