selling skills

5 Selling Skills That Actually Work Today, & Sales Tactics That Need to Die (Quit Cold Pitching!)

Old, archaic sales tactics are dying.

Nobody wants to be “sold to” anymore.

…If you’re in sales, you might think that’s bad news.

But, depending on how you look at it, it can also be incredibly good news.

Why?

Because maybe sales still has a chance – but only if you switch up your tactics.

You have to think about the modern buyer, who is exhausted from constant exposure to ads and brands vying for their dollars.

And, according to the Aspect Consumer Experience Index, which analyzed consumer behavior in 2015, the new generation of buyers “will not tolerate waiting in lines, or repeating their problem to five different people or being treated like a number:”

image with text that says millennials, mobile tech, and social media are changing customer service

In short, your buyers of today are craving something different from the sales experience. And if you don’t hand-deliver on this process, you could risk turning them off. Keep reading for a case-study backed guide on this topic.

Today's buyers are craving something different from the sales experience. Learn what that is in @JuliaEMcCoy's new guide on #sellingskills #contentmarketing #salesmanship Click To Tweet

selling skills guide

What Happened When I Brought the Topic of Selling Skills Up on LinkedIn

Case in point:

I recently posted about this very topic on LinkedIn after getting one too many sales pitches. The response was big. The post hit 4,000 views organically inside 21 hours!

(See the LinkedIn post here.)

linkedin screenshot

There were tons of great comments on the post chiming in, but one stuck out to me, in particular, from Denis Zekic:

screenshot of comments on julia mccoy's linkedin post about ineffective selling tactics

“I call it ‘Unsocial Selling.’” – Denis Zekic

Denis wrote a post and coined a word about this very phenomenon.

Here’s how he describes “unsocial selling:”

“You receive a connection request with no obvious explanation why. You ponder for a second or two should you accept, and then the left side of your brain kicks in and takes over the other side that deals with logic. In haste, you press the ‘accept’ button and it’s all over in a split second.

But then…

Within minutes, if you are unlucky enough – maybe even seconds, you get the sales pitch. Sometimes 3,000 words and over, sometimes shorter. Shrewd operators tend to send snappy ones. To keep you enticed, interested, eager to find more – they take the lion approach. Under the cover of social noise; they observe and stalk their prey without the threat of detection. They sit and watch, and then just before sunrise when you least expect – they launch an attack.”

That’s the thing about these sales pitches – they make you feel like you’re swimming alone in the ocean of social media, circled by bloodthirsty sharks who are ready to scent any tiny weakness. My blog just two weeks ago, Don’t Treat Your Buyers Like It’s 1999: Why The Blood-Thirsty Sales Era is Reaching Tipping Point & Why Content Marketing Works, explores this very phenomenon.

image of a man in business suit with a shark head

Why, oh why, would you ever want to make your buyer feel this way? What logic tells you that this is the way to get a sale?

It makes zero sense, and I’m not alone in the frustration I feel about it.

Why rely on these tactics when there are better selling skills you could be using, ones that directly appeal to the modern buyer?!

The fact that I still see cold calling, cold messaging, and other slimy, rude tactics in the sales world helps me come to one conclusion.

The selling landscape today needs to change.

Are you making these critical sales mistakes? Find out what these top no-nos are, and what you SHOULD be doing for more inbound sales via @JuliaEMcCoy's new guide on #sellingskills #contentmarketing #salesmanship Click To Tweet

3 Traditional Selling Skills and Sales Tactics That Need to Die

To speak to today’s buyers on their level, we need to update our sales skills.

For example, inbound marketing works like crazy – so why aren’t more salespeople using content?

(I previously proved the power of content in our Blogging ROI Case Study. 99% of our clients have found us through our search rankings and content.)

infographic of express writers' blogging roi for may 2018

In comparison, cold calling and traditional, less warm selling strategies are downright weak and ineffective.

Here are the top three sales tactics that, simply put, need to die.

1. Cold Calling

According to a fairly recent research report from Baylor University’s Keller Center, only about 1% of cold calls convert to appointments being made with the prospect.

That’s right – it’s not even a sales conversion. The research breaks down this way:

  • Over two weeks, 50 sales agents made a total of 6,264 cold calls over the phone.
  • Of those calls, only 28% were answered (1,774).
  • Out of that 28%, the sales agents were only able to set up 19 appointments with prospects and get 11 referrals.
  • 1,612 of the call recipients (nearly 91%) flat out weren’t interested.

Other research reports echo those findings. For instance, did you know 9 out of 10 B2B decision-makers at the highest levels don’t respond to cold outreach?

imaging showing that 90% of b2b decision-makers don't respond to cold outreach

Cold calling does NOT work anymore.

2. Cold Messaging

As we demonstrated with my LinkedIn example, cold messaging on a social network can really backfire. If you friend or follow someone and then immediately send them a cold sales pitch, it’s pretty much identical to cold calling.

Read: Your prospect will just get annoyed with you because it’s pretty obvious you established the connection because you want their money.

Not cool.

According to research, only about 1% of cold calls convert to appointments. That's not even a sales conversion. @JuliaEMcCoy shares what you can do instead. #sellingskills #contentmarketing #salesmanship Click To Tweet

3. Overselling

Here’s how Google defines overselling:

screenshot of the definition of the word "overselling"

  • “sell more of (something) that exists or can be delivered”
  • “exaggerate the merits of”

Needless to say, if you’re overselling, you’re essentially lying to your potential customer. You’re overpromising or exaggerating – A.K.A. engaging in the number one slimy sales tactic of all time.

It’s dishonest and plays with the customer’s emotions. Yuck.

Overselling is a big no-no. But how do you know you're doing it? @JuliaEMcCoy shares her insights in her new guide on #sellingskills #contentmarketing #salesmanship Click To Tweet

According to Kevin Daum for Inc., a couple telltale signs you’re overselling include:

  • If the prospect starts arguing with you about your points angrily.
  • If the prospect physically backs away from you.
  • If the prospect makes excuses.

Don’t make your potential customer this uncomfortable. Instead, make them feel confident, taken care of, and informed.

How should you do it? With the following modern selling skills.

5 Essential Selling Skills to Appeal to the Modern Buyer

How can we improve our selling skills so they appeal to today’s modern buyer?

Don’t forget: Inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound leads.

graph comparing the average cost of inbound vs. outbound lead

Inbound marketing beats outbound marketing.

All. Day. Long.

The path we need to follow is clear: We should take inspiration from inbound marketing to fuel sales.

Coupled with that, a HubSpot survey describes exactly what customers are looking for when they engage with sales. They want to interact with sales reps who:

  • Listen to their needs
  • Aren’t pushy
  • Provide relevant information
  • Respond promptly to questions and communication

graph showing that listening to customers' needs is the number one way to improve the sales experience

Unsurprisingly, a prospect or customer gets all of that when they interact with inbound marketing. It’s about them.

How can a sales rep make the user experience positive? According to buyers, listen to them. This and more are covered in @JuliaEMcCoy's guide on #sellingskills #contentmarketing #salesmanship Click To Tweet

These are the type of selling skills you need in this modern sales world. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Using Inbound Content

You can and should incorporate inbound content into your sales pitches.

This AWESOME report from Influence & Co. describes how you can create sales enablement content, align sales and marketing, and essentially super-power sales with the magic touch of content.

Here are a few reasons why content can help boost sales:

  • Highly relevant content is a resource and trust-builder that does the work of phone calls, emails, and other touchpoints.
  • Prospects can share content with other decision-makers to get buy-in.
  • Tying content to sales helps you demonstrate exactly how it has helped you reach your goals, which can be vital for nabbing a content marketing budget increase.

image showing how marketing and sales can be aligned

The report also recommends a working relationship between sales and marketing. For instance, sales should be part of the content creation process so you have a good idea of the content strategy and when it would be best to leverage content during the sales process.

This is how Influence & Co. puts it in the report:

“Marketing and sales alignment is an ongoing process that continuously transfers valuable insights back and forth between each team. Your marketing team uses its audience insights to create content and passes it to sales. Sales leverages that content to enable its conversations with prospects and passes the insights from those interactions back to marketing to use to create even better sales enablement content.”

2. Listening!

Listening is a key selling skill many salespeople are lacking. Instead of listening to their prospect’s needs, they plow straight through to a sales pitch, talk for eons about the company, or give the prospect irrelevant information (like how a product worked for some other person or organization).

Just look at the disconnect between what a prospect wants to hear about versus what a salesperson plans to cover during the first conversation:

graph showing sales and customer disconnect during the first call

We see an obvious pattern emerging here.

Salespeople want to discuss “what my company is trying to achieve,” “the reason my company needs to make the purchase,” “my company’s overall goals,” and more.

My company, my company, my company…

I cannot begin to describe how wrong this angle is. It’s no wonder the buyer checks out during the conversation. Why should they care about YOUR company?

They want to know facts and details relevant to THEM: the price of the product/service, how it works, etc.

Of course, the only way to give them the exact information they’re looking for is to listen carefully to what they say.

Salespeople want to discuss 'what my company is trying to achieve,' 'my company’s overall goals,' and more. What's wrong with this angle? @JuliaEMcCoy shares her insights on #sellingskills #contentmarketing #salesmanship Click To Tweet

3. Providing Information, Knowledge, or Solutions That Are Relevant

Instead of just selling, think about sales in terms of helping the customer make a buying decision. You’re there to be an information source for them so the decision becomes easier.

A big way to help them is to provide relevant information – ideally, solutions to their problem. (This is when relevant content resources really come in handy.)

4. Avoiding the Pushy Pitch

The pushy pitch directly ties into overselling.

If you’re pushing, you’re going too far. You’re imposing your will on the prospect – and all the while, you’re a stranger to them!

the word "pushy" emphasized in a word cloud

The most common words used to describe salespeople. Image via HubSpot

It’s no wonder a lot of prospects will push back when you start getting pushy.

It is, in a word, rude. It’s also the best way to live up to the slimy salesperson stereotype.

5. Responding in a Timely Manner

This is a solid fact: The buyer doesn’t care about your sales timeline. They’re worried about their timeline.

What does this mean?

It means that the sales skill of “responding in a timely manner” should entirely be based on the buyer’s definition of “timely.” They want to know that you’ll work with them, but they don’t want to be pushed if they’re not ready to close.

(Again, here’s another perfect place to use inbound content to your advantage!)

What’s the Key Takeaway for Today’s Modern Selling Skills?

Modern buyers won’t respond to outdated sales skills. You need to meet them at their level if you want to get results.

Today, the modern buyer responds best to an inbound sales strategy. It aligns with content marketing to provide value and information right when the buyer needs it.

For example, in all seven years here at Express Writers, our BEST sales technique has been to offer a free 1:1 consultation, where we simply listen to our customer’s needs and offer a solution with knowledge and confidence.

We don’t push.

And that confidence? It comes IF you have knowledge in what you’re doing.

In short, you can advise, help, and inform your buyer – NOT irritate, annoy, insult, or mislead them.

And that’s a big deal.

(If you don’t have the knowledge, we provide content marketing training. Check out the Content Strategy & Marketing Course to take your expertise to the next level. And if you need content? Well, our team of 95+ content experts can handle that without blinking. See our pricing here.)

35 replies
  1. Komal Srinivas T
    Komal Srinivas T says:

    Fantastic piece of information about selling tactics. Thank you so much for presenting useful article. Keep it up!

    Reply
  2. Susmita Roy
    Susmita Roy says:

    Your information is really awesome as well as it is very excellent and i got more interesting information from your blog.

    Reply
  3. Varun Dhingra
    Varun Dhingra says:

    Ofcourse! Today audience has become very intelligent. One must provide value to their audience which in return can convert into sales. Gone are days when pushy sales pitch can manipulate people. We have to provide high quality relevant information that adds value to them.

    Reply
    • Kristel
      Kristel says:

      You’re welcome, Yogender! We’re glad that we could help you get more information on this subject. – Kristel, Content Specialist at Express Writers

      Reply
    • Danielle N.
      Danielle N. says:

      No problem, Virendra. Please continue to visit our blog and check our new posts 🙂 – Danielle, Content Specialist at Express Writers

      Reply

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