Sales Skills Your Team Needs for 2020

2020 is officially underway. If you want your team to succeed this year, you can’t expect the same old tactics to work.

Prospects are now more informed than ever. They also are more risk-averse. It is challenging to differentiate yourself on factors other than price. The ability to grow existing accounts has even become more difficult. To avoid rejection, you have to keep up with the latest trends and continue to hone your abilities.

Here are the sales skills to prioritize in 2020 to stay ahead of the curve:

1. Use content to guide your prospects

Today’s B2B buyers use content to make their decisions. In fact, many prospects consume content before ever talking to a sales rep. Pointing prospects to the right content at the right moment in the sales process is now critical.

Prospects don’t have time to pursue content that isn’t immediately relevant to their current needs. Help team members become familiar with the content library and determine what content is most effective at different stages of the sales process. Don’t ignore video content, which is oftentimes particularly effective at engagement.

Your team should learn how to share content with prospects effectively. Sending a link is the bare minimum. They need to communicate why prospects should care enough to open it.

2. Identify quality MQLs

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) can be great prospects. However, not all MQLs are created equal. Sellers must learn how to evaluate MQLs so they can concentrate on the most likely prospects.

MQLs qualify as MQLs because they meet certain quantitative metrics. These can be engaging with your company’s website or attending an event. Your team should become comfortable with interpreting the data. However, there’s also a bit of an art to MQL evaluation. Oftentimes it’s necessary to conduct independent research on prospects, much as sellers do for cold prospecting.

To become more proficient with MQLs, encourage your team to pursue historical data. What differentiates MQLs who became customers?

3. Master product knowledge

Product knowledge remains one of the most powerful tools in a salesperson’s arsenal. At the beginning of the year, it’s worth reviewing product features with your team. Emphasize new features your team might not know as much about. It’s also worthwhile teaching about competitive products. Prospects will likely be considering these options. Customers fear making the wrong decision and often struggle to find points of differentiation. Sellers need to be able to explain to prospects why your product is the best option. Talking to existing customers can be helpful in figuring out the best positioning.

4. Mitigate customer’s aversion to risk

Customers today are averse to risk. They fear of being the person who made the wrong decision—which could cost them their job. It’s likely that sellers will be in contact with more stakeholders before closing a deal. Increasingly, many businesses fear a recession and resulting in budget cuts. This makes selling to them even more difficult.

One of the most significant sales skills reps can master is how to mitigate these fears. Teach your team members how to help prospects create and present a solid business case for your solution. Hard data and solid research reduce fear.

You should also teach your team members how to acknowledge prospects’ fears about risk. This is more effective than pretending that there is no risk.

5. Utilize social selling to build pipeline

According to LinkedIn, 78% of salespeople who excel as social sellers outperform peers who do not use social media. Leaders in social selling create 45% more opportunities for themselves.

If your salespeople are not comfortable with social selling, teach them best practices for different platforms. Most sellers find that LinkedIn is the best platform for selling. Research the platform and how top social sellers find and connect with prospects.

Social selling has changed in recent years. It’s no longer enough just to share helpful content. Work with your team on how they can develop their own personal brand on social media.

6. Improve copywriting abilities

So much of selling is done via text—emails, social media, etc. Most salespeople don’t have formal training as copywriters. But learning the basic tools of copywriting is one of the most invaluable sales skills that translate to many different situations that sales professionals face.

It’s worth bringing an expert copywriter in to talk with your team about best practices, or to do a workshop in which they practice their skills. If that’s not possible, share resources about B2B copywriting with your team.

7. Coach existing customers on how to receive more value

Existing customers remain a great source for business. However, only 28% of sales leaders report that their account management channels regularly meet goals for growth. Oftentimes, existing customers have many of the same risk-aversions as new prospects.

In 2020, teach your team the best practices for growing existing accounts. The lessons must go beyond providing excellent service and establishing a repartee. Account managers need to learn how to help their customers receive the best value out of your solution. That makes them more likely to expand their business, not simply to renew.

8. Implement machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools in the workplace

Machine learning tools are becoming standard in B2B sales. If the very term scares your team, it’s time to learn more about these tools. Most tools do not require users to be expert data analysts, but your team should learn how to use the data that your tools provide. Show them how machine learning tools can be integrated with your sales process and the rest of your tech stack.

If your team is totally new to machine learning, start with a beginner-friendly tool.

Although sellers in 2020 face significant challenges, it’s possible to thrive by working on these sales skills. Establish your goals for this year so that you can keep up with the trends.

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James Meincke

Director of Marketing @ CloserIQ. Previously Recruiter @ ManpowerGroup & Freelance Social Media Strategist. University of Wisconsin Journalism & Strategic Communication Grad.