Tips to sharpen your sales skills

Are great sales people born or made? Whether you need to sharpen your own sales skills to build your business or you’re thinking about your next sale hire, it’s important to know what sets top sales teams apart.

So we asked three leaders in their fields to share a few sales secrets.

1. It all starts with the right attitude

For Mark Churchill, Managing Director with commercial broking firm Allfin Financial, attitude is the first thing he looks for in a new sales recruit. “You need to be able to talk with people. Every sale starts with a conversation.”

He believes this attitude comes naturally for a good salesperson – but those with a strong product knowledge base can learn it and do well.

Jennifer Carr, Principal at Louis Carr Real Estate in Sydney, learned her trade with her grandmother – also a real estate agent – who sparked her interest from a young age.

“Grandma would say, ‘there is no secret’. She genuinely loved talking with people, and everyday I look forward to meeting new people and hearing their stories,” Carr says. 

2. A little trust goes a long way

Selling is also in the genes for Churchill, who learned ‘first price, best price’ from his dad. “If you go in too high to boost your margin, you’ll be found out. If you give them the best price first, and they shop around, they already know they can trust you,” he explains.

Carr also says “you have to give them reasons to believe in a property’s value if you want both buyers and vendors to trust you.”

Ross Hennig, Managing Director with Lakeside Financial, knows how important trust can be when it comes to clients implementing financial advice and staying engaged with his firm’s services.

“We are always looking for ways to add more value to the relationship – especially in areas that won’t reward a sale. If you’re self-serving, clients will see through it,” he says. “For me, it’s about finding out what the client wants or desires – and showing them a logical way to get there.”

3. Find common ground for long term relationships

If every sale starts with a conversation, it helps to have a common thread to open up some dialogue. For Churchill, this could be family, sport, business or geography. “If we have nothing in common personally, I make their business goal my common ground.”

Carr lives in the community she serves, so sharing practical knowledge – like school runs, gardeners or playgroups – comes instinctively. “Many clients become friends, so creating understanding and respect from the beginning is important. Half the time, I feel like a psychologist!”

4. Hone in on a win-win solution

Real estate negotiations need to achieve the best possible price for the vendor – while still making the buyer feel confident they paid a fair price. Getting the best outcome for both parties requires confidence.

“I can’t lose sight of the fact that the vendor is my client – they are the one paying the commission,” comments Carr. “So I’m not afraid to push the boundary (on price) because I’ve already built buyer trust by being transparent and showing them evidence.”

Churchill says brokers always need to bring any negotiation back to the cost/benefit impact for a client. “If I can’t demonstrate an impact on cash flow or bottom line then they won’t win – and that means I won’t win,” he explains. While this can create some unbillable pre-work, he says it also earns client respect because he can show how he is fixing their problem.

“This also drives me as a salesperson – because it feels good to believe in the solution,” he adds.

5. Get to grips with your tools of the trade

“If you don’t have a CRM, you’re not in the game,” says Churchill, who collaborated with a group of commercial brokers to build Kubio, a bespoke business origination platform.

Operating as both a CRM and a collaborative network for brokers, Kubio helps brokers build stronger relationships with their clients.

“You need to keep it up to date – birthdays, kids names, expiring contracts,” Churchill says. “Anything that gives you a reason to talk with them.”

Other tools include clear KPIs and benchmarks. “You need to have goals, and then replace the ones you achieve with bigger ones,” comments Hennig. “You also can’t expect to win every deal – nor would you want to, because you’re probably underpricing.” He suggests hitting an 80% success rate would be “on the money.”

6. Resilience comes with experience

If you are hitting that benchmark, that still means 20% of the time you hear the word ‘no’. What you do with that answer is critical.

“You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t take a knockback personally,” says Churchill. “But over time, you’ll become a better sales person because of it. Understand the reason for the objection and learn from it. For example, it might be because I didn’t understand what they were trying to achieve. Or I did, but I didn’t articulate how I could help them well enough.”

Carr describes rejections as a ‘jolt’. “You stop, rethink and work out how to change a no into a yes by understanding where it came from. If you already have that relationship from the beginning, you won’t worry about asking why.”

Hennig also believes it’s critical for salespeople to build resilience internally. “You need to fail, and fail quickly, so you can eventually succeed. A healthy dose of self-belief can help.”

7. Know your market – and who you’re competing with

Knowing your customer is one thing. Knowing what other options they’re considering is another. “We always know what every bank is doing, and put all the information on the table – this helps us control the outcome and gives us the confidence to back ourselves,” says Churchill.

Ultimately, doing all these things well means you’ll also turn your best customers into even better advocates – and turbo-charge your sales pipeline with referrals.

But as Churchill notes, there is one other success factor worth considering.

“If you believe in the product you’re selling, it’s the easiest job in the world,” he says.

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Unless stated otherwise, this material has been prepared by Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL & Australian Credit Licence 237502 ("Macquarie") for general discussion purposes only, without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this general information, you must consider its appropriateness having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. The information provided is not intended to replace or serve as a substitute for any accounting, tax or other professional advice, consultation or service.