What are the most important selling skills?

1. Confidence – maintaining a positive attitude

Not all prospective customers will want to buy what you’re selling and to deal with these rejections you’ll need a high level of confidence, positivity and tenacity.

Having this unwavering faith in yourself and the product you’re pitching, all in the face of resistance and rejection, is vital. Chet Patel, chief commercial officer, BT Global says the best sales people remain self-assured.

2. Resilience – communicating with conviction

Chet also believes that reacting positively to knock-backs is essential. Each sale can be full of obstacles, so you must have the belief to overcome any challenges thrown your way. ‘You may have put a lot of time and effort into trying to land a deal, but it didn’t work out,’ he adds. ‘You have to be resilient and dust yourself off, and believe that you will land the next one.’

Communicating with conviction can help transmit your passion for sales in an interview. Researching the industry, the company and the role will allow you to emphasise how your strengths and experiences make you the ideal candidate.

3. Active listening – understanding the customers’ needs

Communication is fundamental in building trust and creating a rapport with customers, believes Mark Denton, managing director of Riverside Motor Group. He says, ‘It’s important that salespeople are confident and knowledgeable when advising customers, but the value of listening can easily be overlooked.’

Through all business transactions, Mark explains how it’s vital to avoid personal filters, assumptions, judgements, and beliefs. This is because customers have the best understanding of their own wants and needs, and so the salesperson needs to listen carefully in order to have the greatest understanding of this.

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‘The best way to ensure complete coherence is to ask clarifying questions and summarise what you have been told,’ suggests Mark. ‘A major part of active listening is to treat others with the respect and attention you’d like to receive in a conversation, so they feel their requirements are understood, and will be adhered to.’

Claire Robertson, HR director for the joint venture between Unilever and PepsiCo, also feels that sales graduates should be active listeners during the recruitment stage of applications.

‘There’s a common misconception among graduates at assessment centres that it’s all about talking, especially in group exercises,’ she says. ‘But it’s often the applicants who listen well, summarise and lead the group to a decision that impress us most.

4. Rapport building – selling your personality

Unleashing your personality is equally valuable when it comes to developing your customer service skills. Coming across as authentic and engaging will endear you to others and gain their trust.

Building a strong rapport with customers is important, as you’ve got to convince them that you’re the best person to sell them a product. There’s no better time to show these skills than in your job interview, as this is the ultimate sale. You’re selling your talents but, even more importantly, you’re selling your personality.

5. Entrepreneurial spirit – continual self-improvement

The top sales candidates possess genuine entrepreneurial drive and spirit, claims Claire. Something as simple as trading on eBay can go a surprisingly long way in showing you’re able and agile enough to create your own breaks.

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‘By being able to demonstrate that you can craft opportunities where they may not obviously exist and see these through to execution and delivery, you’ll show that you have a natural talent for selling,’ she says.

For those with these attributes, working for yourself and starting your own business may be something to consider either now or in the future. Explore self-employment and what it takes to become an entrepreneur.

Rising to challenges and possessing an appetite for self-improvement are also important. Be comfortable with critically reflecting on past experiences.