With the advent of technology in sales and the birth of sales automation software and related tools, it was presumed that sales robots are bound to take over the industry. However, these fears were put to rest as it soon came to light that the human connection remains irreplaceable, due to which, salespeople continue to hold the top position in the emerging jobs list.
While Sales Automation Tools are making processes easy, those in the sales profession are looking for ways to stay relevant by acquiring new skills or polishing their old ones. Given that they play a key role in generating revenue and income for businesses, it is important that they are equipped with certain skills that can assist them with their goals. In this post, we shall embark on an in-depth exploration of the skills required by a field sales representative.
Who is a Field Sales Representative?
A field sales representative works outside an office environment and carries out the task of sourcing potential clients in order to maximize the sales of the company’s product or service. Some field sales representatives resort to cold calling, schedule meetings, or even visit new and existing customers in person.
Further, they may also be required to carry out surveys and collect valuable data for the sales lead database, which may come in handy for multiple purposes, ranging from lead identification to identifying demographics for the launch of a new product or service. All the data collected through field trips carried out by the salesperson help in the validation of the Total Addressable Market (TAM) information.
Key Skills Every Field Sales Representative Must Possess
Following are the principal skills a field sales representative must possess in order to be successful:
If you fail to connect with your customers, you will fail to make the sale. Communication sets the foundation for relationship building. It also allows for setting expectations and discussing customer pain points. Hence, it is the cornerstone for establishing a lasting relationship with a prospective buyer.
As a field sales representative, face-to-face interactions with clients are inevitable. Hence, in order to woo them with your offering, you must be articulate throughout the sales cycle, starting from initial contact to closure.
Apart from oral communication skills, written communication skills will also come in handy when you interact with clients over emails and social media. In addition to comprehending verbal communication, sales reps must also master non-verbal cues. Body language plays a vital role in gauging the direction in which the conversation is heading.
Possessing multi-linguistic skills can also work in your favor as you can put them to good use while personalizing your interaction with clients. Having command over the local or regional dialect can not only help you appeal to a wider client base but will also present you as “one of their own.”
Think of every client interaction as an elevator pitch. Everyone knows about how the first few seconds of these moments can either seal the deal or wipe you out entirely. Hence, to avoid having doors slammed on your face, you must captivate your audience right from the moment you make your first contact. This is where your storytelling skills will be put to the test. The art of storytelling allows you to sell your product as a solution to your client’s problems.
Storytelling activates seven key regions of the brain while data presentation manages to stimulate just two. This fact legitimizes why we tend to remember TED Talks better than lectures at college. Clearly, storytelling acts as a winning formula to retain memories, and hence, make a lasting impact.
An engaging story will lend authenticity to your product while also appealing to the emotions of the client. Rather than droning on and on about the features of the product that you offer, you can masterfully integrate it with the customer’s life to convince them that your product is what they had been waiting for all their lives!
3. Aural Skills
So far, we have discussed the importance of communicating with the client. However, an often-overlooked skill is the ability to shut up and listen to the customer’s requirements! Remember, communication is a two-way street, and your role is not to deliver monologues.
Listening is a vital element of building rapport in interpersonal relationships, and one needs to do it actively. With keen listening skills, you can identify customer pain points and capitalize upon them to sell your product. To practice active listening, you can repeat or summarize what the client has just said in a bid to convey that you have clearly understood them. In some instances, you can even ask follow-up questions or express curiosity to indicate that you are interested in what they have to say and care about their opinions or concerns.
4. Product Knowledge
Would you charge into a battle without any arms? It sounds like a silly plan, doesn’t it?
Along the same lines, engaging clients with inadequate product knowledge is a suicide mission and a cardinal sin in the sales industry!
Whenever you step onto the field, you should be equipped with intimate knowledge related to the features, pros, and cons of your product. Extensive product knowledge translates to better sales performance. Further, having an in-depth insight into your product presents you as a subject-matter expert, which will build trust and credibility among your customers. The last thing anybody wants to see is a salesperson breaking into a sweat and fumbling for words when they are questioned about the very product they are selling!
5. Analytical Skills
Being a field sales representative, you are expected to be able to think on your feet. During a one-on-one interaction, you can leverage any information related to the target clients, rival companies, and market trends to make informed business decisions for steering the conversation your way. This business intelligence will help in engaging potential leads, shortening the sales cycle, and closing high-value deals. Buyer knowledge can act as a true differentiator, and one must absorb as much information as possible by checking out market reports, news articles, publicly available financial documents, and CRM.
6. Technical Competence
Technology and automation have emerged as an immutable part and parcel of conducting sales activity within an organization. While your job will primarily involve scouting for leads and clients on the actual turf, you will also be highly involved in the internal collaboration. It is common knowledge that sales activities are carried out as a team, and thus the inputs gathered by an army of field reps should be consolidated, stored, and managed. Hence, even field sales representatives are expected to possess hands-on knowledge and skill in operating tools like Sales Lead Generation Software or Sales automation platform to interpret and leverage the invaluable data they may gather in their conquests. Additionally, having strong web research skills and competence in data management tools like Excel can also make you proficient as a sales representative. Acquiring these technological skills will simplify the field salespersons’ ability to run operations and to adapt to future advancements.
7. Negotiation Skills
“In business as in life, you don’t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate.” this quote by Dr. Chester Karrass easily sums up the importance of the art of negotiation. As a field sales representative, you will have to navigate through the negotiation process in a disciplined manner without losing the client’s interest.
Arriving at mutually agreeable terms takes an enormous amount of constant communication and negotiations. A skilled negotiator is capable of reaching a set of amiable provisions, which are suited for companies and clients alike. At the end of the deal, if your company and your client are both pleased with the outcome and feel as if they have landed a win - then congrats, you are an artful negotiator!
8. Time Management
As a field sales rep, your time is money. You only get a limited number of hours to make the maximum impact on your company sales. Along the same lines, respecting your customer’s time is also of paramount importance.
A career in sales is rather demanding, and in order to deliver as per your targets, you will have to make the best use of both your own and your client’s time. Establishing efficient processes and structures can help with the easy management of all the critical tasks. Sales automation tools and software solutions are already paving the way in this direction. At the same time, devising data-based route maps for field visits and priority-based schedules for meetings will also contribute towards efficient time management.
A good practice is to map out various plans and strategies on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. Turning this technique into a habit will lend valuable insights into the time-guzzling activities, their nature, and frequency. Identifying these chinks in your armor will allow for setting up a systematic plan of action, with respect to time.
9. Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking
Acquiring large volumes of data can take you places. However, critically analyzing and exploiting this data as per your requirements will land you exactly where you want to be!
A salesperson must hone their problem-solving skills to process data, examine disparate information, and cherry-pick this information to present your product or service as a solution to your buyer’s problems. To develop a problem-solving and critical thinking mindset in sales, one can adopt the RAIN methodology. RAIN stands for:
- Rapport: Developing strong connections and personal relationships with the client
- Aspirations/Afflictions: Exploring problems the customers face and understanding the solutions they demand
- Impact: Providing an in-depth explanation to the client about how their action or inaction will affect their situation; and
- New Reality: Ideating a situation, outlining the changes in the buyer’s situation if they opt to choose your product.
RAIN inculcates a methodical problem-solving approach while dealing with customers.
10. Conflict Management and Resolution
Statements like “Your product is too expensive” or “I don’t understand what your product can do for me” may appear as dead-ends during your sales pitch. Sales objections are a common occurrence in the life of a field salesperson. They skirt around issues related to pricing, product fit, rejection, and comparison with competitors. Naturally, if the prospective client does not have these reservations or inhibitions while considering your product, they will already be a buyer and a veteran user() instead of a lead.
You will be required to handle these concerns and sales objections on a regular basis. Given this frequency, you may have to brush up your conflict management and object resolution skills and put it to good use in your regular dealings. The last thing any client wants is a salesperson arguing with them and pressuring them into accepting their beliefs.
Handling sales objections should be carried out in a manner that changes the brand perception and alleviates the buyers’ concerns. It involves subtly influencing and persuading the clients and aiding them in reaching their own conclusions.
Personality Traits to Boost your Sales Career
In addition to polishing the aforementioned learnable skills, certain personality traits can work in your favor as you expand your sales career. These include (but are not limited to):
- Risk-taking Behavior
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." ~ Thomas Edison
Salespersons must develop a thick skin towards rejection and adopt resilience as the fuel that ignites their zeal. Even if you face brush-offs, stay open to feedback and adapt according to circumstances. Some of your best inputs may come in the form of criticism. Hence, you must capitalize on these skill gaps to add value to your career.
With a little grit and persistence, you can successfully convert leads and close sales. Given that the nature of your job calls for human-to-human interaction, every opportunity will test your people skills. The current trends in the sales market have made it abundantly clear that buyers seek less quantifiable aspects of sales and business, such as soft skills and interpersonal relationship building while making their decision.
A blend of the right temperament and sales-focused passion will form the ladder that props your sales career. Pair these driving forces with a few of your inherent qualities and the skills outlined above to set up an infallible trinity that will propel your sales career.